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Pretty Successful: Profiles of Amazing Women Entrepreneurs – Rashidah Ali

Posted in INSPIRATION, NEWS by msceonet on April 9, 2010

Celebrity shoe maven expands her New York-based brand to Atlanta

 

Women with department store budgets can now step out in ‘bourgeoisie’ style

 

By Felicia Joy
Ms. CEO Correspondent 

Rashidah Ali is like your typical successful entrepreneur. Except she’s really humble. Surprisingly so. Like the twist at the end of a movie that was building all the time, but you didn’t see it coming. 

Rashidah Ali is an entrepreneur based in New York. She is opening B Chic Shoetique in Buckhead, an upscale suburb of Atlanta, on April 14, 2010.

 

Daughter of a nurse and train engineer, the Bronx-born entrepreneur says she wasn’t groomed for business success and nothing in particular sparked her to start.  It was something that simply built over time. “I’ve been this way since I was a child. It was just in me. I wanted to make my own rules,” Rashidah says. 

She has.  

By typical “rules” and expectations, the average 23 year old is in college, has just graduated or is working a job. In 2007, at that age, Rashidah launched Bourgeoisie Shoes, a shoe boutique in Harlem that has since become the go-to spot for celebrity shoe styling.  Rashidah is regularly called upon to find the perfect pair for a long list of celebrity clients including A-listers like Alicia Keys and Kim Kardashian.  She travels to the biggest shoe show in the world every year in Milan, Italy to stay on top of trends, and make the connections that enable her to bring the latest styles back to her everyday and celebrity clients. 

With her New York location flourishing, Rashidah is now expanding her shoe empire to Atlanta with the opening of B Chic Shoetique in Buckhead on April 14. “Every market is different. When I opened Bourgeoisie, I felt the New York market needed that kind of store. In Atlanta, I want to cater to the woman who wants to wear glamorous looking, designer shoes but pay a little less for them,” she says.  “Prices at B Chic will range from $100-$300 and we will provide the same great service we provide in New York.” 

Rashidah, who is also part owner in an importing and exporting business, has apparently learned the successful entrepreneurial tactic of collaborating.  The savvy young woman is partnering with Dia Simms in the Atlanta-area to launch her second location. Though she has partners and business is doing well, Rashidah says she never stops to admire her accomplishments. “Everyday is hard work and a struggle. I never sit back and say I’ve arrived.  There are things I might like to do in the future but one of the ways I have been successful is to focus on the goal at hand,” she says. 

Having started her business when the economy was tanking Rashidah says she did lots of research and prepared for the worse possible circumstances. “I approached my business with ‘rainy days’ in mind. I knew that great merchandise and expert knowledge would be key but my research indicated that I should be ready to work five years before seeing anything.” 

Word-of-mouth, the most powerful kind of marketing, has carried Rashidah a little bit faster and farther than she imagined. If you’re intrigued by her success you’ll soon be able to see how she makes it all happen. She shared an exclusive tip with Ms. CEO: Her reality show, Deals in Heels, will soon be airing on national television. Stay tuned. 

Atlanta Store Information
B Chic Shoetique
2770 Lenox Road
Atlanta, GA 30324
www.bchicshoes.com 

New York Store Information
Bourgeoisie Shoes
2366 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10030
212-234-7899
www.bourgeoisieshoes.com

Ms. CEO Media Inc. presents ‘Women Entrepreneurs Day in Georgia’ at the State Capitol

Posted in EVENTS, NEWS by msceonet on February 12, 2010

Senator Nan Orrock sponsored the resolution to officially create "Women Entrepreneurs Day" in Georgia at the State Capitol.

Georgia Senate recognizes women business owners on historic day

Women entrepreneurs visit Capitol for special acknowledgment as leaders of economic recovery in America

By Kallarin Richards
For MSCEO.NET

State Senator Nan Orrock of Atlanta, Georgia on March 8 announced the first Women Entrepreneurs Day in Georgia, now an annual event at the State Capitol.  Recognizing Georgia’s nearly 200,000 women business owners, Women Entrepreneurs Day highlighted the impact women entrepreneurs make on the state and national economy. 

“Women-owned businesses are on the leading edge of today’s economy,” said Orrock.  “It’s anticipated that by 2018, women-owned small businesses will be responsible for creating a third of the 15.3 million new jobs that are expected to be generated.  Because these entrepreneurs will play such a significant role in leading our nation to economic recovery, it’s crucial that we create a dialogue between Georgia’s women entrepreneurs and their legislators.  Women Entrepreneurs Day will help create a stronger partnership between state lawmakers and women-owned businesses to position Georgia as a leader in the new economy.”

(Watch press conference remarks by Senator Nan Orrock and Felicia Joy.)

The creation of Women Entrepreneurs Day is an ideal example of that partnership.  Orrock joined Atlanta small business owner Felicia Joy, who created the special day, to make Women Entrepreneurs Day a recognized event at the State Capitol.  Joy is the founder of Ms. CEO Media Inc., a fast-growing multimedia company that provides insight and inspiration for women entrepreneurs through merchandise, media and special events. 

