When The Metropreneur interviewed Grace Bosworth about Global to Local Language Solutions, the translation and interpretation services company she founded in 2009, we were impressed with her thoughtful answers to our questions. However, we were forced to leave some of those questions and answers out of our story for the sake of brevity.
That pained us, so we decided to feature her insights in a separate piece− this one.
The following are Bosworth’s take on the obstacles woman-owned businesses often run into, and what new business owners can learn from her entrepreneurial experiences.
The Metropreneur: Do you think woman-owned businesses face specific challenges?
Grace Bosworth: I am part of a supplier diversity group in Cincinnati run by UC Health. Before I became a part of that group, I had never had the opportunity to really examine the number of women- and minority-owned businesses who are winning major contracts and building large companies. I had been under the impression, like most of us are, that the playing field is level. However, it is not. Far from it.
Women and minorities are underrepresented across every industry, and not just by a little. The supplier diversity group meets every Thursday at UC Health, and certain companies that are awarded millions of dollars of contracts for UC Health are required to come in once a month and report on their diversity spend. Out of millions of dollars in contracts, most of them can’t get even 15 percent inclusion, and that includes both minorities and women.
In addition, the group receives reports and we see presentations on industries, such as accounting and financial services. When you get down to the numbers, women and minorities are not even close. It’s a deeply-rooted problem and one I am very concerned with. My major platform is the lack of women-owned minority businesses.
Hispanic women don’t open businesses; they don’t even think they could do it. Those who do open businesses are generally not in the technology field. They start businesses that make jewelry or do hair. Nothing is wrong with those businesses ,of course, but it perpetuates the problem.
I don’t even see that anyone is closing doors on Hispanic women. It is the women themselves that don’t take advantage of the opportunities out there for them. There are some major hurdles that need to be overcome to get minority women where they need to be. I hope to have the opportunity to be a part of the solution at some point in my career.
The Metropreneur: Is there anything else you think we should know?
GB: There are a couple of points that budding entrepreneurs should take away from my story.
The first is that timing is everything− and I mean this on many different levels. One has to learn, and there are so many things about running a business that have absolutely nothing to do with your core business, like payroll and accounting. Schools can’t teach you those things. You have to learn somewhere.
Don’t get impatient. Start with a goal in mind, then find a place to work that will help you reach your goal. Note that this may not be the highest paying job available at the time!
I made someone else a lot of money for a lot of years, but I also learned some things I couldn’t have learned without that experience. If you knew you would have all kinds of money in 10 years, would you worry about money now? Just trust in yourself and make the best decisions for the future you envision, not the one others push you towards.
Finally, when your business does take off, you get all kinds of clues as to whether a decision is a good one or a bad one. Look for these cues, they are all around you.
For example, when G2Local started to look into a Columbus office, we were not sure it was the direction we wanted to go in. However, almost immediately, we found the Women’s Small Business Accelerator. The WSBA offered everything we wanted and more. It was an opportunity to enter a new market with some guidance, it gave us an advisor that knew small business and the Columbus market, the rent was affordable, the facility was beautiful. I love putting money into people and causes I believe in, and the WSBA was absolutely where we wanted to start our Columbus branch.
We were going to spend rent money anyway. Why not spend it in a way that gives back to us? The day after we signed the lease, the city of Columbus put out an RFP for interpreting services. The very next day! We couldn’t believe it!
These contracts only come up for bid every three to four years. The timing was too incredible to be coincidental. I am a firm believer that, if you are going in the right direction, everything in your life lines up in that direction. If your direction is wrong, everything goes wrong. If everything is going wrong, try to examine what life is trying to tell you or push you towards.
Start-up accelerator programs are popping up all over the country offering industry-focused programs and support for a variety of business owners. Although traditionally focused on high-tech businesses, accelerators now serve a variety of entrepreneurial needs, including those of women, through programs that facilitate mentoring and education, access to investors, and networking opportunities.
