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Shoe Entrepreneurs: Interview to a Successful Shoe Industry CEO

Gitte Sandquist, one of a handful of female shoe entrepreneurs, founder and CEO of Lola Ramona, the Danish shoe brand, is the perfect blend of a rocker and a girly girl. How has she managed to marry these two seemingly opposite styles into a beloved brand? Read on!

Gitte Sandquist one of a handful of shoe entrepreneurs is a perfect blend of rocker and girly-girl

Gitte Sandquist one of a handful of shoe entrepreneurs is a perfect blend of rocker and girly-girl

With over 25 years of experience in the fashion business Gitte was not new to the industry when she launched Lola Ramona in her native Copenhagen, Denmark. Before she became one of the edgiest shoe entrepreneurs in the world, she started her career with Scandinavian giants Bestseller and H&M and with American giant Levi´s. She went on to become an independent agent representing several international brands such as: Pepe Jeans, Lacoste, Paul Smith, Caterpillar, and Paul Frank.

During the eight years she spent as an independent agent, Gitte always felt there was a gap in the market of women shoes. Shoes that were beautiful and comfortable that women could wear every day, and not just for parties. So, she decided to become a shoe entrepreneur and started Lola Ramona.  While still selling these international brands during the day, Gitte planned her new company at night sleeping only a few hours, usually at the office.

A few years ago, we stumbled upon her stunning brand and when we discovered the company’s founder was a one of a handful of female shoe entrepreneurs, we approached her to be a Red Shoe Movement partner. She loved our mission, we loved her shoes, and the rest is history. We had a very successful event at her Copenhagen store and plan to continue doing bigger and more exciting things together. We talked to her about what it means to be a shoe entrepreneur, what’s the hardest thing to give up as a CEO of a small business and what’s up with the Spanish-sounding name of her company.

We recently had a very successful event at Lola Ramona's store in Copenhagen. This shoe entrepreneur knows how to throw a party!

We recently had a very successful event at Lola Ramona’s store in Copenhagen. This shoe entrepreneur knows how to throw a party!

First steps for shoe entrepreneurs: Naming the business

Red Shoe Movement — Your company is Danish, and your business has a Spanish sounding name. Where does the name Lola Ramona come from?

Gitte Sandquist— Well …I did not really think about the name as being Spanish when I invented it. I wanted a first & last name for the brand, so that people would see Lola Ramona as a person and identify themselves with that girl. I chose Lola, because not matter which language you speak, everybody knows that Lola is a female.  Ramona was the more Rock´n´roll part of me 🙂 I love The Ramones and at the same time I thought that Ramona sounded like a beautiful flower.

RSM—You yourself are a mix between a girly-girl and a rocker. Have you always defied stereotypes? What is it like to be a shoe entrepreneur as someone who defies stereotypes?

GS— I guess it’s just my nature. I have always had the urge to express myself on my own terms. Not dictated by fashion, music, culture or sub-culture, but by my own feelings and where I wanted to go. I like the fact that I can be the girly girl one day and the rocker the next.  I am attracted to all kinds of types/stereotypes. My only wish for everyone is that they feel comfortable being the type they are. I like the fact that people respect me for being “in-between.”  My friends often tell me that I collect souls not types. Being in fashion and having that attitude, I can sometimes put people off. Other times it attracts people. I do not see it as a big challenge. I am sure Vivienne Westwood or Betsy Johnson must feel the same way. Yes! It divides groups, but the ones who understand and respect that attitude, get you more than they get much of other fashion.

Learn about the meaning of red shoes for the Red Shoe Movement!
RSM team wearing Lola Ramona shoes

RSM team wearing Lola Ramona shoes

The life of shoe entrepreneurs

RSM— Give us a flavor of what a week in the life of a shoe entrepreneur is like

GS— I never get out of bed before 8.00 AM, and I always stay up until after 2 AM. There is always something going on inside my head. A song, something I am planning, a small discussion or a shopping list. My whole day is filled with shoes: Decisions about shoes, shoe designs, communication concerning shoes. Meetings about how to make and sell shoes and how to market them in the best way. 🙂 I work in a wonderful environment with my dedicated and skilled staff in Copenhagen. In the evening I hang out with my husband and very often I go out with him and friends. I have a lot of input to offer every single day and I like to stay open to as much as possible. I also travel a lot and I love it.

