Women Entrepreneur

Chinwe Esimai shows you how to Realize Your Networking Brilliance

By:  Chinwe Esimai, Contributing Writer

Some time ago, I was being considered for a job promotion. The promotion process required recommendations from individuals who were two levels above me and outside my immediate division. I had been at the company for almost a year, yet I struggled to come up with a name.

I struggled because I had been laser-focused on doing an excellent job and hadn’t been intentional about building relationships at certain levels within my organization.

Networking as a Hallmark Growth and Development Tool
Most women readily admit that networking is an essential professional development tool. Yet few women give it the time it deserves, and consequently don’t reap its benefits.

I define networking as “intentional interactions with people for the purpose of enriching your and their professional lives and your journeys through life.” It’s the trinity of people, relationships, and growth/enrichment.

Networking interactions are distinct from interactions necessitated by work projects, although there could be overlap. Primarily, I think of networking as the opportunities you create, or intentionally embark upon, to enrich yourself and others.

In professional contexts, networking enables individuals to form genuine connections that are unlikely to be formed through projects or work discussions.

Networking can lead to broadened perspectives, deepened relationships, knowledge of job opportunities, and acquisition of mentors and sponsors. The possibilities are indeed endless.

 

Obstacles of Networking:

In my experience, the following are the most common reasons most women don’t network on a consistent basis.
There are multiple demands on your time.
Networking feels futile, like a poor use of your valuable time.
Networking events take place in the evening; you’d like to get home to the family.
Networking events take place at lunchtime; you’d like to work through lunch to complete important tasks.
You’re an introvert; networking feels unnatural.
Networking is overwhelming, and you don’t know where to begin.
Important conversations in your field take place on the golf course, or in the context of an activity you’re unfamiliar with, or have no interest in learning.

If you identify with any of these reasons, first, be convinced of the importance of networking. A number of the reasons above boil down to not viewing networking, or the resulting networks, as a priority. As you seek to enrich your life, professionally and otherwise, cultivating relationships with people who can play big or small roles in the journey is critical.

Second, I believe all leadership behaviors can be learned. The task is to adapt specific tools to yourself, your circumstances, and your predispositions. It’s about growth and building pathways between where you are and where you want to be.

The tips below provide a framework for building authentic networking pathways.

Four Superb Networking Tips:

1) Be Strategic. Be intentional, and map out your networking plan. We often leap into the ocean of networking too late—when we are in the job market, making a career jump, seeking answers to a particular question, or seeking a promotion. Mapping out a networking plan makes it a lot less overwhelming and a lot more effective.

This was the case in my earlier example. I struggled to think of individuals who could deliver strong recommendations because I hadn’t strategized in advance.

If, conversely, months or even years before I was up for promotion, I’d mapped out what the promotion process would involve, who I needed to nurture relationships with and how I would go about it, I would’ve been much better positioned. I would’ve purposefully developed relationships with the appropriate people and at the appropriate levels to meet my goals. I did get the promotion, but it was more of a strain than it needed to be.

 

2) Customize: Networking should serve your purposes. It is about what’s unique to you—your interests, your field, and your opportunities. At the outset of your journey to intentional networking, ask yourself the important questions: What do you seek to accomplish? What are you passionate about? What are your networking values? How can networking serve you?

Write a wish list. Write out specific names and organizations, as well as how you would engage with them. Don’t put all your networking dreams in a single individual or organization. While certain relationships will deepen and blossom over time, be open to limited, authentic interactions, and watch what unfolds.

Have a genuine interest in others and what’s important to them. This is how you identify common interests, passions, and complimentary goals. It’s also how you build deep relationships over time.

If you don’t have an interest in a particular activity, consider alternative means to engage the same individuals. If such opportunities don’t exist, consider acquiring the skill or building a similar skill that would expose you to individuals you seek to engage with.

If you’re an introvert, seek out tools and professional resources designed for and by introverts. Susan Cain’s bestselling book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, could be a great start.