Take for example The Women's Small Business Accelerator of Central Ohio, a nonprofit organization launched last year, with a mission to support women as they launch and grow small and micro businesses. The accelerator, located at 403-409 W. Main Street in Westerville, is just over 6,000 square feet of co-working space divided into four suites, two conference rooms, two kitchens, a creative space, and a training space that accelerator participants can lease at a reduced rate. The accelerator offers approximately 35 office spaces, including private offices and cubicles, available to women-business owners at or below competitive market rates (as low as $225 per month).
To further assist women small business owners, the accelerator offers peer-to-peer support, mentoring, and education (on topics such as writing a business plan with the final goal to secure funding).
The Attraction of Business Accelerators to Start-Ups
A growing segment of the entrepreneurial community, business accelerators clearly offer start-ups many benefits. Yes, the potential access to investors and financing is a huge draw, but for many business owners the attraction comes in the access to mentoring and guidance from a group of experts that incubators or accelerators can provide.
Many of the programs offered are structured and offer a clear path in support of strategic business success. Programs such as The Women's Small Business Accelerator of Central Ohio typically include educational sessions and interactive monthly roundtables facilitated by small business experts where business owners get to brainstorm real-business challenges and scenarios.
Choosing the Right Accelerators for Your Business
It's important to screen any potential accelerator. Even though the application process can be quite rigorous, do your due diligence first. Who sponsors the group? Can they really bring experts and investors to the table? Research online and talk to previous participants. Have any of them received the funding they needed? Is the accelerator in the right vertical or industry that matters to your business?
Other Sources of Mentoring and Local Assistance for Women Business Owners
There are several alternatives to business incubator or accelerator programs that women business owners can tap. Women's Business Centers (WBCs) are one option. Located nationwide, WBCs provide women entrepreneurs with in-person assistance and business counseling programs that can help them start and grow successful businesses. WBCs offer guidance and training on a variety of topics, including business planning and management, marketing, and loan advice.
If you think you need the services of a hands-on expert, take a look at the mentoring and counseling services offered by SCORE. With a network of over 13,000 volunteers (all of whom have business management and ownership experience), SCORE provides free and confidential counseling, mentoring and advice to startups and small business owners nationwide. SCORE mentors can help with specific functional advice such as marketing, accounting, and business planning or overall business guidance.
For more resources, guides and tools to help women-owned small businesses to start up, operate and grow, check out SBA's Women-Owned Business Guide.
Two Westerville entrepreneurs are looking to give other female business owners a hand up.
Attorney Caroline Worley and Mary McCarthy, co-founders of business consulting firm Your Management Team, have opened the nonprofit Women's Small Business Accelerator of Central Ohio at 403 W. Main St.
Women who are starting or growing their own businesses can rent office space within the business accelerator. As part of the all-inclusive rent, the women will receive meeting, kitchen and reception space, along with coaching, mentoring and peer support.
The Women's Small Business Accelerator currently can hold up to seven business owners, but as the space is built out -- something that McCarthy and Worley hope to have finished by the end of the year -- it will be able to hold between 30 and 35 businesses.
McCarthy said the idea for a small business accelerator came to her while she toured vacant space in the West Main Street shopping center.
"I looked at it, and I went, 'Oh, my goodness, this is an incubator.' It's a phenomenal space for shared office," McCarthy said.
She worked with Worley on the idea and came up with a workable plan for the Women's Small Business Accelerator.
In their own consulting business, McCarthy and Worley have worked with female business owners, and McCarthy said she saw the need for a support system specifically for women-owned businesses.
"A lot of women start businesses in their homes, and they kind of work it around their families. It's a great start, but it's hard to work into a full-time business," McCarthy said. "They're a little nervous about going out on their own and giving up their steady paycheck."
McCarthy said statistics show that women-owned businesses, in particular, need added support as they launch and grow.
