Women Entrepreneurs Share How They Increased Revenue During Covid. And How You Can, Too.
Discover how these women's businesses have flourished under the most challenging circumstances.
A recent report by Morning Consult highlights an unfair division of labor between couples when it comes to household work and homeschooling, even when both parents are working remotely.
While nearly 50 percent of men say they do most of the homeschooling, a whopping three percent of women agree with them. When asked "Who is currently most responsible for housework, such as cooking and cleaning?" sixty-seven percent of women say they are, but only sixteen percent of men agree with them. This study not only points to an imbalance of responsibilities, it shows that most men — myself included — are completely unaware of it.
Parenting during Covid-19 is challenging enough as it is, but it presents unique challenges for women who are parents and entrepreneurs. I interviewed several of these women (while my wife, Domenique, so graciously watched our kids) to learn more about how they've been able to deal with the uncertainties that already accompany entrepreneurship while also making sure their children are cared for at home.
Our discussions went beyond talking about those color-coded schedules that everyone abandoned by the end of day two. I was able to uncover a common theme that allowed their business to not only survive but drastically improve during Covid-19:
The constraints of COVID removed so many options they were forced to focus solely on what they could do, which has not only led to meaningful business outcomes, it's improved their personal life going forward.
Through their stories, you'll find inspiration and tactic level advice on how you can do the same for yourself and your business.
If you can't do (right now), teach
Patrice Poltzer is the founder of a video boutique agency, Poltzer Creative. Her work typically involves helping brands, businesses and entrepreneurs tell stories through engaging video content, which she and her team record onsite. As the pandemic worsened these opportunities quickly disappeared, at the same time she also found herself caring for her two sons who were suddenly home all day. Oh, and she's pregnant with a third child.
Poltzer recalls what went through her mind as she took full stock of what was going on, and how she could adjust.
"At the end of the day, I looked around me and I realized so many people are starting businesses. . .and what is one thing that any new business needs right now in 2020? You need video, or you at least need to have some understanding of how to use video to grow your business."
This realization led Patrice to go all-in on a concept she had somewhat considered in the past: starting an online boot camp where she teaches entrepreneurs and small business owners how to create engaging content themselves. She initially tested the concept by offering tips through Instagram stories and live videos. Fortunately, she discovered there was a market for what she had to offer and has since led several cohorts of her boot camp.
Of course, it wasn't all smooth sailing. Patrice speaks to some of her concerns: "It was weird because it was high pressure in a way where I felt like there was an opportunity that I had discovered that I just hadn't even realized. I was forced to figure something else out, but because of that, I felt like I stumbled into this secret world that I really wanted to be a part of."
Yes, people will still pay for another Zoom call
Megan Riley is the co-owner and COO of Tippi Toes Dance, a franchise organization that teaches dance classes at schools and studios. So, what do you do when schools are closed, and social distancing is keeping people out of studios? Meagan and her team quickly came to the conclusion that offering virtual classes was the way to go. Although they had toyed around with this idea in the past, they were concerned about encroaching on their franchisees' independent businesses. However, as has been the case for many entrepreneurs, Covid-19 stripped away many options and concerns, giving them clarity on the path forward: "We were in this position of, well, our franchise owners' businesses would basically have to be closed. So what are they going to do? And then all of a sudden virtual is like the saving grace for them."
They leveraged their pre-recorded franchise training videos and released them on a virtual platform for students within days. However, as you may have noticed, several businesses have started offering classes online. Megan speaks to her initial concerns and questions about this: "There was a concern of how are we going to connect, how are we going to make this different? But asking questions is important, as long as you're asking questions, you're going to keep finding answers." Their solution was for teachers to send personalized videos, text messages and cards to students. "We knew that virtual is not the same as an in-person dance class, and because we were aware of that, we found other ways to try to bridge that gap."
Although it's clearly been challenging, this pandemic has created an entirely new revenue stream for Tippi Toes and allowed them to expand their mission by reaching students who don't have easy access to a local franchise.
Related: 6 Tricks You Need to Know About Zoom
Increase efficiency and productivity by focusing on impact
As the founder of a Management Consultant company Khazana Inc., Suraya Yahaya relied on in-person events to build the level of trust needed for securing partnerships with clients. As COVID hit and in-person prospecting opportunities disappeared, Suraya deepened her existing relationships. Specifically, with other business leaders in her network who were also mothers. However, her intent was just to check in with them as she imagined they were both experiencing similar challenges.
She recalls one specific conversation "We connected on a personal level, not even talking about referrals, not even talking about how I can help some of her clients. She's a mom with three kids under seven. I'm a mom with three kids under 11, and we were just like, how are we just getting through this?"
Fortunately, the woman she was speaking to is the head of an asset management firm, and the referrals and clients did start rolling in. This same scenario continued to organically play out with other women in her network and her business has continued to thrive as a result. "The strongest clients and my biggest clients right now happen to be clients where there are women leaders in the business and we're all dealing with the same thing."
Expand beyond brick and mortar (and borders)
As you can imagine, the need for more restful sleep has increased during COVID, especially for first responders, shift workers and others who have challenges establishing a regular sleep routine. Soda Kuczkowski provides relief as a Sleep Health Educator and founder of Start with Sleep.