RSM— What’s the hardest thing to let go when you’re the CEO of a successful small business?

GS— Micro management… OMG! I keep disciplining myself. It’s annoying both for the staff and for me.  🙂 Sometimes I do miss specific tasks that I was normally in charge of doing in the past.

But all in all… I feel blessed that I am so incredible lucky to have a successful, small business, and a great staff. And I do not often think that I have to let things go. I try to focus more on how much I am winning and getting.

As a shoe entrepreneur, Gitte Sandquist finds supporting other women is critical. We created this charm to honor our partnership.

As a shoe entrepreneur, Gitte Sandquist finds supporting other women is critical. We created this charm to honor our partnership.

RSM—Humor plays an important part in your brand, something that distinguishes you from other shoe entrepreneurs. How do you imbue humor into your business while building a serious business?

GS—I love a good joke and my staff does too. We often try to do something silly/funny on one of the shoes. Like attaching a moustache or making the design so that it looks like the shoe is laughing at you. Of course we take the business seriously. This is our career and where we earn our money and this is what we are passionate about. But we are aware that these are shoes!  We are not doing life-saving medicine.  If you’re not able to do this work with a smile on your face, I do not think you should be a shoe entrepreneur. When you are able to make people laugh, both in the office and on the streets, I think you have given them space to breathe and in the end you make them stronger.

RSM—How do you stay inspired to come up with new, exciting designs?

GS—Really easy! We flirt with all past decades and add some new features or mix them all. For instance, the 2018 winter collection is both 60ies fashion and 80ies glam, with some sports features.

RSM—You recently launched the LolaRamona hack. How did this idea come about? What were some of the most fun ideas people shared?

GS—IKEA had a campaign which got really close to the Lola Ramona sign off. So I decided to #IKEAhack them which is a really common thing, and again with a touch of humor. We had a lot of fun and success with it, and even IKEA thought it was fun. And since we were working with the #IKEAhack I launched our own #LOLAhack too. We had so many good hacks, but I think the best hack we got was a Christmas decoration with candles and all, made out of one of our stilettos.

#LOLAhack stilettos

#LOLAhack stilettos

RSM— You are half owner of your factory in China and your partner is a woman. We find this most interesting given that the industry continues to be male-dominated and there are few female shoe entrepreneurs who own their factories. Does it make a difference in your final product to have a woman designer and a woman as a head of manufacturing?

GS—There is ONLY differences! Communication is different, the way we see business and interaction is different. We speak so much more the same language when it comes to quality and finish of a product. How we choose to treat the staff, and the list goes on and on. We share the Red Shoe Movement principles that we should aid and help other women to achieve their goals, not just worry about “what’s in it for me.”

Shoe entrepreneurs Gitte Sandquist and her factory partner discuss new designs.

Shoe entrepreneurs Gitte Sandquist and her factory partner discuss new designs.

Don't miss the story of this Nigerian shoemaker!

Making mistakes, at the core of most successful shoe entrepreneurs

RSM—Can you share one of the worst mistakes you made and how you fixed it or got over it?

GS—Hmmm… I have made thousands of mistakes! Selling the company (I bought it back, though.) Letting friends down, not listening carefully enough, doubting myself, doubting others, and so on. I think the biggest mistake you can make is to not make mistakes. You learn more from making mistakes than from most other things in life. Afterwards you just have to be able to say I’m sorry. And off course not consciously hurt other people.

RSM—Which one of Lola Ramona shoes would you say best reflects your inner red shoe?

GS—Without a doubt: It has always been Angie Hero!

Angie Hero the choice of the shoe entrepreneur behind the Lola Ramona brand

Angie Hero the choice of the shoe entrepreneur behind the Lola Ramona brand

RSM—What do you value about the partnership with the Red Shoe Movement?

GS— The enthusiastic approach you are always met with. The network that stretches all over the world. The beautiful, strong women who aim to empower other women. It’s a beautiful concept and it sits very well with me.

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The Best Advice I’ve Had As a Female Business Owner

As a female business owner I can attest that as a group we have been an underrepresented for a long time. But gradually, and thankfully, this trend is starting to change — in fact, women are now opening businesses 2.5 times faster than the national average with 11.6 million women-owned businesses, generating more than $1.7 trillion in revenue.