"All business owners are very important, but women right now are still trailing men in revenue," McCarthy said. "We're still opening more businesses than men, but we're generating less revenue than men, and we have a higher failure rate than men."
The hope for the accelerator is that it will give women the confidence, support and tools they need to grow their businesses into successes.
"It's nice to work together. Women like to collaborate. It takes pressure off, and it's nicer and more enjoyable to work with others," McCarthy said. "Sometimes (women) need that support to know it's OK that we want to grow a viable business and just have the mentoring and guidance to get there."
Business incubators have been growing in popularity across the country, McCarthy said, citing Tech Columbus as an example.
While many incubators focus on technology, McCarthy said the Women's Small Business Accelerator is different, and she and Worley are hoping it will help spawn a new trend.
"We're hoping to create the model that everyone wants to emulate," McCarthy said. "That's what's going to help our economy grow the most, is this type of support."
Within the last year, the city of Westerville has worked with Tech Columbus and explored the possibility of creating its own business incubator as a way to encourage job creation within city limits.
The Women's Small Business Accelerator provides an excellent opportunity for businesses to start and grow locally, Westerville Economic Development Administrator Jason Bechtold said.
"It's important from a business development standpoint that we need to nurture great ideas to get businesses started and ideas started," Bechtold said. "Having these avenues for entrepreneurs to go and get the right resources is an essential part of this entrepreneurial ecosystem that we're part of."
McCarthy's and Worley's experience working with female entrepreneurs makes them the perfect champions of a business incubator for women, he said
"They have a history of engaging startup companies throughout the region," he said.
QUESTION: What is the best way to furnish 6,000 square feet of office space when you are a newly formed non-profit with an opportunity to provide office space, mentoring and education to women business owners, but have not yet received any grants or donations?
ANSWER: One suite at a time through the generosity of a NAWBO member who owns a commercial business interiors company.
Just last month, Mary McCarthy and Caroline Worley, both members of the NAWBO® Columbus chapter in Ohio co-founded the Women's Small Business Accelerator, Inc. (WSBA), the first-of-its-kind incubator-type organization focused on female-based businesses. "I have had dream for many years to launch something like this to support women-owned small businesses," says Mary McCarthy, who also is co-owner of Your Management Team, Inc., a small-business consulting and mentoring company. "Luckily, Caroline shares that same vision." Caroline owns Worley Law, LLC, a law firm that helps small businesses navigate the legal and regulatory requirements of launching and operating.
It just so happened that another NAWBO Columbus member believed in the mission of the WSBA, too—Darla King, President and CEO of King Business Interiors, a commercial contract office furniture business. When Darla heard about the WSBA, she reached out to Mary and Caroline and told them about her company's "Connecting the Dots" program where non-profits can get free, reusable office furniture to use in fulfilling their missions. "Without Darla's generosity, we would not be able to have our first suite of offices stocked with quality desks, chairs and other furniture customarily found in corporate offices. The generosity of Darla, King Business Interiors, and the "Connecting the Dots" program has enabled us to present our first seven offices to prospective tenants and women business owners," notes Mary. As of today, three of the seven offices in the first section are now occupied. With the continued assistance of Darla and other generous supporters, the WSBA will be able to continue preparing the remaining 25-plus office spaces in the three remaining suites. "However, without the opportunity of NAWBO," notes Caroline, "the three of us would not have come together to build this opportunity that will end up supporting hundreds, if not thousands, of women business owners." Darla's generous donations are valued so far at more than $20,000.
On October 25th, the Women's Small Business Accelerator (WSBA) opened it's doors to the public. Founded by Mary McCarthy and Caroline Worley, the WSBA is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission to support women as they launch and grow small and micro businesses. WSBA will provide female entrepreneurs in Central Ohio with peer-to-peer support, mentoring, and education, as well as affordable offices and collaborative opportunities. Learn more at http://wsbaohio.org/