How Women Are Building and Growing Their Businesses: Lessons and Strategies From Along the Way
Three times a week, I have the luxury of talking to some of the most inspiring women in the female entrepreneurial space through the Female Startup Club podcast. All these conversations have led to a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the realities of starting a business in today’s climate.
When you zoom out to the big picture, there are clear patterns among the growth paths and tactics of these various women, despite coming from vastly different stories and businesses.
Here are my golden pointers that I’ve learned along the way if you’re interested in building and growing your business.
Build your community through social media
Ecommerce is a noisy space, which means brands are finding increasingly innovative ways to catch the attention of their future customers.
Something that continues to come up in conversations with my guests is how significant their online communities are to the strength and success of their business. But what does this mean exactly? And how can you get started?
Online communities have the benefit of creating a space for those with common interests to gather, ensuring high rates of engagement and interest in the content that’s posted and shared. But within this, the challenge for marketers is finding and maintaining a voice that’s both unique and authentic to your business.
Everyone always talks about authenticity—I’m sure this isn’t the first time you come across this concept and it definitely won’t be your last. In this context, authenticity means that the voice of your brand is the most honest version it can be. People will connect with this honesty, and it’s one of the best ways to truly differentiate your brand.
As Kailey Bradt, founder of Susteau, put it, “Digital is definitely our strongest platform. Building an organic community online is really about authenticity and creating those connections, and it’ll just continue to grow. Build the strong base, and from there, it organically grows. It needs a lot of feeding and watering and caring to get to a point where digital starts working for itself.”
I’ll give you a couple of concrete examples of how some of my guests coordinated their community formation through consistent alignment with their brand values.
Earlier this year, New York University students had to self-isolate in their dorms prior to returning to school. These students started trending on TikTok as quarantining disrupted their eating schedules, leaving many hungry and unable to leave.
Emily Elyse Miller, founder of creative cereal brand OffLimits, caught wind of the situation, and within 24 hours, organised the delivery of snack packs with cereal and toys to the students. The trending posts that resulted were a huge marketing moment for OffLimits, and they also fostered a community spirit between the brand and the students.
Another way to approach community building can be right from the brainstorming phases. When Cherie and her husband came with the idea of Saalt, they weren’t sure if it was viable.
To prove the concept, they set a target: A Facebook group based around their product. They aimed to get 1,000 members to test the general level of interest this way. This group evolved into a strongly engaged community that aided the founders every step of the way to business conception, and Cherie continues to use this group to test their new product lines.
Giveaways can be another great way to encourage community while incentivising engagement with your brand. I loved hearing about Collagerie’s competition to win a box filled with some of the brand’s best-selling products, which were designed by artists working closely with the brand.
A community platform can take many different shapes and sizes, and it can originate from grand gestures or consistent relationship building. But if you put yourself out there with your audience and create a space for people to come together, you can begin to build human connections between your brand and your customers.
Change is certain
Pandemic or no pandemic, the ability for a business to pivot in the way the market requires in that moment comes down to adaptability.
As Lucinda Chambers, founder of Collagerie, put it, the landscape is changing. “Be agile, nimble, think outside the box,” said Lucinda. For her and co-founder, Serena Hood, this translated into setting up their company as a fully ecommerce business, and not being tied to the rigidity and struggle that print has been facing in more recent years.
For TomboyX CEO Fran Dunaway, creating a versatile business meant operating with flexible team dynamics. “At every stage of the game, evaluate if the team is the right team for where you are,” said Fran.
TomboyX’s new head of marketing has redone the entire team, resulting in the company’s biggest breakthrough of the year. Additionally, Fran is convinced that a complete rebrand of TomBoyX is what has solidified their latest successes. Embrace change!
Fifty percent of Kween was ecommerce at the time the pandemic hit. While their food service took a hit during that time, ecommerce picked up the pace and they could start experimenting more online.
The same can be said for Goverre. Founders Regan Kelaher and Shannon Zappala are always managing the balance between wholesale and retail, something that’s constantly shifting in response to market demands.