“While women have made tremendous strides at the helm of their own businesses, there is still a lot of work to be done,” said Joy.  “Now more than ever, as our nation strives to regain our economic strength, it is critical that we take an all-hands-on-deck approach to business leadership.  That includes making sure that everyone, particularly women who have the most room for growth and creating jobs, has access to capital, policy makers, contracting opportunities and the network of knowledge and influencers that can make a business boom.”

(See photos from the event and read the resolution.  Note: The resolution references February 22, 2010, the original date of the event, which was re-scheduled due to changes in the Senate calendar. )

Orrock and Joy were joined by several local women business owners to kick off the annual event, who were formally recognized in the Senate Chamber by Georgia’s Lietuenant Governor Casey Cagle and the entire Senate body.  The day was supported by Justin’s Restaurant located at 2200 Peachtree Road in Atlanta, which provided the luncheon, as well as the Georgia Department of Economic Development that made a special presentation to the group.

SBA begins new focus on mid-range women entrepreneurs

Posted in NEWS by msceonet on January 4, 2010

United States SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership begins new focus on overlooked mid-range entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs who reach more than a million in annual revenue find big success comes with equal challenges

By Felicia Joy
Senior Correspondent 

In the eight months that she has been President Obama’s czar on women’s business ownership, Ana Harvey has come to a few conclusions.  Chief among them is the fact that more women business owners need to hire.  Harvey, who leads the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership says, “There is a big gap between women entrepreneurs who are starting and growing their businesses and those whose companies have arrived at maturity.”  She says key to bridging the gap between starting and maturing is building a workforce.  “This is simply the impact of having more hands on deck,” Harvey said.  “More people can do more work, but owners are often hesitant about whether their revenues can support this.”  

Ana Harvey

 

Harvey defines woman business owners in the middle ground between starting and maturing as those with revenues in the $1-5 million range.  She says they must make changes in their businesses that move them from lone owner-operated entities or small informal organizations to scalable systematic corporate structures.  

“By virtue of [the Office of Women’s Business Ownership] mission, we have been forced to deal only with women in start-up or at the first levels of business,” Harvey said.  “But there is a great deal of potential in the middle-ground companies that have a proven business model but aren’t sure how to maneuver critical business aspects that change once you grow, like healthcare costs, taxes, financial management systems and technology,” Harvey said.  “Above all, it is important for these women to hire—and workforce development has proven to be the valley of death,” she said.  

(Hear how to hire smartly for your business.) 

While some women business owners are stuck in the middle because they don’t know how to grow and aren’t sure how to retain the best employees, Harvey admits that some of them just aren’t interested in growth at all.  “I was in New York for a conference recently and a woman there said to me, ‘I just don’t want to grow.  I don’t have the time.  I am more concerned about my family,’” the woman confided.  

Are big business success and a happy, healthy family life mutually exclusive?  Harvey says the answer is different for everyone but she believes you can have both, though she says it’s tough; and she speaks from experience.  

Answer our poll:

 

 “When I was growing my business I took my children to school and then I worked while they were there.  Then I picked them up from school and brought them home to feed them and help with homework.  After a little time together I would put them to bed and I would work some more—sometimes all night into the early hours of the morning,” Harvey said.  “I did that because that was what I needed to do.  Women handle what’s on our plate.  It’s there so we do it, and think about it later,” she said.  “I have a good husband and he helped when he could but he traveled a lot for work.”  

Despite the lack of sleep and other sacrifices, Harvey says it was worth it.  “The pride you feel when you build your own successful business and are able to hold your own financially and socially is amazing.  And all the knowledge you gain is amazing too,” Harvey said.  “It was tough sometimes but everyone in my family is happy.  I was able to build a business and my kids are now in college.” 

Chuckling while noting that women need two of themselves, Harvey says, “As more women decide to take the path of business ownership, attitudes about family, marriage, child-rearing and responsibility are going to have to change and that will happen over time.” 

 For now, Harvey says the Office of Women’s Business Ownership’s 112 development centers across the country will continue to work with start-up and growing entrepreneurs, while also strategically collaborating with key organizations—like Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence and Women Impacting Public Policy—to make sure business owners in the middle ground get access to capital, proper training, and advisors who can help them implement the systems and practices that will take their companies to the next level. 

Harvey points to higher loan guarantees and fee reductions offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and planning meetings with key partners, as signs that progress is already underway.

Woman-owned companies with employees out earn those with none

Posted in NEWS by msceonet on January 4, 2010

Woman-owned companies with employees earn six times more revenue than lone women entrepreneurs

Businesswomen free to follow their own path but hiring at the right time is key for growth experts say

By Felicia Joy
Senior Correspondent

Having employees to delegate to is apparently a boon to the bottom line in business. Some experts say it’s the reason many women-owned companies are still lagging in revenue compared to those owned by men. The majority of women entrepreneurs are going it alone according to findings by the Center for Women’s Business Research (CWBR), and this significantly impacts their ability to grow their brand’s notoriety, influence and profits.

(Read the full economic impact report by the Center for Women’s Business Research.)

