Last week, over 130 members of the UCI and Orange County community came together in the Paul Merage School of Business Auditorium for our quarterly event, Girlboss: From Employee to Entrepreneur. The program, in collaboration with the National Association of Women Business Leaders, is part of an event series that strive to encourage and support aspiring female entrepreneurs by sharing stories of successful women business leaders.
With a panel of three established entrepreneurs and the highest turnout yet, this iteration was our most successful to date.
Each panelist–and even the moderator–shared profound knowledge for anyone seeking to develop themselves or their business idea. Here are the top three insights from moderator Pauline Francis, and panelists Tiffany Brown, Michelle Beauchamp, and Dr. Theresa Ashby.
1. Know When You’re Ready to Be an Entrepreneur (It’s Sooner Than You Think)
Michelle Beauchamp has an interesting entrepreneurial history. Most businesspeople start in order to avoid red tape of corporatism, but Beauchamp owns a business while working a part of the leadership at a large telecommunications firm.
Beauchamp’s business, The Champ Group, builds customer’s sales and leadership skills. It aligns well with her other business, meaning that she is willing to give her all to both companies. But “if you feel that it’s drudgery to go to work, it’s a sign” to consider entrepreneurship, Beauchamp mentioned.
Other signs exist, too. According to Brown, owner of the corporate meeting and event planning company known as WOW! Events, going from employee to entrepreneur depended on research: having access to a knowledgeable network, recognizing competitors, and growing finances.
Research was also instrumental in ensuring an exit from her old company that was as clean as possible. “I sought out a coach in business planning, and spoke to attorney to make sure that we were doing things by the book before deciding to start a business,” Brown said.
2. Community Matters
Throughout the panel, the sources of each panelists’ success became apparent. It wasn’t just because of their merit, but because they tapped into their relationships.
Seeking community knowledge and resources enabled these entrepreneurs to succeed. Panelist Dr. Ashby’s own strategic advisement business, Dynam Consulting, grew from an idea because she literally walked through NAWBO’s doors and intentionally sought out support.
For those intimidated by the idea of cold contacting, family members and others with stronger relationships can provide advice as well.
While developing WOW! Events, Brown relied on family for advice. Her mother and mother’s business partner, she said, provided the knowledge necessary for her company to take off. After 15 straight years of business, WOW! Events has organized over 2,000 events.
Even with the support, Brown still undergoes tribulations. “My business is a rollercoaster of highs and lows,” the panelist said.
Family can provide emotional support, too. “When I’m like this, stated Dr. Ashby, gesturing with her hands as if she were at a rollercoaster low point, “I call my mom and she’ll tell me how brilliant I am,” smiling lightheartedly.
3. Success Requires Prioritizing Passion Over Profit
Other entrepreneurs have mentioned this topic before: the ability to make one’s own money paints a strong image of wealth and luxury, but it shouldn’t be the paramount concern when creating a business.
“I think if an entrepreneur decides to go for the money, you’ll get the money, from the get-go,” Dr. Ashby stated. “It won’t last.” Even companies which have quadrupled their revenues from $5 million to $20 million crashed because of a lack of sustainable thinking – too much of a focus on profit stymies the ability make a tangible difference.
With a long list of achievements, including over 25 years of entrepreneurial experience and multiple business degrees, Francis also underscored the need for long term financial thinking. “It’s not easy to make money, but it’s easier to make money than to take care of it,” she quipped.
Passion for a startup does comes with a caveat: it does not need to be the only passion a person has. Rather, the reason why so many entrepreneurs underscore a drive is because it provides enough motivation to work through troubles and succeed.
“Keep it in here,” Dr. Ashby said, pointing to her heart, “and here,” pointing to her head.