Five prominent entrepreneurial women from Columbia discussed themes including initiative, passion, integrity and networking at a luncheon and panel discussion on women in entrepreneurship Thursday at Columbia College.
The panelists were Anne Churchill of AnnaBelle Events and Jubilee Planning Studio; Kat Cunningham of Moresource Inc; Chrystal Sadler of Chrystal L. Hair and Makeup; Karen Taylor of Central Bank of Boone County; and Jessie Yankee of EasyPC IT & Computer Repair.
Yankee said that new entrepreneurs must constantly try to network. “You can’t just show up at networking events and just sit there; you have to actually network,” she said. Yankee said she learned this from her husband Jim Yankee, owner of Flat Branch Home Loans.
As part of networking, Jessie Yankee said, aspiring entrepreneurs must focus on using all the free resources available to them and get involved in the community.
Churchill said it’s important not to burn bridges, because business brings entrepreneurs into contact with lots of unexpected people. “I did wedding planning for the mean girl in high school,” she said.
Taylor said that being ready to volunteer to do extra work is an important quality for female entrepreneurs.
“Women sometimes think that if they volunteer for something, people will think they’re greedy,” she said. “You have to remember that you’re helping the organization.”
This is where passion comes in, according to Taylor. To volunteer a lot, you need passion for the work, she said.
“We women are givers,” one audience member said. “So how do you say no sometimes?”
This veered the discussion to the question of how to manage time effectively and say no to some things.
Sadler chimed in. “I’m a mother of three,” she said, “I know from my personal experience that saying no is the opportunity to say yes to something else.”
Churchill said that the key to time management was identifying one’s strengths. “Ask yourself, ‘What are the things that only I can do? And what can someone else do better?’”
Yankee said she felt that unless she could give 100 percent, she wouldn’t be comfortable with saying yes to something. “Once I say yes, it has to be my best yes,” she said. “So I think a lot before I say yes to anything.”
Taylor emphasized that saying no to something doesn’t mean saying no forever. “When you say no, it doesn’t mean no, it just means not now,” she said.
Failing and responding
During the discussion, a hand shot up in the audience. “What do you do when you fail?” an attendee asked.
Yankee said the biggest part of responding to failure is owning that you didn’t do it right. The focus should not be on making excuses, she said. Instead, it should be on what you can do to make things right.
“We had people leave five-star reviews after we broke their computer,” she said, connecting it to her own experiences with failure.
“It can feel a lot worse than it actually is,” Churchill said, pointing out that customers who may react negatively to your service at first can feel differently after a while.
Breaking into heavily male businesses
Talking about the issue of women in industries that are populated mostly by men, Taylor said that as a woman in banking, she has two rules: Never make coffee and never take the minutes. “I try to think of things women are typically asked to do and steer clear of them,” she said.
Speaking about her experience of being a woman in information technology, Yankee said that while hasn’t seen much overt sexism, men are often hesitant to talk to her at conferences and other IT events.
Building a team
Towards the end of the event, the panelists the importance of a good team and how to go about building one.
“It takes a village to raise a child and a team to build a dream,” Sadler said.
Ninety percent of the problem is always communication, Sadler said. Better communication with the team can ensure a better group work ethic, she said.