The Foundation of the Women Presidents’ Organization: Join The Movement and Give Back

Giving Tuesday Graphic

By: Roz Alford, Foundation of the WPO Board Chair

This year,  The Foundation of the Women Presidents’ Organization (FWPO) introduced a unique educational program called “Leading High Growth Businesses.” We  partnered with Lynda Applegate, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and other Harvard professors, for a four-day program generously sponsored by Prudential. 

It focused primarily on WPO members with annual business revenues of $3 – $10 million, who did not yet qualify for WPO Platinum membership or the Harvard Owner President Management program, to grow their businesses. Topics, included: innovation, leading through growth, and aligning strategy and sales. All 58 participants who were unanimously enthusiastic in assessing the positive impact of this amazing program.

This holiday season, FWPO is participating in  #GIVINGTUESDAY, a global day of giving, fueled by the power of social media. It kicks off  tomorrow, Tuesday, November 28th. We hope it will build awareness about FWPO and its programming, and encourage year-end contributions by sharing some of the passionate testimonials we received from participants at the “Leading High Growth Businesses” program.

You can become an active “social media” participant by:

  • Following the Foundation on Twitter @FDNWPO
  • Following the Foundation on Facebook @TheFWPO
  • Using #GIVINGTUESDAY and #FWPO in your Facebook posts about giving

The Foundation was formed to support, benefit and assist the WPO’s mission to accelerate business growth, enhance competitiveness, and promote economic security for women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses. In an effort to stay true to this mission, we encourage you to make a tax deductible contribution.

Click here to make your tax deductible donation.

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Forbes: Why Women Entrepreneurs Over 50 Hold The Aces

By: Kerry Hannon

This is not a how-to column for women over 50 who want to start their own businesses, but rather a “why not?” one.

We hear a lot about sexism against businesswomen and a lack of venture capital for women-owned enterprises. And both of these are serious concerns. But based on my reporting talking to entrepreneurship experts and women business owners, I’d say the deck isn’t stacked against women over 50 hoping to launch businesses. In fact, I’d argue that these women hold a few aces that younger female entrepreneur wannabes don’t.

“I would say that women over 50 starting their own business actually have more advantages than disadvantages in comparison to younger women,” says Kimberly A. Eddleston, a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Northeastern University and a senior editor on the EIX Editorial Board of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.

More Time and Energy in Midlife

“Generally, this is a time in their life when their responsibilities as a mother are substantially less and more easily managed in comparison to those women who are in the child-bearing and early child-rearing stages,” Eddleston says. “This allows women in mid-career to become much more involved in their careers and to be ready to devote more time and energy to themselves than to their family responsibilities.”

Experts I’ve interviewed have consistently told me that decades of workplace experience can make a big difference in whether womens’ businesses thrive. “The added work experience and the associated boost to their self-confidence significantly assists in the development of their businesses,” says Eddleston.

Consider Michele Burchfield, 56, of Pittsburgh. As director of national accounts for the Boston Beer Company and an executive in other roles there before that, she spent 13 years “running all over the country with a full-time nanny raising her kids,” she says. It wasn’t working. She hit the brakes and resigned to stay at home and focus on raising her two elementary-school-aged sons. But she couldn’t stand not working outside the home. So she launched a consulting firm, the MBM Group, catering to clients such as Fiji Water, D.G. Yuengling & Son and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.

 

Launching in a Male-Dominated Field

Destiny Burns, 53, is another successful female entrepreneur who toughened up from years working in a male-dominated field. She opened CLE Urban Winery, a boutique winery and tasting room in her hometown of Cleveland last year. But Burns had initially retired after a 20-year military career as a Navy intelligence communications officer and then spent 13 years in business development positions for defense contractors such as General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

When I asked Burns about her challenges as a woman starting a business, she was quick to say there were challenges, but not because she was a woman.