3) Think Broadly About Sources. I’ve often said this in relation to mentoring, and it’s equally applicable to networking—it’s important to think broadly about sources. Networks aren’t only built in uptight professional conferences—they are built in alumni events, churches, synagogues, schools, and volunteer events.

Find resources that support your goals. For example, there are organizations focused on professional women and empowering them with tools to succeed. Ellevate Network is one such network. It’s a global organization that enables professional women to learn and invest in themselves. I have found it to be an excellent resource to build professional skills and relationships. Find an Ellevate chapter near you. If there isn’t one in your area, start one, or find a similar organization.

A number of organizations focus on building specific skills. Toastmasters is committed to empowering people with speaking skills. I’ve never been a member, but I’ve heard superb feedback from members. Certain organizations are focused on teaching women skills that support professional networking, such as golf and poker.

Think beyond your field, as this helps fuel innovation. You’ll encounter ideas that can be transferred and applied in an ingenuous way to your field and areas of interest.

4) Choose Your Time Investment Wisely. Networking need not be an overwhelming time commitment. Combine various strategies—an email to a mentor, former colleague, or fellow alumni in your field or in a field you would love to learn about; a 20-minute Skype or conference call; a half hour coffee break, a half hour lunch, or a day-long conference or event.

Set periodic goals that suit your needs, for example, three day-long conferences a year, a panel once a quarter, monthly lunches or coffee meetings, and weekly outreach emails. Firm up the commitment to yourself by scheduling networking tasks in advance.

Powerful Connections
Networking is powerful because authentic human connection is powerful. Like most hallmark self-empowerment tools, networking is a muscle to be built over time. Make a habit of it, and integrate it into your ongoing development processes. The best fruits of networking are those whose seeds are sewn well in advance of the need for them and are nurtured over time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
<strong>Chinwe Esimai</strong> is an award-winning lawyer, author, and speaker. She is Managing Director and Chief Anti-Bribery Officer at Citigroup, Inc. where she oversees the firm’s global anti-bribery program. She was born in Nigeria and is passionate about inspiring generations of immigrant women leaders. She shares leadership at http://www.chinweesimai.com/blog and on Forbes.

Women Entrepreneur

How to Inspire Your Employees to Become Intrapreneurs!

 

By;Nikki Carlson and Kailynn Bowling, Contributing Writers

Employee satisfaction, stagnation, and productivity woes can eat away at a business. Fortunately for business owners, the intrapreneurial mindset can save any struggling team by creating a culture of celebration and innovation. But what the heck is intrapreneurship, anyway?

Intrapreneurship isn’t a “woo-woo” employee empowerment fad. It’s a culture you can build in your business to see real results. Unlike entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs are employed at a business, but they bring many entrepreneurial qualities to their work. These employees assert themselves and foster innovation within the company, leading to better, profitable outcomes.

Why intrapreneurship?

Nobody wants complacent, unhappy workers. Intrapreneurs contribute immensely to the success of your business, all while feeling productive and happy at work.

Intrapreneurs benefit your business because:

Intrapreneurs take risks: They aren’t going to sit back in their chair and stay quiet if they see a problem. They have the grit and determination to stick it out and find a solution.
Intrapreneurs are insanely productive: It stands to reason that a happy, engaged employee is going to check more items off her to-do list.
Intrapreneurs innovate: Business is all about innovation. Like their entrepreneurial cousins, intrapreneurs look for solutions. They always look for ways to increase efficiency and speed, even if it means more risk or work.

Sounds great, right? Intrapreneurs truly are the foundation of successful businesses. But too often businesses aren’t sure how to encourage an intrapreneurial mindset.

How to build intrapreneurs in your business

You want employees to feel satisfied and productive at work, but sometimes it’s tough finding the right ways to motivate your workforce. To some businesses, money is a motivator. However, research shows that money is only a short-term fix for motivation woes.