As a female entrepreneur myself, I’m aware of some of the specific and arduous challenges that we often face when launching a business – especially in areas that are typically dominated by men. But lucky for me, I’ve been given some valuable and formative advice along the way – advice that I plan on sharing.

Join the sisterhood of female business owners

For female startup founders, there’s much to be said for making an effort to network with other women. Not just fellow female business owners, but suppliers and vendors as well. Any seasoned business owner will tell you that success is just as much about who you know, as what you do. Together, you can share and solve mutual challenges – and most importantly, you’ll realize you’re not alone.

Start by searching for a women’s business network in your local area. Dedicated groups such as Everywoman are also worth looking into, as they’re aimed at advancing women in business. You may want to try a website like Meetup to discover female business owner groups near you.

Both joining a group and networking one-on-one can really boost your confidence and help you get into your stride as an entrepreneur. If there’s a specific business woman you particularly admire, don’t be afraid to connect via email or LinkedIn to suggest meeting for a coffee. Best case scenario, you end up with a new mentor!

As a female business owner, you have a world at your fingertips. Don't forget to network with others in and out of your field.

As a female business owner, you have a world at your fingertips. Don’t forget to network with others in and out of your field.

Successful Female Business Owners Seek feedback

If you want to be sure your business is heading in the right direction, gathering objective feedback is essential. You need to test your business idea and concepts with the market — it’s the best way to ensure that you have a good enough idea that’s going to galvanize a customer community around it.

Not sure whether your idea has merit? Nowadays, it’s easy to test-run an idea without spending a lot of money. If you’re getting into ecommerce, a subscription CMS like Shopify will only set you back $29 per month – and the first 14 days are free. Crowdfunding is another great way to assess demand for your idea, with websites like Kickstarter and iFundWomen aimed at providing a launchpad for new small businesses, along with coaching.

When you start out with your first business iteration or crowdfunding campaign, be honest with your audience about your journey. Seek feedback on products, branding, and service features in exchange for exclusive deals or ‘grandfather rights’. Make it clear to early adopters that part of your whole launch strategy is gathering their feedback in real-time.

Another form of feedback gathering comes from concurrent competitor analysis. By closely analyzing what your competitors are up to, you can start to form a clearer idea of what your customers look for. A strong analysis means more than simply browsing your competitors’ websites – you need to read their reviews (both positive and negative), scrutinize their web presence, and find out what their customers are saying about them online.

By doing this you can uncover their strengths and weaknesses, and in doing so, make strategic decisions about how you can fill in those gaps for your customers.

Once someone gives you some important feedback, re-invest in that relationship. Open a dialogue with them and make them feel valued as an advocate.

Be giving with your personal brand

It’s important to be strategic about how you come across — your personal brand will have a big impact on your success as female business owner.

Devote time and effort into crafting a mission statement and go all-in when it comes to creating an engaging personal brand. Not only does it paint you in a good light, it can also pave the way to new leads and opportunities.

Make an effort to actually get involved in communities – both on and offline. What subjects and causes are important to you? Join the conversation and speak up. Make the most of networking and speaking opportunities. Get involved in Q&As and expert advice sessions to help solidify your reputation. Volunteer with nonprofits and community groups to give back.

Focus on finding a specialty or a unique hook — this will help you stand out. From your website to your business cards and social media profiles, cultivate a coherent and compelling message.

Keep notes of great ideas you hear or you think about. Successful female entrepreneurs are always on the lookout!

Keep notes of great ideas you hear or you think about. Successful female entrepreneurs are always on the lookout!

Financial Matters Every Female Business Owner Should Know

One of the best pieces of advice I had starting out as a fresh-faced, idealistic female entrepreneur? Live below your means and save money. Frugality is one of the best skills you can master as the mistress of your own financial destiny. As your business expands, you will need to keep investing as new opportunities and ideas arise. Make sure you have the ability to do that – aim to save and/or re-invest around 50% of your earnings within the first few years.

