Three Area Leaders Say Women Have the Power

Claire Slattery
Executive Director
Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce

Have you seen an increase year-over-year in women launching new businesses?

Between 40-50% of our member companies are women-owned businesses. The number of women who have joined the Chamber either as owners or as lead representatives of their organization quadrupled from 2017 to 2018.

Is it possible to characterize by type the businesses that women are launching?

Over the past couple of years we have seen several women either starting new businesses from the ground up (meaning designing and building brick & mortar) to purchasing existing businesses in the sectors of retail, restaurant, health & wellness, and beauty salons, among others. How do organizations for women in business help to not only support women in an existing business, but also help when a woman launches a business?

You can see women supporting women prominently in our area with the many women-missioned non-profits and networking groups. The support and encouragement women are receiving whether in need or in business encourages all women to go after their dreams and live the life they want to live. What advice can you share for any woman who’s thinking about starting a business?

I started a business in 2009 while raising two young kids at the time. It was an unpredictable journey worth enduring. My advice is to get through the first few years with perseverance and determination and you will find the success you seek. You have plenty of community support; just be sure to make “the ask!” Most people focus on their problems. This begets more problems. Why? Because what you focus on is what you get more of. Decide what you want. Write it down. Expect it’s going to be harder than you think it’s going to be. Then be intentional with your actions. Your brain will give you what you want. But you must first direct it.

Suzanne Corr
Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce
Tell us about what you’ve seen regarding more women in business.

There has been a moderate and steady increase through the years in women-owned businesses, which represent nearly 40% of our membership. There has also been a strong increase in the number of women we are seeing in high-level positions representing their employers.
As a 50-year old Chamber, BACC was started mainly by a group of male business leaders in the community. Those founders choose a strong female leader, Carol Beese, to manage the chamber for 30 years. In the past 50 years, BACC has seen just leaders heading this organization, all women.
To what do you attribute the upward trend for women?

I believe women are moving up because of the empowerment and independence it brings. As a female business and community leader, as well as a mother, I have taught my daughters how hard you work and what you achieve is all on you–you should always know that you can take care of yourself on your own.

Tell us more about how support organizations empower women.

At BACC our Women’s Biz Net programs have nearly 100% female attendance. These programs bring the “Power of the Pack.” Attendees are naturally devoted to helping one another; it’s a topic we discuss at many of these gatherings. A study in the Harvard Business Review indicated that women who are well connected and also have an inner circle of close female contacts are more likely to land high level jobs with higher pay. Successful women support and foster one another, which adds to their success. For a new woman business owner, this inner circle of advice, ideas and support can be critical to getting her business off the ground.
If you look at women who soar in business and careers, they soar because they are particularly skilled at combining their intelligence and ambition with diplomacy, sensitivity and mindfulness. These women are particularly good at building relationships, which is key to building business success.

Maria Weisbruch
Executive Director
Wauconda Area Chamber of Commerce

Why are organizations specifically for women so critical?

Women network differently. There is a “care” factor that goes into these relationships. We all want to see each other succeed. As far as launching a business I believe a women’s networking group lays out the good, bad and ugly that goes along with opening a business and shares in the compassion of “I’ve been there” and “Here’s what I did.”

Is it true that more women locally are also in positions of leadership for businesses here?

For sure. I think many women have long been the backbone of companies, but without the title or the compensation. With that slowly changing I think it is now more evident and recognized. I believe the strength and leadership of women have always been a part of the work force; I’m happy for a shift in recognition and hope to one day see compensation completely equalized.

What are the top things you advise a woman to do when she starts a business?

Write a business plan and review it every year. Your passion for a business is what first pushes you to dive in. Make sure the passion is on track and tweak when needed. Use free resources available to you. There is great information on small businesses online, and your library is a wealth of information too. Although you need professionals for some things, there is a lot you can do on your own. Do not take no for an answer the first time around. Not from a landlord, vendor or an attorney. “No” can easily be turned into a “maybe”, and “maybe” can be turned into a “yes”. Remember: you are number one. Unless absolutely necessary make this venture for yourself. If you can’t go it alone, be sure to take every precaution before bringing in a partner. Be patient. The rule of thumb is: you will not make money overnight. Plan on investing up to four years of blood, sweat, tears and money before taking a breath. It is a thrill, it is scary, but the reward is unbelievable.