Female businesswomen gathered atop Cameron Hill at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee for the Women at the Top Symposium Tuesday morning, and a panel of speakers shared advice for excelling in leadership and entrepreneurism.
Leaders designed the event to encourage women to start businesses in Chattanooga. And five female leaders with an array of experience spoke to more than 100 other women who attended the event.
Sue Malone, founder of Strategies for Small Business, also spoke, encouraging women to consider exporting products and outlining what they need to have in order to get small business loans.
The keynote speaker was Corinne Henderson, partner with Henderson + Gouger PLLC.
Robin Derryberry, Derryberry Public Relations; Shelley Prevost, partner and director of happiness at Lamp Post Group; Sherry Hoppe, former president of Austin Peay State University; Ronna-Renee Jackson, executive director of the Chattanooga Technology Council; and Shannon Rinckey, founder of a mail subscription business; spoke at the panel.
Here are four pieces of advice from the women at the Tuesday event.
Malone said that women entrepreneurs need to think globally.
She told a story about a woman she worked with who was making placemats. They weren’t selling very well within the United States. But because there was a “made in the United States” tag on them, they sold well elsewhere.
“I want you to start thinking about exporting,” she said. “There’s a huge world out there. I work with women all over the country to export.”
Don’t let lack of money stop you.
Every business starts small, Malone also said. It’s up to each entrepreneur how far they want to take it, she said.
And she urged audience members not to let lack of funds to be a hindrance.
To get a loan, lenders want to know a person has cash flow to cover debt, and they often want collateral.
“No one will do 100 percent financing,” she said. “If you don’t believe in yourself, how can anyone else believe in your business?”
Entrepreneurs need …
… organization, Derryberry said.
“I think that’s something that we women do better than anybody around,” she said of being organized.
… crazy, Prevost said.
“I feel a bit crazy,” she said, telling the audience that soon after getting her doctorate, she left her psychology practice to join and help create Lamp Post Group. “Entrepreneurs are a bit crazy. I think you have to be.”
… to be committed, Hoppe said. Be committed to everything you do, she said.
… curiosity, Jackson said.
“Having an instinct of curiosity-being constantly curious about the world around us is a really important muscle to develop,” she said.
… to be creative, Rinckey said.
“I feel like having that outlet [of creativity] is something I didn’t have before [I started my business],” she said.
What would you tell your 25-year-old self that you know now?
Rinckey: “I would not listen to people who told me I couldn’t do things. Because now, eight years later, I’m doing it.”
Derryberry: “Besides ‘You look fabulous,’ [I would tell my 25-year-old self to] ‘Take care of your equipment,'” she said, referencing her body. She encouraged women to rest, take care of and feed their bodies well. She said she takes “me time” every morning at the beginning of the day and that it’s important to have private time for quiet reflection.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she said.
Hoppe: “I would recognize that my way is not the only way,” she said.
When she was younger, she thought she knew the best way to do everything, she said.
“Those of us who have a lot of self-confidence get so caught up in our ideas,” she said. “We don’t always believe that [someone else] knows as much as we do.”
Jackson: “Take time to know yourself.”
You’re a better business partner and better team member if you know yourself and your strengths, she said.
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