By Geri Stengel
Women who start and grow thriving businesses have an interesting characteristic in common.
No, it isn’t an MBA or having a business plan. And they are not all in women-centric industries.
The commonality is that they care about their communities. They do this in a number of ways, as I found out when researching the Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One report, commissioned by Dell.
Social responsibility is built into their DNA
For Erika Bliss of Qliance, Mandy Cabot of Dansko, Kara Goldin of Hint Inc. and Danae Ringelmann of Indiegogo, community is fundamental. Qliance provides high quality healthcare at an affordable price; Dansko is a B Corp (a certification that the company upholds certain social and environmental standards). Hint is helping people drink more water because it’s good for them, while Indiegogo is democratizing the way ideas get funded and become reality. All are part of a variety of social good organizations including Social Venture Network.
Giving and volunteering benefits both nonprofits and your business
Some, like Cabot, Lili Hall if KNOCK Inc. and Nina Vaca of Pinnacle , serve on nonprofit boards. It’s rewarding to contribute to their communities, but they also believe it makes them more effective professionally. Decision-making on nonprofit boards requires building consensus, a very different skill from influencing someone who reports to you. Building consensus is very useful when you form an alliance, joint venture or partnership with another company.
Service on a nonprofit board builds connections with peers, as a mentor or mentee, with role models and, yes, sometimes even leads to business relationships.
Women help other women achieve
Women may not have the power they deserve, but they have enough to help each other. Bliss, Luan Cox of Crowdnetic, Goldin, Hall, Ringelmann, and Vaca are involved in women’s organizations. The percentage of women-led companies that break through the glass ceiling to more than $1 million in revenue is less than a third the rate of companies led by men due, in part, to funding challenges and lack of self-confidence.
The greater challenges women face in the business world bond them to each other. “Only other women can understand the challenges I face,” said Cox. “It really helps to get their perspective.”
“One of the biggest hurdles, I think, is self-doubt, and I think women probably suffer from that a heck of a lot more than men,” said Bliss. “Just meeting and seeing other women in very powerful positions reminds you that it’s possible and you can become that, too.”
The women profiled in Forget the Glass Ceiling are part of organizations such as:
- At the Table, an online and in-person networking community of Latina entrepreneurs, led by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation
- Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN), a community of women entrepreneurs from more than 11 countries who collaborate to grow their businesses
- Ellevate (formerly 85 Broads), which connects women across industries and generations to help each other succeed.
- EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women, an executive leadership program that helps women scale their businesses
- Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator for women-led businesses seeking equity financing
- TheLi.st., a private membership community for women committed to helping each other advance
- Watermark, a community of high level executives who advocate for the advancement of women in the workplace
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and other organizations that certify women-owned businesses
- Women 2.0, a community of women starting or aspiring to start technology-based businesses
Business is more than just making profits to women
Successful women are more likely than successful men to own a business so they can pursue a personal passion and to make a positive impact on the world, according to the 2013 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth report. These women are also far less likely than than their male counterparts to take actions that undermine employees, such as moving the company to another state, eliminating staff or reducing employee benefits in response to an increased tax burden.
For women entrepreneurs, it’s not just about just about innovation and profit. It’s about making a difference.
Image credit: Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One report
Geri Stengel is the president of Ventureneer a content marketing and market research company that helps corporations reach small businesses through thought leadership. She is the author of Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One. Read the e-version of the book for free.