What about when you need a financial injection that you’re unable to provide yourself? Raising capital is, unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers that female entrepreneurs can come up against. So another word of advice: if this is the case for you, seek the help of a professional investor. A pro investor not only validates your business venture, they may also offer useful feedback along the way that will make your business stronger. At the same time, they will also want to see evidence of your profitability and current financial standing — don’t seek investment without doing some number-crunching yourself first.

Find a mentor

I cannot overstate the value of having a trusted advisor in the early days of running your business – right when there’s a million and one things to do, and only you making the big decisions. Not only will they train and support you, they will also be there for you to call on in a tricky situation. After all, they’ve seen it all before.

Naturally, as a female business owner, I would recommend finding a female mentor who has herself experienced similar challenges associated with starting a business, such as gender discrimination. Without my own mentor, Jennifer, I highly doubt my own business ventures would be where they are today. Having also a male mentor, however, can help you with any gender-related blind spots you may have.

So how do you find a mentor? If you don’t already have someone in mind, try reaching out to your existing contacts for referrals. LinkedIn is an excellent place to start – this is how I found Jennifer, who was a 2nd degree connection I was able to forge an introduction with. Alternatively, you may want to look into services aimed at matching mentors with entrepreneurs, such as MicroMentor.

Being a sponge is critical to your success as a female business owner. From podcasts to books, find your poison and stick to it!

Being a sponge is critical to your success as a female business owner. From podcasts to books, find your poison and stick to it!

Be a sponge

As a female entrepreneur, you need to learn to soak up knowledge. Not just at the start, but consistently throughout your business journey. We must never stop learning and growing.

We all learn differently: you may prefer books, audiobooks, videos, or interactive learning. Personally, I favor podcasts and extensive reading. I had no idea how enlightening podcasts can be – or how many of them are out there – until relatively recently. It changed my world.

Below I’ve listed five of my favorite podcasts for women in business, along with five of the best books I’ve read on the subject of being a self-taught entrepreneur.

Podcasts

  • Being Boss – a podcast for creative entrepreneurs
  • The Great Girlfriends Show – personal and professional development
  • Raise Your Hand Say Yes – behind the scenes of creative businesses
  • She Means Business – incredible stories of female entrepreneurs
  • Women of the Hour – a podcast about friendship, love and work

Books

  • The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay
  • Female Innovators at Work: Women on Top of Tech by Danielle Newnham
  • If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You by Kelly Cutrone and Meredith Bryan
  • In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney
  • Worry-Free Money: The Guilt-Free Approach to Managing Your Money and Your Life by Shannon Lee Simmons

I believe that when we equip women with the necessary tools and knowledge, we will be closer to achieving an equal and innovative business landscape that will make the world a better, more vibrant, and more tolerant place. Why don’t you tell us about your journey? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

Female Entrepreneur Takes on Shoemaking in Nigeria

We live in a time when it seems to be getting a little easier to be a female entrepreneur in many areas of the world. Yet in Nigeria, for a courageous, passionate shoemaker, building a business in a male dominated field is still an uphill battle. Don’t miss this inspiring interview with Olamide Ogunsanya!

A creative and versatile footwear innovator and trainer with a fantastic eye for detail, product design and development, Olamide Orgunsanya is among the very few female entrepreneurs in Nigeria that is pursuing shoemaking while empowering young people and women to acquire the right skills to become financially stable.

Committed to education and knowledge transfer, Olamide is a seasoned trainer with The Lifematics Center. She uses an experiential and engaging approach in delivering content. She is a dynamic educator, lover of children and runs training and workshop for math educators across the country. She volunteers with One African Child Foundation where she helps in the development of training curricula and serves as the head trainer. She’s also a certified educator with The Teaching Network Foundation. Today we talk to her about her love for making shoes and helping others discover their own passions.

Olamide Orgunsanya shows her showmaking skills

Olamide Ogunsanya, a female entrepreneur, shows her showmaking skills

How did you start in your path as a female entrepreneur? Tell us about your business and why you chose shoemaking.

I started my path as female entrepreneur years back as an undergraduate. I loved making shoes, so I went ahead to meet a trainer who gave me an outrageous price, which I could not afford as a student. It was really a hard time for me because friends and family didn’t see what I was seeing. I saw myself in an unusual profession for ladies.