Kailey Bradt’s Susteau, formerly known as OWA, fully embraces versatility as a core part of her business model, encouraging every entrepreneur to stay away from consistency. When the name OWA no longer served her vision, the founder took on the name Susteau, which aligned more closely to the brand’s values.
When it comes to marketing, she argued that there’s never just one component to a successful strategy, it takes many different efforts. It is best to ensure you’re on as many marketing channels that resonate with your brand’s target audience as possible.
When in doubt, always come back to the decision that resonates most with your business and your customers. What’s your intuition telling you?
Spread the word
When I ask our female founders about the number one marketing moment that propelled their business forward, answers continue to focus around positive press publications and public relations (PR) moments.
Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton, founder of Chillhouse, saw a huge spike in sales of the Chillhouse nail “Chill Tips” after the Today Show featured them. For Collagerie, being quoted in Forbes brought an influx of visitors to their website. For Rebecca Melsky from Princess Awesome, early press, such as a mention on CBS, laid the foundation for growth.
The Collagerie founders said that these opportunities can come from different sources, and you have to be open to them. “You have to be on ‘receive mode’ all the time. And [you have] to get [your product] out there,” said Lucinda Chambers.
We’re fortunate to live at a time when communication is at our fingertips. By using what’s at your disposal, you can work to get the name out in the spaces your audience is already tuning into in order to attract as many new opportunities as possible.
Further dialogue also provides an educational space for people to learn more about the business or product itself. Many of the female founders I interviewed found that instilling a genuine understanding of their products among the public was a struggle.
Having a unique product helps catch people’s attention, but educating them on it is also crucial. Those who decided to educate their audience head-on saw the positive effects materialise through the business, but the need to educate became a pitfall for others.
With Goverre, for example, Regan and Shannon regret not doing a better job of educating the audience they were advertising to.
On the other hand, when marketing Saalt’s reusable period cups, Cherie quickly saw the lack of education around the subject to be an opportunity for them to tell the brand’s story as “something clean and sustainable, not gross and unusual.”
In educating the public through consumable bite-size chunks, Cherie changed the dialogue around period care and created a better understanding of their product among consumers—a win-win!
Benefit from the best in business
Each and every business is unique, but that’s not to say that there aren’t certain strategies that every business could benefit from. If you find your growth is taking a back seat, implementing some of the suggestions featured in this post may just give your business the boost it needs. Remember:
- Digital communities are powerful
- The only certainty in life is uncertainty; embrace it
- Get the word out there! Get creative and move beyond boundaries
- Educating your customers is always a good idea
But above all, I truly believe the opportunities arisen from knowledge sharing in the female entrepreneurial community to be limitless. Hold each other up, share ideas with your community, and expand your businesses and minds.
Interested in learning more stories of incredible women in ecommerce? Discover nine eye-opening insights from female marketers and founders.
Want to grow your business with Klaviyo?
Episodes mentioned (in order):
- How this Founder invented a world-first powder shampoo, with Susteau’s Kailey Bradt
- The cereal brand breaking all the rules, with Offlimits founder Emily Elyse Miller
- How to create a meaningful product launch with a focus group of 1000 target customers, with Saalt’s Cherie Hoeger
- Two Vogue alum started a tech meets fashion ecommerce site after a lightbulb moment + how to secure partnerships, with Collagerie’s Lucinda Chambers and Serena Hood
- TomyboyX co-founder Fran Dunaway on the importance of a hero product and how a pivot lead to major success
- A deep dive into influencer marketing with Ali Bonar, Founder of the worlds first Granola Butter, Kween
- Creating cult products & having Sophia Amoruso as your mentor, with Chillhouse Founder Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton
- How to find a clothing manufacturer with Princess Awesome Co-Founder Rebecca Melsky
- The story of signing a $200k deal on shark tank followed by a major lawsuit, with GOVERRE’s Regan Kelaher and Shannon Zappala
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