“I have not really encountered any specific bias or issues related to my gender or age” she told me. “I have spent my entire adult and professional life in a man’s world… first the U.S. military and then as an executive in the defense sector. Most entrepreneurs I encounter are also men. I am comfortable in male-dominated business situations. I just don’t see myself as any different and that’s how I conduct myself.”

Her saving grace was her experience. She tapped the same skills to sell her business model to lenders that she’d used in her post-military career when she made the case why the government should award her company the business.

Paying It Forward

Another corporate refuge, Barbara Rodgers, 61, launched Nutrition Life Strategiestwo years ago following a nearly 30-year career as a securities industry executive.

“After struggling with multiple sclerosis at the end of my corporate career, I was drawn to an education and career path in holistic nutrition because of the results I experienced personally in arresting my MS symptoms by changing my diet,” Rodgers says. “My goal now is to pay it forward and help others who are dealing with chronic disease.”

Like Burchfield and Burns, Rodgers credits her decades of experience in the workplace for preparing her to start her business. “After nearly 30 years in the securities industry — a male dominated industry, especially when I got started in the 1980s — what I’m experiencing now is refreshing. For the most part, anyone I’ve met in holistic nutrition is very nurturing, supportive and friendly.”

Getting Certified as a Woman-Owned Business

For Burchfield, one of the biggest tests was not trying to make it in bro-based world, but the opposite: getting her business certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as a woman-owned business.

“It’s a grueling process,” Burchfield says. “But we got through it just in time to put the logo on our label and many companies, such as Target and Starbucks, have initiatives to work with WBENC-certified companies.” Tapping into the increasingly women-friendly initiatives for capital and advice is a savvy strategy for female entrepreneurs of all ages.

The best reward for Burchfield: “It sounds romantic, but when we watch someone taste our water and look up and say ‘Wow,’ you can’t stop smiling,” she says. “It’s like your child taking the training wheels off the bike, and you see them tooling down the road on two wheels.”

Click here to read more.

The Encore – AVIS: Commit to Planning Ahead for Road Safety

Big business trip planned? A special level of attention to detail is needed when preparing to drive. No matter how much planning goes into ensuring a safe trip, no one ever plans to be in a crash. Take the time to be prepared and be safe.

Big trip:

  • Do your homework – know your route and set your navigation before leaving.
  • Check the oil, tires, air pressure, windshield wipers and fluid.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Make sure every person in every seat wears a seatbelt.
  • Remember to take breaks.
  • When riding in a taxi or using a car service, never let safety take a back seat. Crashes happen in all types of vehicles, with all levels of drivers at any time in any place. Always buckle up – no matter who is doing the driving.

Will your teenage driver be using the car while you are away on business? Teens look to their parents for driving advice. Always lead by example and make sure to give them the right tips.

NHTSA reminds parents to set the rules before they hit the road with “5 to Drive”:

  • No cell phones while driving.
  • No extra passengers.
  • No speeding.
  • No alcohol.
  • No driving or riding without a seatbelt.

If you are planning to bring small children with you on your business trip:

  • Know your state’s requirements.
  • Car seats and booster seats – know the difference.
  • The National Safety Council recommends that all children 12 and under should ride properly restrained in the back seat.
  • Always read your child restraint manual on properly using the restraint.
  • If you have questions check with your local community’s Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.

 

Visit avis.com/wpo to save up to 25% off your rental on your next business trip.

Forbes: Why Entrepreneurship Is Better Together

By: Geri Stengel

Finding another female-founded tech startup with ambitions to scale in Arizona is like looking for the mythical unicorn, said Vicki Mayo, cofounder of TouchPoint Solution, a wearable technology that reduces the stress response.

So when she heard about Project Entrepreneur’sSummit in Los Angeles, where women entrepreneurs had the chance to connect with one another and workshop their ideas with investors, she jumped for joy. Project Entrepreneur is a partnership between Rent the Runway co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss and UBS. Both companies are on a mission: to break traditional barriers women face in growing their companies big.

