The United States Chamber of Commerce reported last summer that small businesses owned by women were “disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the related economic crisis.” Growth and income forecasts looked depressing. But these three women, all over 50, have beaten the odds by embracing digital technology and pivoting their businesses.
During the pandemic, they not only survived, they thrived – as you’ll see in our interviews with them, below. The entrepreneurs are:
Kathy Goughenour, an entrepreneur in the St. Louis area who has turned her 13-year-old Virtual Assistant Expert VA Training business into a business grossing over $ 1 million.
Sandra Guibord, a former model and daytime soap actress, who has grown her business Sandra’s Wine Life (based in New York and Ridgefield, Connecticut) with virtual seminars, attracting clients from private management firms and financial institutions.
Previously, she founded the international technology platform HMG Strategy, together with her ex-husband.
Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Latin American founder of Phoenix-based lifestyle brand Crafty Chica, who has become an even bigger influencer. His business – which sells “Mexican-style” wall art, prints, t-shirts, candles, earrings, pins, mugs and books – recently celebrated a million views on TikTok.
Tell me about what motivated you to start your business.
Kathy goughenour: After 18 years of working in a Fortune 500 [telecommunications] company, I stopped being promoted. I was told that I had laughed and smiled too much. Did I have to be less happy to be successful? Life was too short.
I started my own business and now I wear tiaras to meetings.
With my VA (virtual assistant) business, I quickly earned double my income as a marketing manager. In 2020, I was making 20 times that income.
I’m laughing to the bank now.
Sandra Guibord: In 2000, I started a wine education and consulting business, Sandra’s Wine Life. I saw a large market of wine consumers underserved by the wine industry: both the everyday wine enthusiast who enjoyed entertaining family and friends, and the business owner.
Related: “Labor shortage is slowing the growth of small businesses across the country,” says NFIB
I wrote about wine, became a magazine food and drink editor, and started a women’s wine club. I then sold my half of a multi-million dollar tech events company and focused solely on Sandra’s Wine Life to help people feel confident and have fun exploring wines.
Kathy Cano-Murillo: I started my [craft] business as a side activity in 2001, when the craft industry experienced a resurgence among young people. I have always been a maker and I wanted to create a space for the Latino community.
I had worked as a reporter for The Arizona Republic and a craft columnist; In 2007, I focused full time on my business.
My content filled a niche – and that was even before influencer marketing. I have been busy ever since.
Can you share your biggest challenge and greatest success in running your business?
Kathy goughenour: My biggest challenge was learning to take risks. I wish I had risked spending more money earlier on marketing and professional development, especially business coaching. My business had the fastest growth ever when I invested in a fabulous business coach.
The greatest success? It helps hundreds of women to be confident in their abilities and to be successful on their own terms. They learned how to create profitable VA businesses. They have traveled the world, bought dream homes and paid for their children’s college education.
Sandra Guibord: My big challenge has been to manage various state laws on the transport of wine. While organizing events across the country, I had to source my wines from several vendors. But it also greatly expanded my network.
My greatest success: The Turkish government and Wine Alliance hired my company exclusively to bring Turkish wines to America.
Kathy Cano-Murillo: It’s a challenge to keep coming up with fresh and relevant new ideas, but I love challenges!
My biggest success has been my career as a whole – the fact that it has been growing steadily over the past 20 years.
How did you experience the pandemic?
Kathy goughenour: VA Industry Skyrocketed During COVID. The women in my program shared that they were earning an average of 130% more in 2020 than in 2019. My VA training and coaching business also hit $ 1 million compared to $ 700,000 in 2019. Of the Based on my research, I believe that this industry will thrive and that an online presence is now crucial for that growth.
Sandra Guibord: Virtual wine seminars have been a wonderful success during the pandemic. I have developed my business 100% by making virtual presentations. I quickly moved from my traditional in-person format to online presentations.
Also see: Small businesses have had to adapt to the pandemic: some innovations that we will continue to see
Without golf or theater, virtual wine tastings have become a valuable way for financial institutions to reach their customers. I work with large financial companies and nonprofits like TD Bank, Citicorp and the Red Cross. The intimate and interactive experiences are incredibly rewarding.
Kathy Cano-Murillo: My brand did well. It was about reading the room and contributing during the pandemic. I paid attention to what interested people and how I could serve. It meant producing DIY content for them to do with family or friends, virtually. Projects such as face masks for beginner sewers, Day of the Dead Barbies, and mini scrapbook paper journals.
I have always made social media a big part of my business plan. During the pandemic, I hosted an online craft party on Instagram that brought together all kinds of personalities. We now have eighty thousand Facebook FBs,
followers. And I had a few viral TikToks.
Any advice for other women entrepreneurs?
Kathy goughenour: Make sure potential customers have the budget to pay; see the value of hiring them and have an ongoing need.
Women should also adopt a more positive mindset. No more banging your head against the glass ceiling and being ignored for promotions or better pay. No more cheerleaders to keep everyone around you moving forward while you stand back and fill the bowl with crisps.
Sandra Guibord: Do not hesitate to join forces and develop your network.
A large event and catering company provided food to match my wine pairings. “Why don’t we work together? ” I asked. The owner was immediately on board. We team up on my Wine and Opera and Wine and Cinema events.
Now, I blame myself for not reaching out years ago.
Also consider developing your brand. As a single businesswoman, I focused on my demographics. As I had children, my brand grew. It was about how wine fits into family vacations, home entertainment, business dinners, and international and large-scale receptions.
Kathy Cano-Murillo: Write clear and specific objectives; an action list and a task timeline – and work on it every day.
Related: TikTok saved my business: Candy retailer finds internet fame as COVID-19 forces pivot
I start with a big end goal and visualize it. This has led to many successes, such as a line of greeting cards, two fabric collections, books, an art studio and a line of crafts for HSN where I also appear.
Last year, I was the keynote speaker for Michaels Stores, the largest arts and crafts retailer in North America!
Barbara Field was previously on staff at CBS, Harcourt Brace, UC San Diego, Pace University, and The OpEd Project. She writes regularly for VeryWell Mind and has been published in Shape, The Independent, Salon, Newsday, Writer’s Digest, Columbia Review and elsewhere. Her novel won a Writer’s Digest Fiction Award. she founded Write life stories, a memoir writing company for non-writers.
This article is part of America’s Entrepreneurs, a Next Avenue initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur Innovation Exchange.
This article is reproduced with permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
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