How to Build & Grow a Business! Expert Advice from Women Leaders

It’s a visceral experience to see a room full of women at a professional conference. The BlogHer Creator’s Summit where about 1,000 female founders gather to soak up inspiration, sharpen their vision and learn how to grow, was no exception.

Many have lost patience with the limitations of traditional work. Women increasingly opt to leap over, or tunnel under, the stubborn leadership gap by starting businesses.

Creators of all stripes, from celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Guerrero, to Entrepreneurs like Hannah Bronfman, CeCe Olisa and Gail Becker, spoke openly about everything they’ve had to overcome and embrace on their career journeys.

Many of us want to reach the top of Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs more often! Learn from rockstar female creators about harnessing vulnerability, otherness and keeping a growth mindset, through the learning process and inevitable obstacles. Each speaker had her own definition of how self-care and work/life balance can exist with ambition.

Grow Your Empire!

Nurture the Bright Idea 

Gail Becker CEO of Caulipower said, “I’m the Mom of 2 boys with celiac disease. I noticed how much junk the industry was putting into gluten free food. I waited for the industry to do something, like for many of us, great ideas are born when you get tired of waiting.  I didn’t invent cauliflower pizza As a matter of fact, the day I tried it, there was something like 569,000 recipes on the internet…”

Grace Atwood, Entrepreneur & Co-Host Bad On Paper podcast, when asked about starting her blog said, “I was working in the beauty industry. You know what questions people already ask you, We all have a personal brand. I’ve started writing more about what I know.” 

Build Community

Emma Lovewell Fitness Guru & Peloton Instructor said, “Introduce yourself with your energy before you open your mouth. Your vibe attracts your tribe.”

Carly Zakin Co-CEO of TheSkimm said, “We sent the first newsletter to our address book then had 800 sign ups! An advisor suggested instead of saying thank you, ask them to share it with 5 friends. … People loved the products and were calling themselves Skimmbassadors!  We’ve been a community first company since we founded.”

Samantha Skey CEO She Media said, “We have empirical evidence women haven’t received when asking for financing or mentorship. Whenever possible be specific. Ask for what you want!”

Carly Zakin & Danielle Weisberg Co-CEO’s TheSkimm said, “We don’t believe networking is a choice. We all have to do it. We have to pay taxes and we have to network. You have to promote yourself. You have to figure out how to do that. The only people who would fight for us, was us. In our private lives, we’re introverts.”

Emma Lovewell Fitness Guru & Peloton Instructor said, “Have a goal in mind for today. One of mine is to make at least 10 meaningful connections.” 

Give Yourself Permission to Learn

Danielle Weisberg Co-CEO’s TheSkimm said, “We started the company with no formal business training, but as journalists we knew, that we knew how to ask questions.”

Connie Britton Actress & Activist, when asked about singing for a role said, “I don’t know how to do that but what a great opportunity to try.”

Gail Becker CEO of Caulipower said, “If I can do it anybody can do it. … To be perfectly honest with you, when I started I knew nothing about food.  Nothing, other than the fact that I bought it, cooked it and ate it.”

Sarah Jessica Parker Actress & Entrepreneur when asked by about her transition to business said, “… I asked a lot of questions and I try to be near people who are successful as people. They’re honorable and treat their people well. I was a somewhat public person which made it easier to call somebody without an introduction. People really do want to be helpful to young businesses. It’s somewhat embarrassing when people say no but I have to ask. I didn’t lose anything by asking”

Grace Atwood, Entrepreneur & Co-Host Bad On Paper podcast, when asked about starting a podcast said, “…I brought in a friend. … We had to teach ourselves everything! … It’s been so much fun!”

Leap Over Obstacles

 Use Your Otherness & Keep a Growth Mindset

Diane Guerrero Author, Actress & Activist said, “… I was able to have imagination and go after things that seemed impossible. … Especially when you’re coming from a place with no family, no money, no direction, no one to help you apply for schools and you’re juggling 2 jobs. I am the daughter of immigrants and I’ve been able to use that truth when the odds are against me.”

Samantha Skey CEO She Media said, “We serve women who are diverse, who are running small businesses or trying to, who want to turn their side hustle into a profitable enterprise. All who share the aspiration, to own their space on social media, to not be hurt by a lack of likes.”

Diane Guerrero Author, Actress & Activist said, “Love yourself! I know that sounds cheesy, but when you love yourself you take care of yourself and you can move past anything. … Don’t take yourself out of the race before you’ve even begun.”