It Pays To Ask

Mayo was brought back down to earth when she tried to sign up. The event was sold out.  A very determined woman, she  called the organizers to ask if there was any way to make an exception and allow her to attend. She was put on a wait list. Then, a week later, Mayo was told she could attend.

WPO Guest Blog: Lumen Art Design Gives Tips On Successful Design Lighting

By: Mariya Kucherenko, P.Eng IES

All of the greatest metropolis areas in the world have one thing in common: easily recognizable, iconic night-time city sky lines. Visually striking lighting effects help emphasize the very best features of the urban landscape, not only showcasing the character of the area but also creating the ever-inviting so called “wow” factor. Light is no longer there just for practical applications, such as visual comfort and safety needs. It has quickly become a vital marketing tool for designing attractive urban areas and public spaces. Buildings of all shapes and sizes, fountains, plazas, parks, monuments, bridges and roads: all transform with darkness into animated canvases.

A successful urban lighting design project begins with a strong collaboration between all the professionals involved and the client during the planning stages. The essential points to be analyzed and taken into account are: overall design concept; desired message for the observing party; existent surrounding light conditions; facade surface properties (color, texture, light reflectance/absorption, glass transparence quality); light impact on neighboring structures and surroundings.

Some of the most important criteria for an attractive landscape lighting design are proper vertical and horizontal illumination levels. In contrast to the interior lighting design, exterior design is based on the luminance (illuminance and reflective properties of the light surfaces). Contemporary glass architecture has made it possible to utilize inside lighting as one of the components of night time facade visualization. With the help of contrasting vertical illumination of frontal elevations, the impression of outward glow is created.

It is now possible to achieve great lighting design that is not only visually appealing but is also environmentally responsible. Energy efficiency, minimization of lighting pollution and CO2 emissions are all attainable with a holistic lighting approach. Thus it is critical to implement an intelligent lighting system based on integration of innovative light sources and efficient luminaries. New LED-light emitting diodes technology allows to build outdoor luminaries with optimized lighting control for a varying complexity of layers, staging and effects.

Due to the immense complexity of all of the possible lighting scenarios, it is imperative to have a clear and detailed visualization of the lighting concept variations available for the client. This is made possible by today’s sophisticated lighting calculation software. I personally like to prepare at least three different illustrated lighting design approaches that vary in budget, energy consumption and solution. This also circles back to the idea of clear communication between all of those involved in the project.

Whatever the parameters of any given project, set up by the client and the local government guidelines, there is always a unique strategy that successfully marries all of the necessary design elements. This is no longer the time of light –bulb –quantity –per -given-foot of space. This is the time of welcoming and functional environments that have no boundaries for inspiration.

To end, here is my favorite quote by Paulo Coelho – “No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind the door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.”

The Encore – Advantage | ForbesBooks: The Greatness of Gratitude

By: Bea Wray, Chair Entrepreneurship Practice, Advantage Media

After years of working side by side with scores of entrepreneurs, there is one generalization I have come up with.

There is no one generalization.

But there is one key ingredient that separates the successes from the almost-rans.

Gratitude.

First, gratitude makes the right people want to be around you and opens the door to more relationships.

Entrepreneurs who are thankful for the people around them and show it have a devoted following of partners, advisors and employees who are willing to follow them.

Second, gratitude opens up opportunities and energizes creative thinking.

Grateful individuals are better able to form social bonds with clients, better able to utilize coping skills to defer stress, better able to maintain positive affect, and are more creative in problem solving.

Finally, a grateful spirit won’t give up so gratitude fuels the attitude needed to drive entrepreneurial success.

Gratitude provides a safety net for those times when you fail and empowers you to get back up. All those meetings where I walked away empty-handed. I was still grateful to be in the room. The lens of gratitude blurs the lens of defeat.

