Hand Up – How a Series of Small Connections Helped Launch My Woman-Owned Business.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by big numbers or complex problems and forget the little things. In my experience – sometimes it’s the smallest action that has the biggest impact. Since we’re celebrating our 10-year anniversary, I’m sharing the story of KOSE and some of the big and small ways people have helped us arrive at this point. My hope is our story may spark ideas for small actions you can take to extend a hand up to a business or entrepreneur that you believe in.
Building confidence – Answering the question “Can I do this?”
Self-doubt was one of the biggest hurdles I needed to overcome in order to have the courage to start my own business. I started by talking to the people that I knew who had started their own businesses and asking them if they thought this was something I could do. I had two questions I needed them to answer:
- Would this path be a good match to my strengths?
- Did they think there was a market for the services I wanted to offer?
With every ‘yes, you can do this’ also came confidence and some advice on how to get started – which leads me to my next point.
Setting us up for success with referrals to competent service providers.
While my background in advertising would serve as the foundation for the services we were going to offer – I still needed people to help me with tax strategy, legal contracts, HR, banking programs, and accounting software. The referrals I received at this stage were invaluable and the conversations made these unfamiliar aspects of running a business seem less daunting. I was connected to people who specialized in these fields and took a personal interest in the success of my business. They coached me on what was needed in this current stage as well as what I would need in the next stage as revenue increased, employees were hired, and we began building a network of clients.
At this stage, what helped the most was being referred to people who worked in my industry in these roles or who had a familial tie to the industry. Their background and connections ensured they understood the unique business challenges I was likely to encounter in advertising.
Connecting with people who shared my career/lifestyle aspirations.
I made the decision to start a business when I was pregnant with my first child. So in addition to the valuable tips and service partner introductions, I also needed help figuring out how to transition from working adult to working parent. In my case, I was really interested in meeting other women who were successful executives and also engaged parents. But oddly enough, I found a lot of my network at that time was made up of men. So I asked the men if they knew any women who’d be willing to share their advice on how they balanced family and career. They connected me to some amazing women who gave me invaluable advice on what was needed to thrive in both environments. Some of the helpful advice I received included:
- “Get great childcare, you can’t be fully present at work if you don’t have confidence in your provider.”
- “You’re going to need help – it could be friends, family, or people you hire. But you can’t do it all, so figure out where you’re willing to make compromises.”
- “You’re going to be working for a while. So remember – you can have it all, but not all at the same time.”
Making referrals to potential customers/clients, complementary businesses, future employees, or other like-minded entrepreneurs.
KOSE wouldn’t be here today if people weren’t willing to give us projects or refer us to other businesses. The work that our clients and partners have done to spread the word is why we’re still in business 10 years later. If you know a founder and believe in them – spread the word. Even if their initial meetings don’t turn into an instant revenue stream – just increasing awareness via word-of-mouth can be a valuable source of future revenue. Over the years I’ve had several meetings which didn’t materialize into projects until several years down the road. If you believe someone is a good fit for a project or business, help them get their foot in the door. And finally, facilitate connections to people who have complimentary businesses and could be a source of revenue as well as a sounding board for their business development ideas.
An hour of time, a cup of coffee, an email introduction – these are the things that built our business. Those small actions taken by others have turned into a business that employs 20 people. We’re so thankful to the friends, colleagues, mentors, clients, and partners who have invested their time in getting to know our business and guiding us toward our next opportunity.