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Women's Entrepreneurial Journeys

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During the last 50 years, the number and scope of women-owned businesses have risen at a virtually unprecedented rate. This historic expansion is due to the efforts of courageous women who have been willing to take the leap and become entrepreneurs, at times capitalizing on groundbreaking legislation specifically related to equality. Today, women are starting and growing their own businesses at record rates; they own an estimated 11.6 million businesses, employ nearly 9 million people and generate more than $1.7 trillion in annual revenues.1 Given what these numbers reveal about the economic growth and societal impact driven by women business owners, U.S. Trust is proud to present its newest white paper Women's Entrepreneurial Journeys: Profiles in leadership in an era of new opportunities, which examines whether there is something distinct about how women approach entrepreneurship, create and direct wealth, and define success.


Women’s Entrepreneurial Journeys

What Makes a Successful Business Owner?

Please see important information at the end of this program.  Recorded on April 18, 2018


Carol:                          I think that the most important thing, and you hear this said over and over again, but you need to be passionate about what you do ... You need to have a clear vision of what you want.

Lissa Wong:                As far as entrepreneurship, it is definitely a lifestyle. It is not a nine to five job, so if you are thinking about owning your own business, you have to dedicate yourself 110% in the beginning.



Carol:                          Treating your employees well is a big part of the success of your business. And having them be on your team… Because you can't do it alone. The employees are the ones who are there every day and as I grew to having so many centers, literally could not be everywhere at once, so you focus on the growth of the employees.



Suzanne W.:               I had an aunt that was very much a business woman, since the 40s, she was in an industry that was male-dominated, buying and selling truck terminals and stuff. And I just remember her saying to me that the proudest accomplishment that she had was being able to employ people for so many years, and I really feel like that's the thing that I'm proudest about, that I was able to employ people for so many years.

Lissa Wong:                Work-life balance is always a challenge for a small business owner. You have to find time for yourself. And you have to keep yourself and your brain intact.

Suzanne W.:               I think it's really important to have a good accountant and a good banker … I still bank at the same bank. And I've had the same accountant pretty much the whole time, and have a good lawyer, too. It always helps to have a good lawyer.

Megan:                        One of the things I've learned is really how important it is for female business owners, to really be your own advocate and to not give up and really continue to talk to different banks and financial institutions and lenders because your business, hopefully, will be very dynamic and will grow and you want to make sure that you're accessing new options for credit that keep track with how your business is growing as well.


Kelly Gasink:               I certainly have drawn inspiration from really strong women and that's what I've been able to avail myself of.  I think as I've gotten further along in my career, being good for women is something I care incredibly deeply about. So we take extra pains with our female colleagues to make sure that they feel supported, that they feel paid 100 cents on the dollar, we try to send our money to any service providers that we have to use that are female owned.

Megan:                        I always say that the first year is so exciting in so many ways, but it's also probably the hardest year because you're constantly looking failure in the face, basically every single day, so making sure you have people who are cheering you on and making sure that you don't give up is really important, too.

Kelly Gasink:               Inefficiencies and rejection are part of it, no matter your gender. And I think at this stage I can look at those critique and rejection as exactly the things I need to endure to be the leader that my company needs.



















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The paper is based on interviews with eight women at different stages of their personal and professional lives. Their companies cover a wide range of industries, are located across the U.S. and all, but one, have annual revenues exceeding $5 million. Six began their careers as legislative, educational and societal changes in the 1960s and 1970s were offering women new opportunities in the business world. Also profiled are two Millennial women who founded companies in a decade when far more women are economically empowered, though not without challenges.

Our goal in this paper is to uncover the journey to leadership of successful women business owners, their impact on society and the factors contributing to their success in creating wealth and growing their businesses. No journey is alike, however in the course of interviewing the business owners, five prevailing themes emerged:

  • People and culture
  • Education, experience and a little luck
  • Access to capital
  • Resiliency and optimism
  • The importance of women's leadership

All of these admirable women became successful business owners who have brought financial value, innovative skills, enduring cultures and job creation to the U.S. economy, society and their respective industries. Their stories reveal that expanding educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for young girls and women goes beyond simply supporting gender equality; it is also about creating brand new pathways for women to lead and, just as our eight entrepreneurs did, contribute to the economy and society.

Tips for Entrepreneurs
Maxine Clark, Founder and Former CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop, on building a serious business plan
Cindy Ayloush, CEO and Chief Financial Officer of Hydraflow Corp., on gaining workplace experience
Suzanne Weinstein, Founder and Former CEO of Coastal Seafoods, on finding good partners
Megan Driscoll, Founder and CEO of EvolveMKD, on creating an inclusive culture
Janice Bryant Howroyd, Founder and CEO of The ActOne Group, on the benefits of mentorship
Lissa Wong, CEO of Casters, Wheels and Industrial Handling, Inc., on making time for yourself
Kelly Gasink, Co-founder of Austin Cocktails, on taking the ups and downs in stride
Carol Levins, Founder of Creative Kids Learning Center, on knowing when you’re ready to exit
Download the Women’s Entrepreneurial Journeys whitepaper
Legal Disclosures

For more information about The Women's Entrepreneur's Journey please contact:

Portrait photo of Karen Sharkey

Karen Reynolds Sharkey 
National Business Owner Strategy Executive 

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