The right approach is to build an intrapreneurial culture for increased employee motivation and satisfaction. This differs depending on your company’s climate, but it can involve everything from one-on-ones to public recognition.

When it comes to building intrapreneurs, look no further for guidance than from a company that’s already doing it. Founders Nikki Carlson and Kailynn Bowling at ChicExecs inspire an intrapreneur mentality while building a community of women with strong ambition and drive.

Their secret? It boils down to four practices:

They set firm company values. Nikki and Kailynn use these values to attract the right candidates during hiring.
The company founders sit down with every employee from the get-go to hear out their ideas. This gives employees the opportunity to share their ideas for growth right from the beginning.
They give employees the opportunity to be recognized weekly. This helps employees feel rewarded and valued.
hires from within. Outstanding interns are promoted into full-time roles and grow with the company.

When it comes down to it, you can build intrapreneurs by creating a culture of feedback, thoughtfulness, and growth that starts the day your employee walks through the door. For current employees, you can implement non-monetary recognition structures to acknowledge and exemplify hard work. Culture change doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s the single best way to foster innovation in your business.

The bottom line
Employees want to feel engaged and happy at work. It’s our duty as business owners to build a culture that encourages innovation and risk-taking. The rewards are well worth it, both for your bottom line and employee happiness.

Women Entrepreneur

BECOMING SELF MADE

 

By Nely Galan
What does it mean to be self-made? It’s not just about having money, but financial empowerment is where it begins. It means getting out of survival mode, where you are one problem away from catastrophe. It means changing your mindset from instant gratification to goal orientation. It means being able to sleep at night without worry. It means being rich in every way: rich in money, rich in family, rich in love, rich in time -being abundant! If you don’t know where to start, go to your pain. Your pain is the gateway to your most authentic brand and success. No matter what you’ve been through, you can build a business from your pain, because you are the expert in it and you are not alone in your experience. First, you need to realize that there is no Prince Charming! No one is here to save us; you can’t sit around waiting for someone else to make success happen for you. You have to be the one to make it happen, and that starts with recognizing your gifts and your strengths. It means having a goal, honoring that goal and stating your intention to realize that goal. Don’t wait for magic to happen. To be chosen, you have to choose yourself first, so make it happen. You have to change your relationship with fear and failure- they need to become your best friends. When you fail, it’s because you are around the corner from your greatest success – get back on the horse! You need to be louder and braver because power is taken, not given and it is there for us. If you feel afraid, then act as if. Get into the mind and body of someone empowered, think to yourself what they would do or say in this moment and then do it! The big goal is to make money while we sleep, becoming self-made is a lifetime journey of mastery that we can all achieve.
Women Entrepreneur

Former “Price is Right” model turns Entrepreneur, Gwendolyn Osborne-Smith

Photos courtesy of Vince Trupsin

Interview with: Gwendolyn Osborne-Smith

1) How did you get started in the business?

In the entertainment business? My older sister was my very first influence and she was a trained dancer, so I followed in her footsteps. With her being 10 years older than me, she started taking me to theatre auditions at around 5 years old.

2) Why did you decide to leave The Price is Right for Smith Entertainment Group?

I felt that I had grown and it was time for me to spread my producer wings and share more of myself. Being vulnerable and sharing the talents that I have instead of keeping them to myself was a big decision to make but it was time.

 

3) What are some of your biggest accomplishments?

Actually, being the longest running woman of color on a daytime game show is definitely one of them. However, the fact that I was a teen mum with my first daughter and that she will be a college graduate this May with not only a degree in psychology but a double minor in Asian and Pacific Studies (she speaks mandarin) is probably the biggest accomplishment!! I’m so proud of her!! I am very proud of being able to manage a household, kids and a career simultaneously.

4) What is some advice you would give to future female entrepreneurs?

Always manage your self-care. It’s important to know what your needs are for you to perform as your best self. Without that things start falling apart. I would also say that no matter how old you are, acknowledge and believe in your own magic! It’s different and unique for each and every one of us. Then don’t forget to share it!

