Wisdom for Women

The Center for Women’s Business Research reports that women now own more than half the businesses in America. That’s 10.4 million companies, employing more than 12.8 million people and generating more than $1.9 trillion in sales.

Education and awareness in advance are key to improving the success rate. “We help people focus on whether they are ready to launch a business, how they will get ready and how to understand who they are,” says Theresa Smith, an Englewood life and business coach who helps women prepare for business ownership. Smith, along with Renee Sussman and Karen Steede-Terry, will present “Start Your Own Part-Time Business” on Wednesday, June 4, at 7 p.m. as a teleconference. The course, sponsored by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies and the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners, will continue Wednesdays until July 16. Cost: $195. For more information, call 973-443-8880, or E-mail Smith at tsmith@brightmoment.com.

“We focused on a part-time aspect,” says Smith, “because we are helping women who want to start a business. Many people start out this way. They do freelance work and moonlighting as a stepping stone.”

Smith, Sussman, and Steede-Terry also found the complications of being a full-time employee somewhere else, being a mother and managing a household also complicate the launch process.”That’s why our program is only an hour and a half per session, and as a teleconference, anyone can participate no matter where they are,” says Smith, who has worked for herself for three years.

Similarly, the three facilitators can participate from anywhere. Smith will be calling in from Englewood while Sussman, a life, business and workplace coach, calls in from Fairlawn. Steede-Terry, author of “Full-time Woman, Part-time Career: Launching a Flexible Business That Fits Your Life, Feeds Your Family and Fuels Your Brain,” calls in from Houston, Texas.

The course helps other women by using concepts in Steede-Terry’s book, employing a readiness survey and teaching core elements of business ownership. The program is particularly tailored for people who want to start a business while raising a family or are in a job transition, mothers leaving or rejoining the workforce, and anyone tired of the corporate environment.

Align your values, wants and needs with business ideas. Focused conversation and probing questions help people determine whether a business is right for them. Certain jobs require work on nights and weekend. Others may not give a woman much flexibility if she needs to work when her children at school.

Set and clarify goals People know their big-picture goals, but need help clarifying them. “We worked with one woman who wanted to open a bakery,” Smith says. “That was a great big-picture goal.” But the woman needed to ask herself some probing questions. What kind of bakery? Who would shop there and why? “It’s amazing what happens when you push people and make them think about their goals,” she says.

Understand the important of a business plan. A business plan is crucial; it forces you to write down and formalize what you’ll do, how you’ll do it and when it will happen. “Many people pursue ideas without a plan. Your plan should detail everything about your idea. It will include goals, marketing strategy, financial details like how much money you’ll need and where it will come from and much more.” @lt:Develop networking skills and an elevator-speech. You can’t just open a business and trust people will come. An entrepreneur must continually market the business, network, build relationships, and consistently pitch the opportunity. One tool is the elevator speech, that concise one or two-sentence statement defining the business and what makes it unique. “The elevator speech is a key takeaway from this workshop,” says Smith.

Before launching her own business, Smith worked for 20 years in training and organizational development management positions at financial services firms. She has a master’s in music education and voice from the Manhattan School of Music and a master’s in human resource management from Upsala College.

Taking on new challenges is nothing new to the woman who grew up in West Chester, New York, wanting to be a singer. The daughter of a seamstress and a printer, Smith recalls her first taste of coaching. “I was persistent and tenacious, she says. “I told everyone I was going to go to school because music was the one thing I was very good at. I got the audition and was accepted at the Manhattan School of Music.” The coaching came when “someone tipped me off. A teacher explained that I needed to have something else I could do because it’s hard to be a musician and come out on top. That advice led me to teaching.”

Steede-Terry also uses her life experiences to help would-be entrepreneurs. For more than a decade, she has been a technology consultant and software instructor. As a consultant, she used her technology expertise to help recovery teams working at both the Oklahoma City bombing site and the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

Sussman has more than 20 years experience helping people identify, manage, and adapt to the change they desire. A coach and consultant, she is also assistant director of technology communications and learning at a global accounting firm and previously spent 13 years as a senior project manager/consultant for a performance support firm.

Smith shares the story of one woman who is a dance instructor who wants to work for herself. “She is very passionate about her art but needed ideas,” she says. “We helped her look at her vision and her mission. We asked who she thought her clients would be and how she would operate the business.” Now that woman is working at an Arthur Murray franchise learning the business side of the dance business before she launches her own business.

“This workshop really pushes people to think about what they will do and how they will pursue their ideas. They already have the big picture in their minds. But our interactive sessions help them boil things down to the micro level,” says Smith. “It really is amazing what happens when you push people and make them think about reaching their own goals.”

— Roger A. Shapiro

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