How do you grow a business? Even in the best of times, entrepreneurs spend a lot of energy ruminating over this question. But starting a business in the hyper-competitive 21st century is enough to make any budding entrepreneur quiver in her boots. Making an honest profit in a business environment filled with sharks and saber-toothed guppies willing to shirk traditional methods in favor of an “anything that works” philosophy can make even many established business owners unsure of how to compete.

But no man — or woman — is an island (as John Donne, the 17th century English poet observed). Worriers, even entrepreneurial ones, need some like-minded company from whom they can receive some encouragement, learn bits of useful information, and even do a little networking on the side. The upcoming annual conference of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO) offers women business owners (and men) just such an opportunity.

“Each year we have a different theme to the conference and this year we are focusing on ‘The Essence of Success: Realizing your vision: Attaining your dream,’” says Ellen Davis, NJAWBO member and co-chair of the event (along with Elsa Reinhardt). “It really is a blast. It’s uplifting to everyone who attends. There certainly is an education component, but there is also the camaraderie that comes from a group of people facing the same challenges.”

The conference takes place on Wednesday and Thursday, May 24 and 25, at Caesars in Atlantic City. Cost: $250 for NJAWBO members and $450 for non-members. (There are also single day rates). To register, or for more information, visit

The conference offers 30 hours of marketing information, an awards dinner, a business expo, networking with NJAWBO’s 1,200 members, more than a dozen workshops for both the new and more experienced business owners.

Attendees will be able to pick and choose among workshops for what is most appropriate for their needs, with three workshops running concurrently. Among the workshops offered will be “How to Manage Your Business Finances for Maximum Profit,” “Getting Out of Your Own Way: for Business Owners,” “Breaking Through Classic Barriers to Growth,” Branding and Positioning: How to Differentiate Your Business from the Competition,” “How to Develop a Customer Loyalty Program for All Size Businesses,” “Build Your Business Through Dynamic Presentations,” and “Developing the Human Capital Within Your Business.”

The conference kicks off with a keynote address, “Building a Million Dollar Business: The Steps that Today’s Most Successful Women Entrepreneurs Have Taken to Build Dynamic Growth Businesses” by Monica Smiley, editor-in-chief and publisher of “Enterprising Women Magazine” and chief executive officer of Enterprising Women Inc., the magazine’s parent publishing company, which was launched in the early 1990s. The magazine chronicles the growing political, economic, and social influence and power of entrepreneurial women.

There will also be an address by Janet Pfeiffer, author of “Who’s in Charge Here: Taking Control of Your Life!” on Thursday, at 8:30 a.m. The conference wraps up with an endnote address by Aldonna Ambler, “Take What You Have Learned And GO! Achieving Accelerated Growth with Sustained Profitability,” on Thursday, at 4:15 p.m.

For Davis, who began her management consulting company, Business Advisors International (, three years ago after moving with her family from Massachusetts to Mahwah, business is more than just adding up the profit margins at the end of each quarter. “We take a very holistic approach because we want to look at every aspect of our clients’ business before making any changes,” she says. This includes studying small to mid-sized clients’ marketing program, sales channels, operational functions, and cash flow.

A graduate of Salem State College in Massachusetts (her business partner/husband Larry Davis has an MBA from Duke University), Davis, along with her husband speaks on “Ten Ways to Grow Your Business,” on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. “We will offer 10 tips that each attendee can go back on their own and implement themselves,” says Davis. These include advice on marketing, strategic planning, researching the market place, studying the competition, and how to look for hidden opportunities.

While business is never easy, Davis makes it her business to help business owners from across the state. She offers the following tips to budding newbies who haven’t yet gotten their entrepreneurial feet wet, as well as to established business owners.

Think ahead. “You always need to be on the pulse-point of your market,” says Davis. “You need to be aware of what your competitors are doing, what the needs of your customers are, and plan ahead. Be forward thinking enough to say, okay, I am here now, where do I want to be?”

Consider the possibilities. According to Davis, too many business owners are content to sit still and forget to look for unseen opportunities. “The best positive example I can think of comes from high-tech companies,” she says. “There has been a modern advance in voice technology with microphones that the government uses for space technologies and the Army uses to talk from helmet to helmet. So this company asked themselves, what other industries are there that can use this technology? By thinking creatively, they were able to market this technology for racecar drivers who use it to talk to their pit crews. In the process they opened up a new market that wasn’t there before.”

Internet presence. While technology has created opportunities, it has also created its own set of complications that weren’t there when granddad ran his feed store.

“You need to know what kind of web presence you need to have,” says Davis. “Ask yourself how are people utilizing your website? Are they going to your website to get some background information on you before picking up the phone or come to see you face to face? Are you a retail shop which needs to have buying power on the website? Are people searching keywords and finding you this way? These are very important components to your marketing strategy.”

Develop opportunities and add on. In looking at the marketplace and trying to expand your presence in it, ask yourself what kinds of goods or services are you offering. Are there some add-on services or products that you can offer? Is there a market base that you are leaving behind?

While business is always stressful, it can be exciting to own and operate your own business. This is true even in tough times. “It’s important for people to know that there is help out there,” says Davis. “People can learn to implement strategies that will help make their business a success.”

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