She’s the Boss: Celebrating Women in Small Business

No matter how you feel about “manufactured” holidays, it’s hard to argue with the notion of taking time to pause, take stock and celebrate National Women in Small Business Month this October —and all the women you know who are making small businesses work.

There is good news when it comes to female entrepreneurs in the 2019 State of Women in Small Business Report from American Express, including:

  • Women own 42% of businesses in the United States.
  • Women-owned businesses generate $1.9 trillion annually.
  • Women of color account for 50% of female business owners.

The statistics are heartening, but for me, the real “feels” come from knowing and working with some of the small business entrepreneurs behind the statistics. In the past year, I’ve had the good fortune to meet a number of them in my role at Zenefits leading our communications and customer advocacy programs. The following are three of my favorites. These are three very different businesses from three very different parts of the country, but all have a unifying principle: a distinct passion to build something much more than a bottom line (but they are good at that too!).

The Violinist Who Orchestrates Next Generation Business Impact

Natasha Miller is a classically trained violinist who built an events production company from a need, initially, to be in two places at the same time as her solo career grew. Recommending alternate performers led to booking performers, then staging entire events. It was a nice, growing business until Natasha took a business program 15 years after starting her business. The course gave her insights that unlocked another level of potential. Today her business, Entire Productions, manages more than 750 events a year. It has earned awards as one of the fastest-growing businesses in America. And Natasha herself was just chosen as one of the top 100 “Women Who Lead” in San Francisco.

She’s put her “ah-ha” business know-how to work in a number of ways. She joined the boards of two entrepreneur support organizations, and is also active in small business groups in LA and the Bay area, actively sharing and stimulating new thinking. What I found even more exciting is how she is coaching her own team (mostly young women early in their careers) on how to measure, report and leverage their own impact on the business — each and every month. In essence, they are becoming their own business heroes, encouraged to use that data to propel the business with new program ideas and advance their own careers vs. waiting to be rewarded.

Read more about Natasha’s story, here.

The Accountant Who Stabilizes A Remote Community

Necessity is the mother of invention. And many times, motherhood requires necessary re-invention. Such was the case for Jodie Heal, an accomplished financial auditor, who ditched her huge client load and long commute in favor of starting her own accounting business in her small home town in remote Maine after she became a mom.

Tech-savvy, she quickly realized she could better manage her growing slate of customers (mostly other small businesses across her region) by requiring them to run on cloud-based technology for always-on access to critical business data. This turned out to be a huge lever while managing her business. It also gave her 300 customers the critical business infrastructure to support more sustainable, compliant and predictable businesses. For customers ranging from ferry boat operators to gyms to restaurants, many of whom rely on the short tourist season, Jodie’s counsel can be the difference between making payroll or not and even staying afloat.

In 2019, her unique cloud-based accounting practice earned Jodie a place among the top three “Women to Watch” in business for the state of Maine.

Read more about Jodie’s story, here.

The High Wire Entrepreneur Who Built a Safety Net for a Small Midwest Town

Michelle Liggett is the President of Sky Trail Management and Development, which performs back-office operations (Accounting, Human Resources, Payroll, Marketing, Purchasing, and other administrative processes) for numerous businesses across the country. Her clients build, sell, supply or offer family entertainment experiences with Ropes Courses Inc.(RCI). This is equipment like ziplines, climbing walls and hands-free balancing courses, all experiences high in the air.

Michelle and her team have built repeatable business processes and systems to make it easy to add new businesses to their portfolio. What is extra cool is that she and her husband Jim, who founded RCI, are also doing good with their business, reinvesting in their small town headquarter’s in Allegan, Michigan. They’ve been active in building up the picturesque riverside downtown area, adding a zipline over the water and renovating historic, but worn buildings into new use facilities like an art gallery, restaurant or retail. Their projects keep the traditional character of the 100-year-old buildings and create new jobs. This, in turn, offers options for local kids to stay and help the 5,000-person town grow and thrive.

Read more about Michelle’s story here.

Here’s to all the entrepreneurs whose passions power not only our country’s growth but in turn power the growth of the next generation of innovators and the towns and regions where they make their indelible marks. They inspire us every day to do more, to do good and to serve one another.