Ten million Women-Owned Businesses
According to the National Women’s Business Council’s 2015 report, a whopping ten million Women-Owned Businesses are operating in the United States today–and counting. Thanks to the relentless determination, creativity, and grit of a world-wide movement of women entrepreneurs, women are lifting up each other and bolstering their communities. Much goes into being an entrepreneur, especially as a woman, but thanks to evolving technologies, there are countless ways to implement a business-related vision in a streamlined and effective manner. The nature of an increasingly virtual market levels out the playing field; on the internet, everyone’s word is equal. Any one voice can join–or even lead–the conversation.
Virtual marketing and communications, then, present a shining opportunity to women entrepreneurs with big aspirations. And incredibly, so many of the tools we now think of as vital to entrepreneurship weren’t available—or even conceivable—just a few short decades ago.
The following web-based skills are proving to be ever-useful to women entrepreneurs in our communities and worldwide–and require nothing more than a creative mind and a laptop or cellphone. Whether or not you majored in computer science in college, these skills have become accessible, approachable, and learnable for us all. And we’ve talked with a few of our favorite entrepreneurs to learn more about how these tools affect business day to day.
1. Social media
Women looking to start up small businesses can expect to utilize web-based marketing strategies now more than ever. In fact, Mashable reports that 81% of small-to-medium sized businesses now utilize at least one social media platform. Indeed, a social media presence plays a crucial role in establishing, growing, and connecting small businesses and organizations.
Dr. Barbi Honeycutt, founder of FLIP It Consulting, is committed to developing educational resources for students and teachers across the globe. A woman entrepreneur out of Raleigh, NC, she was so kind as to share a few words on the importance of entrepreneurs engaging their communities via social media:
“Regular posting on social media/other communities is important to maintain a voice in the larger conversations that are happening out there in my profession,” said Dr. Honeycutt. “I post an average of 1-2 times per day on Twitter and 1-3 times per week on LinkedIn… I think it’s important for any entrepreneur to know where their audience is, and that will be different for every business. [Also], it’s important to focus on just a few communities.”
Dr. Honeycutt is spot on in her thoughts on playing an active role in social media; according to Forbes, women are using the advantages of social media to drive new innovations in marketing, outreach, and communications.
And she’s definitely not alone. Check out some of our favorite female entrepreneurs on these channels:
- On Facebook, check out Headbands of Hope
- On Twitter, Olalah Njenga, CEO and Small Business Expert
- On LinkedIn, Annie Franceschi, Brand Creator and Owner of Greatest Story Creative
- On Instagram, Author, Blogger, and Foodie Molly Yehm
- On YouTube, Creator of MarieTV, Marie Forleo
2. Website Building
Websites are the digital embodiment of a business’s mission, values, and ideals—and are crucial for small businesses that battle for attention against large competitors. Website building was once a skill limited to those with extensive knowledge of tech and coding; it was also a field heavily dominated by men. Thanks to the advances in technology, however, website building is now easier and more accessible to women entrepreneurs than ever before. (And we have a few more women in tech leading the way.)
Crafting a website is an incredibly important step in any entrepreneurial journey. There are two typical pathways:
- Website building services, such as those offered here at Reify Media, offer a personalized and collaborative experience in building that dream website for small businesses and organizations.
- Free website builders provide a DIY process for site building, though with limited creative leeway. Wix, Squarespace, WordPress.com, Weebly, and Yola are noted as the more effective free web builders. Note that these “drag and drop” style websites, though easy to use, may not yield the most customized results—but they can be a great first step toward a web presence.
Learning to manage one’s own website can be a great step in one’s entrepreneurial journey. Dara Wilson-Grant of Careers in Bloom shared some insights with me about the benefits of being able to manage, edit, and update one’s own website:
“For me, entrepreneurship is synonymous with being self-sufficient. On a micro level, being able to edit and update my own website rather than rely on someone else represents some of the aspects of entrepreneurship I find most appealing – freedom and independence. This is not to say I would never delegate or outsource those tasks when more pressing duties require my attention. It’s just comforting to know that I am able to do it on my own.”
And it’s not just the website building that’s gotten better. Website editing is also more empowered now. Without any coding experience, entrepreneurs can update their websites—adding blog posts or new images, or updating text—thanks to today’s web technology (and CMS tools like WordPress). So even if computer science was not your favorite subject, you can use a website to your entrepreneurial advantage.
In the event of working with a web development company—Sarah Glova, founder of Reify Media and web guru herself, presents some helpful tips on hiring a web-building service.
Here’s a quick summary of her tips:
- Create a contract with a web designer.
- Ask your clients to share recommendations or testimonials.
- Try to secure a project-based fee structure that’s defined ahead of time, rather than an hourly-based contract.
- Make sure content is ready for a new website—one can save money and time by having drafts of web text ready before the project starts.
- Plan for time to test the site—on multiple devices and browsers.
- Design for your audience, not for yourself.
3. Mobile Technology
Today, businesses travel with their clients through both the public and private spheres of life. From the chairs around the conference table to one’s own living room, businesses and organizations interact more closely with their audiences than ever before. Thanks to advances in mobile technology and social networking, rising women entrepreneurs have the opportunity to involve themselves with their communities more intimately than ever before.
Mobile technology gives women entrepreneurs both new levels of freedom and new levels of responsibility in providing quality mobile content that audiences actually want to see. That, and mobile technology provides new ways to efficiently manage one’s business matters and transactions.
According to PCMag, mobile platforms are flexible and can be used in four major areas of a future business: accounting & expenses, collaboration and communication, analytics & data management, and human resources.
Annie Franceschi, an avid story-teller and founder of Greatest Story Creative, shares some useful tools compatible with mobile that can travel alongside the aspiring entrepreneur every step of their journey:
“There are so many tools I love,” said Franceschi, “but those I use on a daily basis are (1) Toggl, my time tracking app, which helps me have better insight into how profitable my time is or isn’t on client work… (2) Gsuite for business email, (3) Google Voice, (4) Acuity Scheduling, (5) Zoom Video Conference, (5) Squarespace, (6) Wave, and (7) Smartsheet.”
Franceschi discusses even more useful platforms for entrepreneurial efforts in her article “Our Favorite Tools for Small Business Owners.”
Needless to say, mobile devices are proving to be increasingly useful to women entrepreneurs in local and global communities. Just a few short decades ago, starting a business would have required serious capital investment; now, most business transactions and logistics can be managed from one’s smart phone. Plus, powerful tools like Toggl for time tracking or Acuity for scheduling can help us manage our time efficiently, without high administrative or staff fees.
Technology is helping to bring the abstract into reality. Women entrepreneurs everywhere are springboarding into the new age utilizing these technologies and realizing their full potential as businesswomen and business owners in the process.
We hope that this article has been an interesting overview of the basic tools vital to the growing number of women business owners (and, truly, to all business owners). Be sure to check back on Reify’s blog for updates on all things small-business related, including articles on more cutting-edge trends that could affect the next generation of entrepreneurs and the way we all do business.