So I took up the challenge to start selling plantain chips and some other items just to raise funds for my training fee to realize my dream to be a graduate of shoemaking and acquire skills in footwear production from an institution. I couldn’t afford the training fee until I graduated from school. I kept my money to be able to attend the training after graduation at which time I enrolled and was trained by one of the leading shoe making institutions in my country. I will be forever grateful that I was able to achieve part of my big dream as a female entrepreneur.

Today, as female entrepreneur I own a training base and solution hub for a beauty brand that deals with shoemaking and makeovers. I focus on two key areas: production and training of women and unemployed youth. Our company helps bring out the essential beauty in every individual. The target audience for our products and services are children, youngsters and adults. We specialize in building different kinds of slip-ons and unisex shoes. We create a memorable look for our clients through our makeover.

Understanding the true essence of looking good in this 21st century our vision is to give essence to beauty. The company is called Beauty Matics and it’s registered under the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

I hope to acquire more skill in shoemaking and footwear production from a world- renowned shoemaking institution.

Here’s a great organization for Latina entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Shoemaking in Nigeria by a female entrepreneur

Shoemaking in Nigeria by a female entrepreneur

What’s unique about your designs?

When it comes to designing, I try to use color, a mix of materials and to modify existing designs. And most importantly, I take into consideration the style and expression of my target audience. They like elegance, simplicity and comfort.

We know you train people in your field. What does it take to become a really good shoemaker?

To become a good shoemaker, you have to really have a thorough knowledge of your materials because materials have a lot to do with the outcome. The second thing I will highlight is having an eye for detail. Making sure that your final product has the kind of aesthetic appeal that will get the attention of your client. For that, you need to be detailed oriented in your design and production. Lastly you need a lot of practice, particularly when you are a female entrepreneur. Practice is like polish; it will ultimately make your skill glitter. 

Olamide Orgunsanya of Nigeria teaches children

Olamide Ogunsanya of Nigeria teaches children

Do you know a lot of other women shoemakers? Who are they?

Yes quite a number of females are becoming shoemakers and for me as a female entrepreneur, that is inspiring. I have female shoemakers who I trained as well as others I met in various networking platforms. They include Bunmi Giwa, Otobe, Christy Ezemba, Adebukunola, and Choima Madueke of Madulabels.

How common is to be a female entrepreneur in Nigeria?

There are quite a number of female entrepreneurs in Nigeria and I believe the level of interest is very high. You can find them in occupations that are natural to women such as fashion designing, makeover, hairdressing, and male dominated occupations such as shoemaker, mechanic, etc. What has been a challenge is having an environment and the funding that enable these female entrepreneurs to thrive. I use myself as a case study of female entrepreneur in my country Nigeria.

Olamide Orgunsanya a Nigerian shoemaker offers inspiration to female entrepreneurs

Olamide Orgunsanya a Nigerian shoemaker offers inspiration to female entrepreneurs

Female entrepreneurs helping each other

Where do female entrepreneurs get support to carry out their business in your country?

We rarely get financial support because nobody is ready to invest in startup businesses. So most female entrepreneurs end up giving up their dreams due to lack of financial support. Emotionally it’s not always easy to combine the pressure from works, family and friends who don’t belief in our dreams. We end up being a mentor to each other or to ourselves.

Tell us about your network of female entrepreneurs. Do you attend conferences together, collaborate with one another?

I’ve being to several conferences. The most recent one that I attended was at Addis Ababa where I was able to connect with like-minded people. Now we are able to assist each other through mentorship and support strictly for women via our online platform. I can say it has been effective and tremendously helpful for empowering women ever since I returned to my country.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young female entrepreneur, what would it be?

Keep striving hard and don’t give up on your dream because people are watching you.

Connect with Olamide via Twitter  Facebook or via email at ogunsanyaolamide@ymail.com

And as always, if you’re ready to pursue your passion and need to build some skills, join our Step Up program. We have individual memberships. 🙂

 

Latina Entrepreneurs: This Organization Is Made For You! @LIBizus

For Latina entrepreneurs interested in growing their business, there are few people as focused on their challenges as Susana Baumann. Inspiring, generous and connected, her organization is making a difference for small women-owned businesses and the communities they serve. Get to know her!

