Karen Croke, firstname.lastname@example.org 10:54 p.m. EDT April 23, 2014
Starting and running a business is always a challenge, but add to that the responsibility of being a mother, too, and some fledgling entrepreneurs are down for the count. Patty Lennon is out to change that. Lennon, a nationally recognized motivational speaker, life/business coach and mother of two, created “Mom Grows a Business Conference.”
The day-long conference, planned for April 25 in White Plains, caters to women who already own businesses, and all of its speakers are women who have grown companies with six-to-seven-figure revenue, while raising children.
A recent report from American Express Open found that female-owned businesses are growing at a rate of 29 percent — faster than any others — but they only represent 6 percent of revenue.
“We just don’t have systems that help us identify which women are succeeding at the equation of life+business,” says Lennon, who grew up in White Plains and spent 15 years at Citigroup before starting her own business. “This was my main motivation for creating the Mom Grows A Business conference — to create a stage where speaker after speaker showcases a business strategy that makes space for each entrepreneur’s personal life.”
“Right after I launched my second business, my husband was let go and was out of work for close to two years,” she says. “My mother was diagnosed with cancer at the same time. I was her primary caretaker through three years of treatment until she passed in 2012. And I had a 2- and a 4-year-old. Had I not had a business that was growing and thriving and afforded me the flexibility I needed, I’m not sure what my life would have been like at the time.”
Lennon answered some questions via email:
Q: What are the main stumbling blocks to women growing their own businesses in 2014?
A: Women face three key stumbling blocks: Lack of mentorship, women don’t invest in themselves and their businesses in a way that creates growth. And we don’t charge what we are worth. The reason? We don’t think we are worth it.
Q: Do you find that most women have an easy time conceptualizing a business enterprise and even easily begin one, but have the most difficulty growing it to the next level?
A: Yes. Women are far stronger at following inspiration, which is the fuel of new ventures, but when it comes to the skills that create growth — strategic investment and risk-taking — we fall short as a gender. That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions to the rule, but in general girls are raised to avoid risk. As we grow the images we see of women making “smart financial decisions” in popular media are women who are great bargain hunters or coupon cutters whereas men are often portrayed as financially savvy when they make good investments.
Q: Mentoring is a huge part of business success. Is it harder for women to find an appropriate mentor?
A: Absolutely. As girls grow into women we learn to look to other women for emotional connections. Men look to other men to exchange information and ideas. The latter lends itself to developing and seeking mentorship more naturally. Beyond that, many women grow businesses with the dual goal of wealth creation and life balance. The mentors that are often visible to us are heavily weighted in the wealth creation side of business development. Women need mentors that can foster success on both sides of the equation.
Q: What does the conference hope to accomplish?
A: We intend to provide our attendees with the tools and motivation to create wealth in business while balancing a personal life. Our attendees will walk away with the knowledge of how to grow their business and the motivation to do so. Our attendees will also understand that business growth and wealth creation is absolutely possible for every woman, despite the life circumstances she may be bringing to the table.
If You Go
Mom Grows a Business conference
The one-day event will help women create step-by-step business plans and build support networks. Featured speakers include Traci Bild, founder of Bild & Co. and the Get Your Girl Back Movement and Angela Jia Kim, founder of the Savor brand.
8 a.m.-5 p.m. April 25
Mentors are critical for success
“When I started out as an entrepreneur after a 15-year career in banking I quickly became overwhelmed by the message that I needed to be working round the clock on my business. I started to doubt my ability to be successful precisely because I fell into the trap most women entrepreneurs do — not getting the right kind of mentors,” says Patty Lennon, the creator of Mom Grows a Business conference. We asked Lennon what female business owners should look for in a potential mentor:
• The mentor should have already created success in the arena that the business owner is looking to grow. Does this mean the mentor needs to be in the same industry? No. But if learning to sell one-to-one is a key component of the business owner’s sales growth, hiring a mentor who has excelled primarily in internet marketing is not the right fit.
• The mentor should have the life AND business a business owner is seeking. Some people can work exclusively on their businesses but most women don’t have that luxury. Mentors should be able to guide you through the waters of that balancing act.
• And absolutely the most critical decision point for a women when hiring a mentor is a gut check. If you are thinking of hiring anyone (or spending time with someone) your gut should give you a resounding “yes.”
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