Empowering People
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LAEDA- A Word from Our Female Entrepreneurs In Regards to The Pandemic

Posted on 6/30/2021 by EDTP Coordinator in LAEDA News

COVID-19 has impacted our lives in various areas; however, for those who are also business owners, the effects were twofold. During this pandemic, we had a chance to ask alumna of LAEDA’s Entrepreneurial Development Training Program (EDTP) and Women's Business Academy (WBA) how they were coping during this time both personally and professionally. Alumna Sherrie Wilkins, Andrea Riley, Shaheerah Fardan- Ali, Barbara Bryant, and Crystal Lewis discussed not only their challenges and triumphs but also offered advice for other female entrepreneurs.

(1) What are the challenges you face as an entrepreneur in your industry and how do you overcome them?

Sherrie Wilkins, owner of Best of Me: Offering services that benefit children and families has always been a life mission for me. Best of Me, Youth Enrichment Services seeks to enrich the personal lives and build resilience in today's youth. Entering the business world as a fulltime entrepreneur in my industry has proven to be rewarding but, quite the challenge. Navigating the landscape with regards to laws, procedures and policies during a pandemic has been tricky. Serving children is a passion of mine therefore, I want to continue to inspire them in ways that bring meaning to their lives but also keep them healthy. Being able to pivot when the world shifts means being flexible and willing to learn new strategy to reach your target market audience, which for a new entrepreneur can be a bit tricky, but with tenacity it is certainly a goal that can be attained.

Andrea Riley, owner of Marriage Service Technicians: As a businesswoman, the greatest challenge I face by far is work/life balance. As a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, minister, friend, and entrepreneur, I find that my priorities sometimes compete with each other. Running a home-based business has proven to have many advantages, yet it comes with drawbacks, as well. On the one hand, I appreciate the flexibility of being able to set my own schedule and work at my own convenience. On the other hand, working from home can lead to others "dropping by" my office unannounced. My flexibility can lead to folks calling on me for favors during my dedicated work hours. Being at home allows for the temptation to multi-task household chores throughout the day, which can be a distraction from focusing on important tasks. And last, but not least, working from home sometimes leads to many endless workdays when I never get around to "clocking out". Back when I worked outside the home, when I got off, I was actually "off duty." If I'm not careful, I can find myself on duty all times of the day or night, with no days off.

As is the case with many small business owners, I wear far too many hats. The growth and expansion of my business increased my workload to the point that it felt overwhelming and insurmountable. Work eventually swallowed up my weekends, my morning exercise time, my after-dinner downtime, and eventually, my sleeping hours. My family began to joke that I was crazy glued to my office chair. And despite the inordinate time I put in, I was unable to keep up with the workload to the point that I found myself turning down new business.

My solution to this dilemma was twofold. Initially, we began to outsource some of the work to an independent contractor. That was more or less a Band-Aid approach. Eventually, we decided to take a leap of faith by hiring our first employee. When we considered the opportunity cost of turning away new business, it made better business sense to implement the more permanent solution of bringing on an assistant.

Shaheerah Fardan-Ali, owner of Diary Of A Cupcake: I would say that my biggest challenge is consistency. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay focused on my business when life’s challenges and responsibilities become distractions. I often compare the highs and lows in life and business to waves in the ocean. It’s easy to be consistent when you’re riding a high, but those highs are not always the norm. When my business is in a low (slow) period, I try to use those periods to do things that inspire me. I find that working on a creative project like painting or practicing new cake/cupcake recipes and techniques help to keep me in a creative space. It helps me to stay in the flow, so to speak. Because what you focus on grows!

Barbara Hall- Bryant and Crystal Lewis, owners and CEO of I Say Yes Salon & Spa: During the pandemic it really opened our eyes and gave us time to really sit back and look at the structure of our business in order to determine how to set up for longevity. We celebrated our 9th year in business in November 2020 but it really bothered us that many salons and barbershops did not reopen and just went out of business. As I started to do my research and ask questions, I found out that a lot of businesses were good businesses but they were not set up like a business. When I asked business owners if they had a BAIL system in place (BAIL meaning a good Bank, Accountant, Insurance, Lawyer), most of them said NO. You also have to have a great team of people who will give you trusted advice. We have an amazing couple who have been our Mentors for nine years and we just hired a private Business Consultant. They have advised us to rebrand and restructure our business so that, when any crisis happens, we can turn it into an opportunity and just pivot in a different direction when needed. That is the formula for a legal, strong and healthy business so when things go wrong you will be able to weather the storm.

(2) What valuable advice can you give to other entrepreneurs in your industry?

Sherrie Wilkins, owner of Best of Me: When seeking to be an entrepreneur I think it's vital to always stay in a continual mode of education. Learning the ins and outs of your field is essential. I believe that there is a tremendous value in partnering with others who are in the same field. Learning from those who have been in the field for a longer duration of time is important to growth. Mentorship is something we should all value over competition especially if the services offered seek to build a stronger community.

Andrea Riley, owner of Marriage Service Technicians: My advice to others is to consider the long-term sustainability of your business. In my case, the stress and pressure of my workload were negatively impacting both my physical and emotional health. I was no longer getting adequate exercise, rest, or time for self-care. That pace was not sustainable for the long haul. Additionally, it was imperative for me to begin training a successor. As a business owner, I needed to weigh how much time I was devoting to tasks that someone else could do - and whether it was preventing me from finishing things that only I could do. In my case, performing tasks such as filing, social media, and updating the website were preventing me from weightier tasks like finishing book projects. Entrepreneurs need to be cognizant of whether wearing too many hats has begun to diminish your quality of life. That may be the point where it would be more prudent to draw the line and begin delegating some of the load to others.

Shaheerah Fardan-Ali, owner of Diary Of A Cupcake: Master your craft. Focus on the thing that makes you unique. I think that building a business is not only mastering that thing you do, but also mastering who you are and learning how to translate that to your customers.

Barbara Hall- Bryant and Crystal Lewis, owners and CEO of I Say Yes Salon & Spa:

• Our suggestion would be to make sure you have a seat at The LAEDA table and take their virtual online course to put your business plan together.
• Reach out to the Women Business Center and the SBA, which is in partnership with LAEDA.
• Find a Mentor (you can sign up with SCORE) and a business coach to look at the structure of your business and how it is being operated.
• Have a trusted tribe of friends or staff that will lift you up and give you advice in good and bad times.
• Form a community of other women business owners to network and share ideas with.
• Last but not least, always go back to your WHY! Remember why you choose to start this business, enjoy the journey, and use the gift that God has given you to change the world with whatever business you are in.

LAEDA is available remotely through email, phone, and/ or video conferencing. Please call us at (856) 338-1177 or visit our website at www.laeda.com to learn more about our programs, services, and small business resources.

The Entrepreneurial Development Training Program (EDTP) is a free, nine-week business skills training course offered in Camden, NJ in the Spring and Fall each year while the Women's Business Academy (WBA) is offered one time per year in the Winter. Qualified entrepreneurs receive 72+ hours of training from industry professionals, business planning, and one year of technical assistance. Apply online at www.laeda.com.