A multicultural expert, award-winning business writer, public speaker and published author, Susana Baumann is the Founder and Director of LCSWorldwide, a Multicultural Marketing Communications consulting firm located in New Jersey. Susana is the Editor-in-Chief of her company’s new initiative, LatinasinBusiness.us, an online platform dedicated to the economic empowerment of the Latina working woman. The platform has received the attention and support of Latina leaders around the country including the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the New America Alliance (NAA), and the National Latina Business Women Association (NLBWA). She has received the Latina Excellence Award, the TECLA Award for Best Business Blog at Hispanicize 2015, and was invited to become a media member of the NAA American Latina Leadership Caucus. In 2017, Susana Baumann was named a 2017 Latina of Influence by Hispanic Lifestyle Magazine.

Most importantly, Susana Baumann is a constant presence in initiatives that matter to Latina entrepreneurs, always ready to provide insights, support and visibility to those who need it most.

Susana Baumann supporting Latina entrepreneurs

Susana Baumann supporting Latina entrepreneurs

RSM— How does someone with your background in architecture and marketing communications decide to focus on Latina entrepreneurs?

Susana G Bauman (SB) — The beauty of moving to another country is the opportunity to find who you really are and what your purpose is. I studied Architecture in Argentina because my father chose that career for me. I had some inclination for the arts but he considered Architecture a more profitable career. I only worked as an architect for a few years and then I became a college professor.

When I had the opportunity to move to the US, I decided a professional accreditation would allow me to work here in something that I always loved, writing and publishing. So I went back to the student’s seat and finished a second Masters degree. My knowledge of English was also an advantage to find work as a bridge between Americans and a burgeoning Latino market that was still growing. I immediately recognized the opportunity to become the voice of many Latinos who didn’t or couldn’t speak for themselves.

After several jobs in corporate and public service, in 1996 I started a home-based, side business. I started as a small translation company but many of my clients had little understanding of the Latino market cultural nuances. A simple translation would not deliver their message. The business took a life of its own and we became a Multicultural Marketing Communications agency.

The focus on Latina entrepreneurs came later, only three years ago, as a result of my experience as a Latina small business owner, and the need to “pay it forward.” I launched LatinasinBusiness.us as my legacy to those young Latinas starting their own struggle as entrepreneurs, to help them overcome the obstacles I had to conquer on my own. Nobody needs to do this alone; there are many resources out there to help Latina entrepreneurs and small businesses if they reach out and show up.

Latina entrepreneurs are impacted by LIBizus

Latina entrepreneurs are impacted by LIBizus

The Role of Latina Entrepreneurs in the U.S. Economy

RSM— Why are Latina entrepreneurs a key segment of the U.S. economy?

SB— Latinas are, as everybody knows by now, the fastest growing demographic opening businesses in the U.S. Not everybody knows, however, that they have a high rate of failure as well. And their revenue growth is not as relevant as their white female counterparts –that extends to Latino male-owned businesses as well.

By helping them grow and sustain their businesses, not only we help them. We also help close a gap in the US economy (a gap that runs in the billions of collars,) of missed revenue and job creation opportunities. This could help the communities that Latina entrepreneurs serve, grow. Latina small businesses are American businesses. They represent almost 20% of 4.3M Latino-owned business across the country and these are big numbers!

Another successful Latina entrepreneur: Mariebelle!

RSM— What do you think are some advantages that Latina entrepreneurs have in this VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) business environment?

SB— The same advantages small business owners always have to hone! I will bring you another acronym, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). As a small business owner, you have to be constantly vigilant about everything that is happening around you, locally, nationally and internationally, so you can make the best decisions for your business. This principle allowed me to survive for over 20 years and constantly reinvent myself according to the circumstances and opportunities that presented themselves. An entrepreneur is a person who is constantly looking for innovation, improvement and to size up new opportunities!

Susana G Baumann, Editor-in-Chief LIBizus

Susana G Baumann, Editor-in-Chief LIBizus

Learning From Failure and What Can Latina Entrepreneurs Do Better

RSM— Understanding we are generalizing here, are there any particular areas where Latina entrepreneurs could make some adjustments to better reach their business goals?

SB— I speak about this all the time: Break out of your isolation and support each other. We work hard but tend to stay isolated, make our own decisions without bouncing off ideas of other entrepreneurs or business people. And sometimes, being your own advisor might not be the best advice!