Although she has a brick and mortar location, like many knowledge-based entrepreneurs, Soda shifted her business online as Covid hit. However, she came to realize that this pandemic provided her with a unique opportunity to serve an even broader, more international, audience. She explains "In places like Ireland you have to wait a year and a half to get a sleep consultation, and another two years to get a sleep study. So you have to wait four years to get medical testing in some other countries."
Four years sounds like an awfully long time to get sleep challenges addressed. As a result of the "New Normal" we're living in, that painfully long wait can now be avoided.
"Being able to provide those resources - which would be really delayed in other places - is great because you're basically opening up the world. We had this online offering available before but I think people are a lot more comfortable with the telehealth model now, and they're more willing to reach out and collaborate with people in other areas."
Although Soda still maintains a brick and mortar presence, she's continuing to explore additional opportunities to help people remotely.
Focus on your mission, not just the money
Shawn Zanotti is the CEO of Exact Publicity and, unfortunately, she's no stranger to adversity. Her husband passed away when her son was just 8 months old. Five years after that she lost her mother, and her father passed away in March of this year.
Like many PR professionals, her business has taken a hit due to COVID. As opportunities for her clients started to slow down, some of them had challenges meeting their monthly retainer. She speaks to how the adversity she's encountered helped increase her compassion for the clients she serves and reinforces her mission.
"I had to go within and say, what is my purpose? Why do I have this company? Am I running this company because I'm trying to make money off retainers, or am I running this company because I believe in what this person is doing?" She decided the later is more important and is finding creative ways to continue working with these clients.
Zanotti also discovered removing herself from the hustle and bustle involved with running from one client event to the other helped her appreciate her son even more.
"I had no choice, but to sit in the house with the computer and the phone and go back to the fundamentals of basic PR and strategizing. And when it came to my child, I had all of this time in the day. I didn't even realize what I was missing out on with him being at school and me doing all these other things. It's been beautiful being able to spend time with him being able to watch him grow and mature."
Prepare now, thrive later
Being a working parent during this pandemic is tough enough as it is. Now, imagine having challenges finding childcare because caregivers didn't want your children interacting with other children.
Oriana Turley is the founder of Medicine Mountain Scrub company, a brand that offers sustainably sourced, ethically manufactured scrubs for women in the medical workforce space. As a Registered Nurse, she's very clear on the problem her products solve. Her occupation also puts her on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic, which is why finding childcare is more challenging since her two-year-old daughter is considered high risk. As you can imagine, this compounded stress clearly has an impact.
Focusing on the controllables, she and her husband opted to keep their daughter at home, but she still needed to address critical issues with her business. After preparing for a year and half to launch, supply chains for her company completely shut down in May due to the pandemic. Oriana again identified what she could, and not control. She decided this was the perfect opportunity to gain an even deeper understanding of her audience by spending more time interacting with other healthcare practitioners on social media. She discovered - like herself - there was an increased need for self-care. Ironically, these professionals who compassionately cared for others often neglected their own well-being. This resulted in her creating a free Ebook which she offered in exchange for her audience's email address. She explains
"I created the Self Compassion Workbook for Women in Medicine based on a need I was experiencing and witnessing around me, especially during COVID. There can be a culture of expected sacrifice in healthcare and I wanted myself and others to practice self-compassion.
This research and repositioning has been incredibly beneficial as the workbook is responsible for 90% of her email list, which will certainly come in handy as she launches her Kickstarter campaign this fall.
Oriana speaks to an even larger takeaway from this experience. "The best part is the feedback I got from healthcare workers across the country, people were so thankful to have somewhere to start. It's an incredible experience connecting with other nurses and healthcare professionals that are struggling right now, and work with them to feel empowered in their choices and help them work through changing their harsh inner critic to a more compassionate, supportive voice."
If all else fails, put your kids to work
Many entrepreneurs start their first business while in grade school. Kasey Woods, President of Mecca Made Media and the mother of three children, isn't leaving that up to chance. For the past six years, her children have been required to start their own business, complete with a business plan and a Shark Tank like approach to finding sponsors and partners.
Her oldest son, Treylin, is now a Freshman at Howard University. Before heading off to school he started a company, as required, but this time he did it along with his mother. Like most entrepreneurs, Kasey and Treylin started a business by solving one of their own problems, which was finding ways to entertain their family during the pandemic. Their solution, watching movies in their backyard on a large projection screen. As their neighbors began to inquire about how they could do the same, they knew they were on to something. They decided to create Movie Mayhem, a company that rents all the equipment you need to enjoy movies outdoors. Her son did all the research around sourcing equipment while she guided him on the overall business process.
She recalls "I thought this would be a great opportunity for him to really get to learn the ins and outs of the entrepreneurial world, financial literacy and everything that I do that he's watched me do from a distance. I brought him in and let him learn directly from me and through experience."
Realizing the weather in New York will eventually make outdoor entertainment a challenge, they've already made plans to continue operations in warmer southern states and potentially franchise the idea as well.
"It's a really great opportunity for my son to learn more about entrepreneurship, but also has really brought us closer."
It's hard to imagine Kasey and Treylin being any closer. She had him when she was a Sophomore at Howard University and literally walked across stage with him on her hip at graduation. However, like many parents, she chose to use her children as a source of inspiration, allowing her to push beyond what could ever have been expected.