It’s safe to say, women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic across the world. According to Facebook’s US State of Small Business Report, female-led small businesses reported greater reductions in sales than their male counterparts. While both female and male-led businesses reported that their sales had fallen, a greater proportion of female-led businesses (47 percent) reported that sales fell by 50 percent or more compared to male-led SMBs (41 percent).
And while the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately impacted women business owners, this Women’s History Month, we’ve seen female entrepreneurs joining forces to support and uplift each other and their communities by sharing some of their insights. Recently I participated in Facebook’s #SheMeansBusiness event to round out our celebrations, and was blown away by the stories of resilience, strength and community among women business owners and female founders. For instance, I spoke with Nadia Boujarwah, CEO and Co-founder of Dia&Co, a size-inclusive fashion brand with 5 million customers.
“Endurance is the name of the game in entrepreneurship,” she shared, pointing out how powerful women supporting women, mentorship and community is, particularly during difficult times.
Truly, Nadia could not be more right. Here are three more pieces of advice from women I connected with about how to persevere, even in the face of hardships, and succeed.
Take for instance, Keita Williams, the founder of Success Bully in Seattle. Keita lost 40 percent of her business during the first month of the pandemic alone, but that didn’t stop her from pivoting her accountability coaching practice to being completely online. Since Keita’s main concern was helping her clients, she created an online 12-week coaching program with a sliding scale payment option.
“As an entrepreneur you wear all the hats, so it’s important to get clear about your money making activities. It’s easy to get distracted, but the bottom line doesn’t move. Focus on shortening the distance between you and the cash, and put most of your time and energy there,” Keita explains. She believes that when you’re consistent and focused, the money will follow. After moving Success Bully online, Keita began to manage her membership programs through Messenger from Facebook. In many ways, she uses Messenger as a free concierge service to help new participants sign up for classes, share lesson plans and chat with others during class.
Another great example of a female entrepreneur who’s staying positive, regardless of the enormous impact that Covid has had on her business, is Richandra Nickerson-Ukpong who owns Fervent Designs, a wedding and event planning business in Houston, Texas. Richandra went from planning anywhere from 20-30 events a year to only five in 2020. Unsurprisingly, cash flow has been a big issue for her business, so Richandra applied for and was awarded funds through the Facebook Small Business Grant program. With these funds Richandra has been able to pay her staff and pay it forward, even donating a portion of the grant to one of her favorite charities that was also impacted by COVID.
As an event planner living in such an uncertain time for in-person gatherings, Richandra focuses on serving as a positive but responsible guide for her clients.
“It’s all about remaining calm and truthful. I’m a sounding board for the venues and for the families. Not all couples get along all the time, so I act as a mediator and confidant,” she says.
By remaining cool, calm and collected, Richandra not only keeps her clients, but also her sanity. It’s her perspective that’s helped her get through the past year, despite its challenges.
The same holds true for Jolie Anne McNulty who owns The Makery, a sign-making and craft studio in Tacoma, Washington. Jolie launched her business in 2015 to meet the demand for craft workshops for both private and public parties. Because Jolie’s spouse is in the military, having a business that was flexible and portable was vital so that it could come with her should they need to relocate.
Photo courtesy: Jolie Anne McNulty, The Makery
When COVID-19 hit and in-person parties halted, Jolie again relied on her and her business’s ability to adapt to new circumstances. She pivoted quickly to selling online and now offers “take and make” craft projects available for curbside pick-up as well as shipping nationwide. When customers have difficulty with a project, she troubleshoots with them via Messenger from Facebook, ensuring their satisfaction and increasing the likelihood for repeat business.
Though she hopes to open her storefront again sometime this year, she says she will continue her popular e-commerce offerings as well for the foreseeable future.
“I tell myself a lot, success in small business is all about perseverance. It’s easy to stop when it gets difficult. I wanted to a few times last year, but I just kept going. You have to push through,” she shared.
If you follow the advice of these three female business owners by keeping your eye on the prize, remaining calm, focusing on what’s most important, and meeting challenges head on, you’ll be able to persevere through the obstacles that come your way–big or small.
Michelle Klein is the Vice President of Global Business & Customer Marketing at Facebook.
Photo courtesy: Keita Williams, the founder of Success Bully