Another important issue is that women need to support each other, something men do very well. Women tend to be more judgmental with each other –again, generalizing- and decide in the first three minutes of meeting someone if they like them or not. This judgment is usually made as a response to the other person’s appearance. We need to stop those behaviors, become more socially adept and find good in every person we meet. They might have qualities we don’t have that can help us grow as a person and as a business!

RSM— What have you learned from your own failures as a Latina entrepreneur?

SB— Looking back, when I started my business I had the idea that I was invincible and I was never going to fail. HA! I was hit hard many times. Some situations were of my own making –such as when we had to fold our beautiful bilingual newspaper Periódico Latino, because we couldn’t sustain it. Others were circumstances out of my control –such as the Great Recession of 2008-2010. In both instances, I stayed in the pity-pot for a while, and then I picked up myself and reinvented my business. Once at the bottom, I didn’t feel I had a choice other than going up. I just had to work smarter and even harder, be very persistent. Having a business involves a lot of sacrifices, long hours, lost vacation opportunities, little social life, plus being constantly on the look out for opportunities and for those who can provide them.

Learning from a famous woman entrepreneur: Randi Zuckerberg
Latina entrepreneurs with Susana Baumann

Latina entrepreneurs with Susana Baumann

RSM— You offer a wonderful opportunity for Latina entrepreneurs to pitch their business and learn a ton of insights from leaders in the field. Tell us about the Latina Small Business Expo.

SB— After two successful years of conducting our “Pitch Your Business to the Media” competition, we have added the Latina SmallBiz Expo to this annual event. We want to celebrate and showcase the power of Latina entrepreneurs in the region, the driving force of many markets such as beauty, retail, clothing, telephone services, food and beverage, financial services and many more.

As I said before, Latina entrepreneurs and small businesses work in isolation. We need to get them out of that isolation and help them find the resources they need to succeed. This is another reason we have the Latina SmallBiz Expo: To bring resources such as IFundWomen, a national organization that runs crowfunding campaigns only for women’s businesses, and the Union County Economic Development Corporation (UCEDC), which is offering a discounted rate business loan through the Tory Burch Foundation. Both organizations will take applications at our event so I encourage those who are looking for funding not to miss this unique opportunity.

One last comment: We encourage the general public to attend this great event and choose LSBEPuertoRico General Admission ($10) at online registration ($15 at the door). Those tickets will be donated in full to Puerto Rico Disaster Relief. To register and for information: https://latinasbizexpo.eventbrite.com/

You can connect with Susana Baumann via social media

Twitter: @LIBizus

Facebook: LatinasinBusiness.us

FB Discussion group: We are LatinasinBusiness.us

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susanabaumann/

LinkedIn Page: LatinasinBusiness.us Discussion Group

 

5 Secrets to Negotiate Anything You Can’t Ignore

Do your knees shake, your pulse fastens, your hands sweat when you need to negotiate anything? Get over it. Discover 5 seldom-discussed secrets to negotiate your salary, a contract, a promotion or your new car. I’ll tell you how I did it!

To negotiate from strength you must first know what you’re negotiating

Negotiation quote by Sheryl Sandberg

Negotiation quote by Sheryl Sandberg

1Whatever you’re negotiating, that is not the only thing on the table

Say you sell web design and support services and you’re sitting with a prospective client. If you are only prepared to negotiate your fee you’re missing the point. Many people can design a website. And there will always be someone who can charge less than you. What do you offer that is worth hiring you to do it? What are your terms? What kind of service do you offer once you turn the site over to your client? Can you offer to design a second, personal website, for free? Could you offer an update after a year?

The same is true if you’re negotiating a promotion or a salary. To negotiate from strength, remember to be creative. Think beyond what’s in front of you. Even circumstances and rules you might think are fixed, are not. Everything is negotiable.

Learn to negotiate how to buy your car

Learn to negotiate how to buy your car

Here’s my own example. I recently ordered my new Acme car (obviously not the real brand!) It was my fourth Acme. My third with the same dealership. Second time leasing. I was scheduled to pick up my car on Friday. On Wednesday, I received a call. It was about a $1,000 cash back sale that was taking place at my dealership on Saturday. When Paul, the salesperson who sold me the last three cars, called me to confirm my pickup date, I asked for the $1,000 cash back. Here’s a synopsis of the dialog that followed:

“You don’t qualify because you ordered the car several weeks ago. You have to buy your car on Saturday to qualify. It’s the rule.”