Connie Britton Actress & Activist, said, “… As a woman it’s really hard to say things people don’t like. There’s a cultural expectation about how women are supposed to be. I have to know myself and be brave about being myself.”

Joanne Ramos, Author, The Farm said, “I’ve got this deep people pleasing need I’m still trying to figure out. … I’ve had to soften my rough edges to fit in. …If I’m not conscious about it, I revert back to saying to people what I say to make them feel okay with me.”

Recognize Your Worth & Crush It

Gail Becker CEO of Caulipower said,  “… 2% of Venture Capital dollars go to female founded businesses. There’s only one thing we can do to change it, support female founded businesses! Here are some ways to do that: 1. Buy their stuff, 2. Tell other people to buy their stuff 3. Follow them on social, tell people you know, share all of their posts and follow their newsletters 4. Make connections for them to people you know. 5. When you’re done with all of that, buy more of their stuff!”

Grace Atwood, Entrepreneur & Co-Host Bad On Paper podcast,  said, “Always ask for more money. People are always saying yes and not negotiating, bring those rates up!”

CeCe Olisa Founder of Curvy Con said, “Your rate should be your rent. It’s something to work towards. … I started my blog anonymously. I never knew I’d quit my corporate job.”

Hannah Bronfman, DJ & Founder HBFit said, “I was DJ-ing at nightclubs and corporate events. I realized corporate paid so much more! After I did an event for Dolce & Gabanna, I realized my worth and the need to negotiate for myself.”

Grace Atwood, Entrepreneur & Co-Host Bad On Paper podcast, said, “…I always want to deliver more than I’m being paid for.”

Self-Care. Manage Mindset & Find Your Own Balance

Hannah Bronfman, DJ & Founder HBFit said, “I recommitted to a healthy happy lifestyle. … In college, I lost track of the things that used to make me happy, eating healthy, dancing and being active.”

CeCe Olisa Founder of Curvy Con said, about business success, “if I we’re not a vessel that is healthy and well it doesn’t matter.”

Emma Lovewell Fitness Guru & Peloton Instructor said, “… I practice gratitude and think of 3 things I’m grateful for. Think abundance, not scarcity, what you focus on is what you get.”

Julianna Margulies Actress & Activist asked, “I don’t think there’s a great answer for this and we all have our own answer, but I have to ask. You’re writing this book, you have 3 children and I know you’re a loving, caring, hands-on mother, Is there such a thing as a healthy work/life balance?”

Joanne Ramos, Author, The Farm said, “… Now that I’m on the book tour, I can’t keep the (work/life) balance. I think balance is a really stupid idea, it almost by definition doesn’t last, it’s fleeting!”

Julianna Margulies Actress & Activist  “…We’re held up to a different standard than men.” There was a great line that Michael J. Fox said to my character on The Good Wife, ‘why are women always apologizing? I bumped into you and you just said I’m sorry.’ There is this natural instinct.”

Resist Imposter Syndrome & Own Your Awesome

Joanne Ramos, Author, The Farm said, “… So much of my life I’ve been self-depreciating. …I was lecturing my daughter about how she never owns all of these really great things she does, I said (to her) ‘just say thank you.’ And she basically said to me, ‘but you don’t. … The beauty of being a parent is ‘monkey see, monkey do.’ It’s much more clear, to me now anyway, when I say something to my child that I have to live by that too.”

Julianna Margulies Actress & Activist said, “…My mother said ‘when someone gives you a complement, honey just say thank you. That’s the gracious response.’ The second you start being self-depreciating, it makes the person who gave you the complement feel bad, it’s as if you don’t believe them.”

Joanne Ramos, Author, The Farm said, “… It took me 5 years to write the book. … I was saying to people, ‘I’m at home right now with my kids’ then my husband would jump in and say, ‘she’s writing a book.’ I’d scream at him! I hid it from people for a long time. …Unless jobs are paid they’re not acknowledged in our society. Which is why I think the work women do is so underacknowledged.”

Diane Guerrero Author, Actress & Activist said, “…I experienced family separation from deportation. I came home from school, my parents were gone, and I had to fend for myself. I was able to use some tools, that my parents left for me, that I didn’t realize were valuable at the time. They actually work in the grand scheme of things for more than just survival. I’m in the stage where I’m moving past survival to living and owning. Own yourself, the truth and everything that makes you who you are.

Thank you to the talented speakers at BlogHer for thoughtful advice and inspiration!

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