women in biz: not-so-small + oh-so-mighty

it's small business saturday. the one day of the year when holiday shoppers are encouraged to #shopsmall to show small-town businesses some big-time love! raised in middle-of-nowhere rural colorado, we caught up with our chief fitlosopher to pick her brain about what it's like to be a #girlboss who runs a small business that employs a team of (you guessed it) 5 fabulous females. let's hear it for the girrrrrls!!! an often underestimated, but highly successful sector of small business owners, female-owned businesses are proving to be a major force to be reckoned with. without further ado, our chief...  


[in a recent interview, you recently shared your thoughts with American Express OPEN on why it's so important to celebrate women entrepreneurs. do tell!]

i think it’s important to celebrate entrepreneurial achievements of women, not only to inspire other women, but to pave the way for the next generation. our daughters and granddaughters are observing the path that we set before them, and the hope is that with each generation, we make further strides. this isn’t about being better than men – or even being better than each other – it’s about being the best version of ourselves not because we’re women, but because we are capable.

[so what do you feel are some of the top challenges that women entrepreneurs currently face, and how can we overcome these challenges?]

to be honest, i never really consider myself a “woman entrepreneur” or a #girlboss  (even though i do love that hashtag!) – just an entrepreneur who perseveres, regardless of my gender. that said, studies show that businesses with strong female leadership perform better (3 times better to be exact), which would partly explain why fitlosophy's team of five women continues to exceed growth goals every single year. in fact this year we actually more than doubled sales year over year, which is phenomenal in our sector...and after almost nine years in! i'm proud of that.  

in my business particularly, being a woman has been a great strength. buyers tend to value my input on trends within the health and wellness industry, not only because i am intimately engaged with and creating products specifically for my core consumers, but because i am my core consumer.

i don’t really blame any challenges that may arise on the fact that i’m a woman, but there are a few instances where i see an opportunity for women in business to progress.  while woman-owned businesses make up 31% of small businesses in the u.s. (up 68% since 2007), only 4.2% of businesses that surpass the $1 million mark are run by women. i think that is partially due to women still running the family household – an admirable choice to put family first. but i would say the opportunity for change is the fact that only 3% of venture-backed firms are female-owned. it’s easy to look at that number and think investors aren’t as likely to put their dollars behind woman-run companies who are in growth mode. but what’s more important is to look at the segment of women who are actively seeking funding and analyze what percentage actually secure funding. take my business for example, we’ve been approached by investors in the past, but thus far I have chosen to grow organically, so it was a strategic decision. i don’t think the question is why aren’t women being backed for funding, but why aren’t women as likely to seek funding?

[what are some areas in which you think women entrepreneurs have made progress?]

i am a proud third-generation entrepreneur who grew up in multiple family businesses where i learned what it meant to work hard to support our family. my mother and grandmother were extremely involved in my father’s bakery and my grandfather’s automotive business, which he’s built over the past 60 years. i watched the women in my family branch out on their own to open a boutique in our small town, taking me to the fashion markets starting at the age of 5, where i was paid to work alongside them. perhaps i’m fortunate in that i never felt like i was at a deficit by being a woman because my family not only encouraged my entrepreneurial drive, but they modeled it for me as well.

one area of progress that impacted me immensely was watching my grandmother, born soon after women were given the right to vote, and my own mother evolve in their confidence. when most people were in high school, my “grams” was married with babies – but she went on to get her GED and take college courses well into her sixties. my mother married at 19 and was discouraged from going to college by her parents, more out of fear of her moving far away than wanting to hold her back. she went on to get her business degree at the age of 45, right after i graduated as the first person in our family to get a college degree. i watched her move away from our small town, hesitantly but confidently secure a job at a large financial services company, and eventually obtain a management position. i admire their paths even more than my generation’s because when you are raised in a culture where women are treated as less than, you start to believe it.

my mission in life was always to boost my mom's confidence so high that she would someday achieve her potential. and she did. our generation now has a responsibility to continue that progress.  it starts with education, encouraging risk, and expecting excellence from girls so they become women who achieve so that one day we’re just referred to as “entrepreneurs” or “executives.” for me, progress is celebrating the accomplishment without crediting or calling out the differences, be it gender, ethnicity, or otherwise.

[what do you think has been the key to your success?]

often times i’ll speak to aspiring entrepreneurs who have yet to take the leap, and the thing I observe most is a fear of failure that paralyzes them – analysis paralysis. any entrepreneur will tell you that rarely do things go as planned and you have to be willing to take that initial risk. from a very young age, i knew exactly what i was going to be: an entrepreneur.  after graduating college and working my way up the corporate ladder, i landed my first 6-figure job and quit (sorry, mom!) soon thereafter to venture out on my own. in 2008, i founded fitlosophy with just one product:  fitbook®, a fitness + nutrition journal. now, eight years later, i run a certified woman-owned business with an entire line of products available in retailers nationwide. i’m not better, smarter, luckier, or more brave –  i just choose to let the fear drive me, not hold me back.  the only difference between me and the next person is that i actually did it. i challenge other women to do the same because how will you know if you do not try?  passion and perseverance are an unbeatable combination for success.  

[okay, we know you're quite the bookworm so what business books would you recommend for an aspiring entrepreneur or small biz owner?]

right now i'm reading small giants: companies that choose to be great instead of big. it's about examining how you define success as a business owner, then subsequently aligning goals with your strategy. it challenges the notion that bigger is always better. recent reads include the power of habit: why we do what we do in life and business, grit to great: how perseverance, passion, and pluck take you from ordinary to extraordinary, and i'm a big fan of the ONE thing: the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. i also liked the 4-hour workweek so i'm looking forward to tim ferriss' new book tools of titans coming out next month. a classic that i recommend any entrepreneur to read is the e-myth: why most small businesses don't work and what to do about it (it's a must). and entreleadership by dave ramsey - because it's incredible. whew...is that enough? i could keep going but those are the first that come to mind!

NOW, it's your turn. have a question for our chief fitlosopher? have you ever wanted to start a biz? what's holding you back? share your questions + post in the comments below! 


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