5) What are your plans for the future?

To have my own TV show to help others realize that they can continue to pursue their own dreams no matter what odds may seem stacked against them. To also help others in the industry who feel they have been seen in one dimension get seen in other important aspects of their life. There are many different sides to people and being able to feel fully seen and heard is a huge movement especially for women in the workplace today. I hope to be a huge part of that movement for women.

6) Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Grateful for the opportunity and would love anyone who likes to have a laugh or get some sweet advice to follow me on social media @mrsgwenniesmith on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat!

 

Women Entrepreneur

MEET OUR FEBRUARY WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS!

Erika Szychowski founder of Good Zebra is fearlessly striking out to disrupt the snack food industry. Erika is a global branding authority that has worked with a diverse clientele base from The Rolling Stones to the Olympic Games. Her passion for baking and strong brand vision are helping bring these tasty protein bar alternatives to briefcases and backpacks across the nation.

Dr.Stacia Pierce is an award-winning life coach and author who helps women empower themselves to achieve their financial and business goals. As founder and CEO of lifecoach2women.com, she’s able to reach hundreds of thousands of women around the world and help them discover how to develop their own success attraction system in order to manifest their goals. In addition to small business owners, Pierce has assisted the Hollywood elite, Grammy and Emmy winners, and television personalities on their journey.


Ariana Pierce not only runs Superstar Nail Lacquer and Style Shoppe, an online accessories company, she’s a published author (Skip The Party Start A Business), motivational speaker, designer, and business coach, Ariana Pierce has the tools to help aspiring entrepreneurs create their own future.

Lisa Ximenez, is the founder of Bump It Off, a reusable silicone sleeve that fits on your hand in four different positions, enabling you to concentrate scrubbing power in the palm of your hand or on your fingertips. As a single working mother of two, she is always looking for better, faster ways to get things done around the house.

 


Wendi Levy Kaaya and Kim Etheredge, two “mixed chicks”, created a product line because they needed it. Then something happened, friends and family started encouraging them to package it, and soon they had a full-blown business running out of the garage. After a little door to door hustling, a few celebrity endorsements (Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson,​ Ciara and more!), and a ton of online customer support, MIXED CHICKS has successfully brought their hair care products to the world and are now sold in retail locations nationwide!

Gabriela Mekler and Maribel Moreno are hands-on mom’s committed to making our lives easier, by delivering an efficient and practical way to organize with mumi. “Amidst school (and after school) carpools, grocery runs, and a myriad of other daily chores, we founded our company in 2014 to satisfy our shared entrepreneurial drive. Being subjected daily to grueling logistical challenges, we decided to create a company whose purpose is to share with the world the liberating feeling of being well organized.”

Hanna Sahlen and Ashleigh Powell have a common passion for travel and living life to the fullest. Axel and Ash was established through their friendship and today their funky, stylish products are sold in the trendiest stores around the world. They’re constantly working on creating new products designed for free-spirited, stylish dreamers.

Melissa Blue and Melissa Mehall started Meli’s Monster Cookies when Blue’s mother-in-law gifted her a 40-year-old family recipe on the day of her wedding. Passed down for decades, she’s been baking the cookies ever since.The best tasting gluten-free cookies on the market, Meli’s Monster Cookies are so good, you won’t even know there’s no gluten, flour or wheat in them!

When Madeline Stuart was born, doctors told her mother she’d never amount to anything because she was born with Down syndrome. Fast forward 21 years later and Madeline Stuart is still proving them wrong, taking the world by storm as a supermodel, activist and an inspiration. Madeline recently received the Quincy Jones award from the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and danced the night away with celebrities like Eva Longoria, Jamie Foxx, and Matt Dillion. She is starting the new year in the best shape she’s ever been! Next up, more fashion shows and events.

Ashley Whitman created Romp & Roost when she was searching for a large playpen with flooring on the internet to purchase for her daughter. As her daughter would tumble and fall on our floors learning her new skills, she would hurt herself immediately and began to cry even with blankets down to break the fall. Ashley wanted something large enough for her daughter to play in that also had a soft bottom for her stumbles and falls.