WPO Guest Blog: Meet A Google Supplier – Claudia Mirza, CEO and Co-Founder, Akorbi

Claudia Mirza Blog

Claudia Mirza has a warm, open smile balanced with a confidence that exudes a sense of resilience and strength. Even on a video chat, Claudia’s presence fills the room. With her husband, Azam Mirza, Claudia co-founded Akorbi, a 930-employee firm that supplies corporations with a variety of translation, interpretation, staffing, and other enterprise-scale content needs.

As the mother of two boys, one of whom had faced critical health challenges at birth, Claudia is passionate about supporting working women build careers while raising a family, by providing a nurturing and flexible work environment.

“We founded and we run our business believing that we can demonstrate our values in everything we do. Claudia values being compassionate, so much so that she wants to hug everyone when they come through the office,” says Azam of his wife, dialing into the video chat by phone.

“She grew up during violent times in her home country of Colombia, then built a career in the U.S.,” Azam continues. “She took it upon herself to find mentors and advice to build it, and today she pays it forward with the people we hire.”

Here, we share excerpts from our conversation with Claudia, which she took time to conduct in between her classes at Harvard University, where she is currently enrolled in the 3-year Owner/President Management (OPM) Program.

Claudia, when did you know you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
When I was a little girl, I never thought that I could become an “entrepreneur.” I come from Colombia, where there is an informal economy. I lived in the equivalent of housing projects in Medellin. All of us were supposed to survive without access to a lot of employers.

I saw every other business was a house with a business. In homes, you’d find bakeries, places to get a manicure and pedicure. My family were agricultural workers. When I moved to the U.S., I realized I would have the opportunity to try working for corporate America. So, I went for it, and got a job at a telecom company. And then one day, I was laid off.

That was a very difficult moment in my life. But I made the connection that the reason people started businesses in my home country was to survive. So that is what I did, with the help of my husband, Azam. I started a business to survive.

What steps did you take?
I volunteered. I wanted to get business experience. I knew anywhere I could find it. So I had the opportunity to volunteer at a horse racing seminar and I did it; I volunteered at a nonprofit. I collected materials, looked at data, and started thinking of business plans. From my research, I realized there was a need for simple, fast, tech-enabled translation services for corporations. So I launched Akorbi with Azam. I had the creative idea, and Azam is great at operations and is amazing at numbers. We made–and make! –a great team.

How has working as a supplier to Google helped you grow your business?
We’ve learned how to become a better business. Google focuses a lot on its people, and values treating people well, making people feel amazing. After working with Google, we wanted to be a cool business, too! We decided to make a fun environment and make Akorbi an amazing place to work.

As a staffing organization, we are competing for amazing tech talent with so many other companies. To attract the best tech workforce, we have to provide the best experience. We make sure the experience of working with us matches the Google experience.

It’s not just about fun colors in the office and a playful furniture. It’s about creating an environment where the entire team can believe in themselves. Where everyone can ask, ‘What am I really good at?’ and then capitalize by focusing on their strengths, and magnifying them.

Working with Google as a supplier, I’ve come to learn we, too, can be an instrument of change. At Akorbi, we can provide a variety of people with a great environment for work. That includes moms with kids at home, veterans, immigrants like me. People who didn’t think they could be a contractor at a place like Google. Now, through our staffing services, they’re there and changing their lives. Working with Google, has also peaked my interest in STEM studies and coding programs for girls.

Can you recall a specific moment when you felt you achieved one of your biggest goals as an entrepreneur?
Yes. I am very passionate about supporting working mothers as they achieve their goals. One day, I saw someone drive a beautiful car in front of my office, and then park. Out came a single mom that we had hired a while back, who did not have a college degree. We had provided a flexible career situation for her over the years, so she could go pick up her child after school. And over time, she let us know that her child was growing up and thriving. And here was this mother, thriving too. At that moment, I knew that creating a business driven with Azam, based on our shared values of trust, compassion, and treating people like family, truly pays off.