Women mean business. Small business in particular, where women are starting new businesses at twice the rate of men, according to a 2007 study conducted by the Center for Women's Business Research.
In response to that burgeoning constituency, Microsoft Office Live Small Business is kicking off a five-day, five-city conference series called Vision to Venture. The conference is designed to provide advice, tips and strategies that will help women start and build successful businesses.
That advice will come from three well-regarded business experts: Susan Wilson Solovic, author of the Girls Guide to Building a Million-Dollar Business and co-founder of SBTV.com; Rich Sloan, author, radio host and co-founder of StartupNation.com; and John Jantsch, author and founder of Duct Tape Marketing.
In a conversation with SmallBusinessComputing.com, Susan Solovic cited statistics from the Center for Women's Business Research, which states that of the 7.7 million majority women-owned businesses (51 percent) in the U.S., less than 800,000 of them gross more than $250,000 in annual revenues, and less than three percent gross more than $1 million.
"Many women face psychological barriers to thinking big and bold and building a big business," said Solovic, adding that being ambitious, aggressive or interested in making money is often times seen as unfeminine.
"Women need to see where they want their business to go, and to be able to articulate it so that other people can see it, too," she said. "It's important to have the confidence to get out there and to shout it out so that everyone can see."
Tech for Success
Building a larger organization takes a strategic plan; one that Solovic said involves technology and a strong Web presence. She recalled her recent involvement with a group of businesswomen who owned local yarn shops and 90 percent of them did not have a Web site.
"There's lots of opposition to having an Internet presence, and many women don't realize it's not just about e-commerce. A Web site is a channel of communication and a great way to stay connected with your customers," Solovic said.
In an online survey of small business attitudes toward online marketing (conducted in August, 2007 by Local Mobile Search and AllBusiness.com), respondents specified the following reasons for not venturing into online marketing:
- Lack of budget: 25.7 percent
- Confusion about how or where to begin: 19.6 percent
- The Internet is not relevant to our business: 17.5 percent
- Lack of time or personnel to do it: 14.9 percent
- Have all the business we need: 12.0 percent
- Skeptical that it's effective: 10.2 percent
Finding the right technology resources for small businesses can be daunting. Solovic related that her own sister-in-law, who owns a company that specializes in embroidering logos onto clothing, finally decided to get a Web site, and she received a quote for a whopping $6,000.
"It's hard for small businesses to find tech resources, and they can end up with something that costs too much and doesn't even work for them." Which is why, Solovic added, it's important that women learn about resources available at sites such as Microsoft Office Live Small Business.
Dates and Places
It's in seminars such as Vision to Venture that Solovic said she hopes women will see other women in positions of leadership in significant companies and find role models and mentors. "Without that, you can't envision yourself in that role."
The series begins tomorrow April 2, (attention St Louis, it's not too late to register) and continues into May in the following cities:
- St. Louis: April 2, 2008, Chase Park Plaza
- San Diego: April 15, 2008, Westin Horton Plaza San Diego
- Miami: April 22, 2008, JW Marriott Miami
- Austin: April 24, 2008, Hyatt Regency Austin
- Seattle: May 9, 2008, Microsoft Conference Center, Microsoft Corporate Campus
If you can't make it to one of these events in person, the sessions will be aired as on-demand Webcasts on the Office Live Small Business Web site starting in mid-May. Click here for more information or to register for both in-person events and the online Webcasts.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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