Jodi Scott and her sister Jen and their mom Kathy started Green Goo with a commitment to using high quality, all-natural ingredients to create simple, effective products that are good for people and the planet… Food for your skin! As the company has grown, those values remain the core of this women-owned, family-operated business. Their products range from first aid salves to gluten-free body scrubs and soy candles.

Women Entrepreneur

Equality can be obtained in the workplace! New book by Piyush Patel tells Entrepreneurs how to maintain workplace harmony

 

 

Equality can be obtained in the workplace! New book by Piyush Patel tells Entrepreneurs how to maintain workplace harmony

Women are demanding equality in all facets of our society, including the workplace. So how can employers eliminate discrepancies in pay, hiring, and overall environment? Piyush Patel, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and expert in corporate culture has a simple solution: have each interview conducted by a man and a woman.

“Doing this helps to eliminate gender bias in the recruiting process, and can also help employers avoid hiring toxic employees,” says Patel, author of Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work. “As an employer, you create your own playbook. Make sure everyone plays your way, or they don’t play at all.

Available at Amazon & Barnes and Noble

Women Entrepreneur

The Wicked Good Cupcake Story: Meet Tracey Noonan

The Wicked Good Cupcake Story:

Meet Tracey Noonan

Submitted by: Lucie K. Lewis, Ed.D

 

When we look back on our lives, while we can certainly recognize those moments that had a dramatic impact, we can easily see the significant events that actually turned our journey onto a different path.  For Tracey Noonan, there are two that truly shaped where her life has gone.

While in high school, Tracey had set her sights on teaching dance, although this was not the plan her parents had for her life.  Nonetheless, determined to fulfill this dream, Tracey found a way to apply and audition to performing arts colleges.  She was not only accepted to the Boston Conservatory of Music as a dance major but received a scholarship as well.  As Tracey puts it:

“Life at the Conservatory was perfect – until I made a very bad decision. I got pregnant.”  

Her plans derailed and not allowed to return home she married her boyfriend.  Ironically, the gift of that life-altering moment was also the reason for the second—starting a business venture at 49 years old.  

Tracey set out to find a way to share time with her daughter Dani.  They began attending a once a week at a cake decorating class.  The shared pastime grew well beyond that outgrowing her South Shore home kitchen into a nationally-recognized, multi-million-dollar brand, but not overnight.  Tracey describes the business growth as happening “on its own organically” in the beginning.  However, with confidence, perseverance and the support of her husband Scott, family, friends and her mentors like Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank and Marcus Lemonis  of CNBC’s The Profit, Tracey and Dani learned to become entrepreneurs and to grow the business to success..  

Tracey is saddened when she speaks with someone whose dreams have been stymied by the roadblocks others put in front of them.  In her book, Tracey shares the details of the challenges that she overcame on her journey and her advice is simple.  As she states in Wicked Good Cupcakes:

Don’t put an expiration date on your success! Opportunities happen for us when we are ready and not a second before. We are the sum of all of our decisions – good and bad – and that is the good news.

 

 

Book Review of the Wicked Good Cupcake

Author Tracey Noonan had a clear plan for her life.  She graduated from high school and forged a way to attend college without the support of her parents.  She was on her way to building the life she dreamed of.  But, life can change on a dime, and hers certainly did.

In her book Wicked Good Cupcakes, Tracey shares her journey including an honest discussion of her struggles and failures.  She openly discusses her often painful, usually exhausting, road to success.  With a deep commitment to her reasons for beginning the journey, she perseveres, learns the lesson she needed to learn and found the mentors and support so critical to her success.

We witnessed the critical juncture of her success–her appearance on Shark Tank, but in Wicked Good Cupcakes, Tracey pulls back the curtain and shares the full story.  If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, Wicked Good Cupcakes is an invaluable read.