“Paul, the rules are relative. Who do I have to talk to in order to get my discount?”

“It doesn’t work like that. The rules come from Acme Headquarters. There’s not much I can do.”

“Wait, are you punishing me for being a loyal customer? This is the third Acme I buy from you…”

So what do you think happened? Read on to find out!

Don't miss 3 key negotiation strategies for women!

2

You always negotiate with a person

Whether it’s a job offer or a car lease you always negotiate with a person. Regardless of the size of their organization. Obviously, it could turn out that a couple of people make the final decision. But you get what I’m saying. This means it’s important to connect with the person who’s there to negotiate with you. The more you know about them and what would make them look good, the better. So research the person you’re likely to negotiate with, ahead of your meeting. Think about what would benefit the other person. What they need to win and what they can afford to lose.

In my conversation with Paul, I knew he didn’t want to lose a loyal customer. I also knew there was a problem that he could pass on to his organization so that he could save face with me. So that he could look like he was on my side.

Here’s how the dialog continued:

“I don’t care what the small print says. Your dealer hired a company to conduct the flash sale and gave them the list of customers. You guys should’ve removed those customers who already bought cars. So we wouldn’t get a call like this.”

“Let me see what I can do.”

Can you guess how it turned out?

Women tend to think that circumstances are more fixed than they really are.

Women tend to think that circumstances are more fixed than they really are.

3

Decide ahead of time your bottom line

Yes. You have to have a number, below which you refuse to negotiate. Why? Because if you don’t, you run the risk to negotiate against your own interests. This goes for your salary, for any project and for anything you sell. And it’s the reason why cultivating ingenuity and creativity goes a long way. Think of a variety of items to negotiate above and beyond what’s on the table.

My call with Paul was an active negotiation. My goal was to get the $1,000 discount. But I had already given a down payment on the car and was bound by the contract I had signed when I ordered it. So, I decided that if I could get $500 I’d be happy.

When I walked into the dealership that Friday, the lease was already written out. With my $1,000 discount! Yes. It was that simple. I just had to ask and insist on it. But wait. Because the negotiation didn’t end there.

4

Build your confidence right before you have to negotiate

If negotiation doesn’t come naturally to you, here’s a trick. Create a ritual that you do before you have to negotiate. It could be that you strike a power pose for a couple of minutes. Hands on your waist, standing on open legs. (The Wonder Woman stance.) Or, with your arms up in a V shape as a champion. (Like the athletes do when they win.) It’s proven to elicit a chemical boost of confidence.

You can also create a mantra. “I’m a powerful negotiator.” “I love to negotiate. It’s fun and exciting.” Whatever suits you. It will help you feel stronger and focused right before you hit the ground running.

A couple of weeks after I drove my cool new car home, I received a letter from Acme Financial Services. It was a bill for around $1,000! What? They listed items that shown “excessive wear and tear” of my previous car. The one I had turned in. So guess who I called first? Yup. Paul.

He promised to look into it. And he did. He got his dealership to knock $300 off the bill. Now I had to call the financial company and get the rest taken care of. Ommmmmmm…

Build your confidence with a power pose

Build your confidence with a power pose

5

Beware of signs that “this” is not a negotiation

Let’s be honest. There are times when people offer you a job interview even though they already have the candidate for the position. It’s a legal thing. They have to interview certain number of potential candidates. Or they already have the vendor they want to use. Stay alert so you pick up those signs and avoid investing too much time and energy. But don’t waste the chance to make a great impression. You’re there already. You never know what might happen in the future. So take advantage of the opportunity and show your best self.

Okay. So I called Acme Financial Services and spoke very kindly to the customer service rep.

“I don’t understand… You guys inspected the car and everything was fine and suddenly, 200 miles later, when I turn it in, the car needs new tires? At 19,000 miles? Could you please look into it for me?”

He didn’t really know what to respond. He knew this wasn’t a negotiation. He knew he had to make this bill go away.

And so he did.

Career Quiz: Test Your Negotiation Skills!