October is National Women’s Small Business Month, which offers an opportunity to take a more thorough look into how female-owned businesses affect local communities and economies. In 2018, almost 20% of businesses were women-owned, but the number has since increased. According to an article in Forbes, more women than men started a business in 2020, which has led to a dramatic increase in female business ownership.
The Social Brand had the privilege of interviewing a few small business owners who are female to learn about their journeys and experiences in entrepreneurship.
Female entrepreneur or entrepreneur?
There is an ongoing debate among women as to whether or not categorizing entrepreneurs as "female-owned" is necessary. To create equality, many female business owners wish to be referred to simply as "entrepreneurs" and believe that labeling themselves as "female entrepreneurs" adds an unnecessary element to the situation.
One of these women, Mary Walker, the owner of Leaf Spring Consulting, believes that the fact that she is a woman isn’t important and that by labeling herself as a "female entrepreneur" she is inviting gender to be an issue. She says that it doesn’t matter and she expects to be treated the same as everyone else in the room.
The statistics are clear, however, the playing field isn’t yet level for men and women who are business owners. Many women believe emphasizing themselves as "female entrepreneurs" is important because the challenges women face as business owners are not the same as the challenges men face. Some women believe that being referred to as a “female business owner” highlights the growth that women are doing in the entrepreneurship world. No matter their label, these women know what it takes to own a small business.
No matter if you were a girl or boy, growing up we all had the same aspirations. Some of us wanted to be firemen, some wanted to be ballerinas, others wanted to be teachers; our gender never mattered when we were told to dream as children. Some people, however, are born knowing their purpose, while others must go through experiences and challenges to know. Laura Nechnicky-Booth, the owner of Infinite Clarity, told us that life experiences were necessary to lead her to her purpose of owning her own mental health business. The same goes for Cherie Larson, owner of Larson SMB Consulting, PLLC.
Other leaders, like Mary Walker and Amy Hermann, owner of Matchmaker Home Group, have both known that business ownership was always in the cards. Mary told us that, as a child, she would paint pictures on rocks and sell them to her local community, friends, and family. She eventually graduated to making seashell jewelry and laughs about these being her first two business failures.
Whether always knowing they were meant for big things or whether they discovered it over time, these women eventually made the decision to start their own businesses. One business owner we spoke with said she enjoys a sense of control, and she knew that owning her own business would give her that peace.
Another leader said she had a specific skill set that could fill an unmet need and desired to reach a wider audience and make a difference. Another one of our fearless females decided to start her own business after she was enlightened by opportunity – as her experience grew, she was exposed to the potential that she was unable to see before. One person said that she was tired of being disrespected by the corporate world and she didn’t fit into that mold, so she started her own business. Despite taking separate paths into business ownership, all business owners will face challenges.
From motherhood to beginning on an unlevel playing field, female business owners tend to face a different set of challenges than male business owners. For Laura, learning how to market herself and putting faith in the idea that she has value to offer was a challenge at the beginning. History shows women as not having value to offer in the work place, a struggle that women continue to have to prove otherwise. Ironically, Mary admitted that she had a difficult time being taken seriously by other women. Amy said that her challenge was proving to everyone that she could be both a single mother and a business owner.
Cherie, on the other hand, said that being a female actually gave her an advantage in that she is able to connect and communicate with her clients with more empathy and understanding. There are many other challenges that women and men face as business owners, but the best leaders are determined to learn from them.
Insights from the owners
With business ownership comes challenges, but with challenges comes growth. Our leaders have offered insight that can only be learned from experience.
Laura wants to let all potential business owners know that it takes a village and she reiterates that it’s important to find people to be in your corner. She also says humility is crucial, and that despite the fact it will be the hardest work of your life, it is also the most rewarding.
Mary offered similar insights as the previous business leaders we interviewed this month. She says it’s important to find your leadership voice and that learning how to effectively and empathetically communicate is crucial to being a good leader. She agrees with Laura that humility is the name of the game, and when communicating, never pretend to know it all.
Cherie also places importance on community and believes building a solid network will increase opportunities for you and your business.
Amy keeps it simple and encourages anyone considering this path to just go ahead and do it saying, "There is really no good time." She believes that investing in community is also key.
Just so you know…
Whether you prefer to be called a "female entrepreneur" or an "entrepreneur" or either, or even if you’re not a female, these strong business owners want you to know that while the journey is difficult and can be scary, it is also extremely rewarding. To be a business owner, you must be able to get along with a range of people, and while independence and freedom are exciting, maintaining healthy boundaries is also important. Want to learn more about the women in this post? Read their biographies (below) and visit their websites!
Meet our fearless (female) leaders
Laura Nechanicky-Booth is a licensed marriage and family therapist who owns Infinite Clarity. She has helped hundreds of committed individuals and couples restore their spark to live a rich, fulfilled life full of intimate connections. Laura is passionate about helping couples break cycles that have been repeated for generations. Laura aims to help you break down your own walls, build better communication and embrace the courage you have inside to live your life to the fullest.
Cherie Larson is the president of Larson SMB Consulting PLLC. Cherie graduated from Northern Illinois University and is a CPA in both Tennessee and Illinois. She is originally from Chicago, but has made Knoxville her home for more than 30 years where she and her husband Paul have raised their family along with their beagle, Holly.
Larson SMB Consulting PLLC has had over 15 years of experience working with small business owners to optimize their accounting while meeting the challenges of growing a business. Cherie strives to ensure that clients have the resources they need to successfully transition to the next level. She has worked with companies in size from $25K-$15M to help them meet the challenges that come with growth.
Amy Herrmann, owner of Matchmaker Home Group, is Knoxville native, full time real estate agent, mom to two teen boys, pug mom and cat mom. She started her career in real estate in 2015 as an assistant, and broke out on her own in 2017. Amy enjoys spending time with her kids, going on road trips, attending her Jeep club, and severe weather!
Mary Walker owns Leaf Spring Consulting.