CWBR’s data show that there are 1 million woman-owned companies with employees versus 7.1 million with none. Those with a workforce earn an average $802 billion per year collectively compared to $137 billion—or six times less—for the lone rangers. “That’s the multiplier effect,” said Gwen Martin, director of research and the interim director of the CWBR. “There’s only so much you can do by yourself. Through research, we’re able to prove to women and policymakers how important it is to move them from technical experts to business leaders of employer firms.”

“The biggest enemy to women in business is isolation.”

–Nell Merlino

Margaret Barton, executive director of the National Women’s Business Council, a bi-partisan non-profit organization created by Congress to advise the president on issues of importance to women entrepreneurs, says these figures are telling but that every woman in business defines her own success and significance, which may not include being an employer. “That’s one of the benefits of entrepreneurship. A woman can slow down or speed up her enterprise, say what goes and exert control over her destiny,” Barton said.

Martin, the research director at CWBR, agrees that some women may not want to become employers but she believes more of them would if they knew the difference it could make and if they were comfortable building their business to that point. “Some women will say they are not interested in growing to the point of hiring others but I think in many cases they say that because they’re not sure how to do it,” Martin said.

Nell Merlino, founder of the non-profit organization, Count Me In, and creator of the Make Mine a Million $ Business initiative for women, says there is still certain thinking, or lack of awareness—on the part of women—that is holding them back from building something bigger than themselves.

“The thing that challenges women the most in almost anything they do is the belief that they must do everything themselves, especially when it comes to their children,” Merlino said. “I may be going too far out on a limb here as someone who chose not to have children, but, women can get help with their families. Children need guided activities and the care of responsible people, it doesn’t always have to be their mother. I see women constantly struggling with guilt about their children, and that doesn’t have to be.” Merlino says women also limit their growth by trying too often to think through business problems on their own. “The biggest enemy to women in business is isolation,” she said.

The State of Women Entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Posted in NEWS by msceonet on January 4, 2010

Hard times bring out best in business women, provide opportunity to thrive

Still a long way to go but research findings substantiate the value of supporting woman-owned enterprises

By Felicia Joy
Senior Correspondent 

New research findings by the Center for Women’s Business Research (CWBR) and the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) show that women-owned businesses in the U.S. contribute $2.8 trillion in annual economic impact and provide for 23 million jobs.  That’s news.  But if women keep up the good work, some day it won’t be.  

Stephanie Weaver, an entrepreneur living in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, represents 11 million U.S. women business owners many of whom have become 21st century "Rosie the Riveters" as their households have been hit by hard economic times.

 

Nell Merlino, CEO and founder of the non-profit organization Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, and creator of the Make Mine a Million $ Business initiative for women, hopes she will see that day in her lifetime but she’s not so sure.  “I’m looking forward to women’s growth in business being a non-story but we’ve still got a long way to go,” Merlino said.  “There are a million men in business who’ve reached $1 million dollars in annual revenue but only 243-thousand women who have,” she said.  “Seventy percent of woman owned businesses are still at $50,000 a year or less in annual gross revenues.  To me, that’s unacceptable.”  

Though the CWBR reports that the number of woman owned businesses have been growing at twice the clip of men’s for nearly 30 years, it seems that women’s time in business has just now come.  Why?  Three words: The Great Recession.  While the downturn knocked the wind out of the economy and, earlier on, sent both government and corporate leaders scrambling for solutions, it galvanized small business owners to figure out creative ways to stay afloat. Not all of them have—but many have weathered the storm, including a lot of women. 

Navigating lack of resources is nothing new for women entrepreneurs according to Gwen Martin, interim executive director and director of research for the Center for Women’s Business Research, who says women often report being treated as though they are invisible and their companies insignificant by business organizations and financial institutions.  

So during the recession, women business owner’s familiarity with tough realities may have worked to their advantage as they continued to fight the odds and have been ever more motivated to succeed.  “On average, the women in the Make Mine a Million $ Business Initiative reported that they have increased their level of employees by 86 percent and their revenues by 30 percent,” Merlino said.  

“I think the people who still haven’t comprehended the economic changes that are occurring because of women don’t get it because this has never happened before.  Until the recession of the last couple years, women had never rescued the world from economic crisis.  We rescued the world from war, during World War II, with the Rosie the Riveter movement, but we had never rescued the world from financial turmoil until this economic downturn,” Merlino said. 

Research supports Martin and Merlino’s claims in a way that business and government leaders cannot deny.  Ernst and Young’s Groundbreakers report, released in early 2009 at the World Economic Forum, indicates that women as consumers, corporate and government leaders and entrepreneurs represent the world’s greatest untapped economic resource.   A benchmarking report by The White House Project corroborates this idea with data that show that despite equality perceptions by both genders, the fact is women are not leading—or equal—in any category of society compared to men; not even in those areas traditionally considered to be the domain of women, like non-profits and education.  

With the recession technically over according to some economists, but job losses, low lending and tough times continuing—and a mass of research in favor of creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs—women who own businesses with demonstrated demand are up for sweet opportunities aimed at growing their companies.  Proponents say focusing on the success of women entrepreneurs will create the most jobs in the long run and will boost the national economy in the process.