Last month, I spent my birthday in New York attending Create & Cultivate's first-ever Small Business Summit. As someone building two new small businesses simultaneously, I was excited to meet fellow motivated entrepreneurs.
Here are a few takeaways I brought home with me to the Windy City:
There are so many unique businesses being started by women right now. Just out of the handful of people I truly got to know throughout the day, I met a New Yorker starting one of the first skincare companies offering multiple types of moisturizers depending on skin type (surprisingly, most brands don't); a mom of three in Seattle with a sustainable, family-friendly travel business; a super-creative recent grad intersecting makeup with poetry; and a digital marketing consultant fresh from the financial services world.
Needless to say, as a new consultant, I left with a buzz of empowerment and inspiration from meeting so many women with unique business ideas.
On creating content that resonates and provides value: "Content is a way to establish trust and credibility with your audience," and on striking the right balance between planning evergreen content and responding to current events, "You have to be able to do the dance of planning ahead and being spontaneous."
Mastercard's N. America Small Business Lead Ginger Siegler agrees. "Agility. You have to be able to zig and zag. If there's a global event that happens, you have to be able to capitalize on it."
On leveraging the power and reach of influencers for your business: "If you see someone talking about your brand, talk back to them. [If on Instagram,] DM them," said Reesa Lake, vice president of brand partnerships at Digital Brand Architects. Another panelist, Small Girls PR cofounder Mallory Blair, had a similar suggestion to be digitally outgoing and targeted: "Make a list of brands who are similar to yours; reach out and ask to cross-promote. Do a "round robin" around a common narrative."
On being entrepreneurial in your company, no matter its size: Be flexible; you can't simply focus on either marketing or sales. "Understand your business model. No matter what business you're in, you must be a master of marketing and sales. They're the lifeblood of your business.
Ginger Siegler recognizes the challenge for large corporations to reach niche communities of consumers, such as women or entrepreneurs, or the nexus of these groups. "We don't believe that if 'if you build it, they will come.' We've [Mastercard] been working hard doing research on women entrepreneurs to reach you and build a community for you."
On the future of retail in an Amazon and online-focused marketplace: There's still a place for brick and mortar, but you need to do it well, and you must stand out. "Even though we like the convenience of shopping online, we still like to pick up, touch, and smell things," said Lisa Price, founder of Carol's Daughter, which was bought by L’Oreal in 2014.
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