What is your story? Or in other words, what made you the great success you are today?
Everyone’s definition of success differs. Money, power, fame represent a few common attributes of success many people seek. For me, success means being able to do work – marketing and business strategy consulting -- that I’m not only quite adept at but which delivers tremendous professional and personal satisfaction. On top of that, being able to enjoy immense schedule flexibility as my own boss and small business owner enhances that. I really love what I do, and that comes across to the tech founders that hire me. I consider myself lucky that early in my career, I knew what I was good at and have been happily doing it ever since. That’s a success.
What message do you promote?
As a female co-founder of a software company during the 1990s, I lived through getting a software company off the ground, growing it to 300 employees and $25Million before exiting. And for the past 20 years, I’ve worked for nearly 100 tech small business owners helping them throughout their own similar journey. I happen to be the least technical person you would ever meet, incidentally. All of that immersion in startups and small business serves as a great foundation for my role as Chair of the National Women’s Business Council. I am very much the woman business owner NWBC represents – I know the pain, the obstacles, the heartache, and the victories, too that all-female founders face. When NWBC recommends paths or programs to Congress, The White House, or SBA that would help women business owners, it’s because I’ve walked in those very same shoes. Or high heels. Currently, we focus on three key issues: leveling the playing field for access to capital, encouraging women to get into STEM-related entrepreneurial ventures (instead of traditional Main Street service businesses), and removing the obstacles facing women in rural areas.
In what capacity do you LEAD UP in your community?
Leadership starts with fashioning a new vision for something, crafting a way to communicate it, injecting your personal passion into it, then opening the door for others to join in. When I set out our mission to the new Council members that I selected after my appointment two years ago, it was all about identifying a few things we could do together that would make a difference and leave an imprint. I didn’t want us to be paper-pushers and PowerPoint producers. We knew we couldn’t fix everything, but by picking just a few universal challenges, such as access to business capital, I felt highly confident that we could achieve some positive outcomes during our tenure. I am so delighted the Council is ‘all-in’ on this objective!
In business and/or in life, share a struggle you overcame that other women can relate to.
I feel that even today, women business owners and even women in the general workforce still strive to be taken seriously by their male counterparts. We all still hear the stories of how women have to work twice as hard as men for the promotions, the raises, and the position or opportunities. Over the years, I know I have. And we still have so many industries, such as technology, where I’ve spent my life, that remain predominantly male-dominated. But I’ve learned two things over my career that have helped me to overcome the obstacles: honey still works better than vinegar in getting what you want, and it’s who you know that can make all the difference.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
As Chair of NWBC, I’m exhilarated by the outpouring of support we continue to receive from women across the country when they learn about who we are and what we do to stand up for them. It has been important to me personally that we raise the visibility of the Council so that more women know about our mission, and we, in return, learn about their challenges. To witness the growth in our traction among both women business owners and the lawmakers to whom we provide advice and recommendations has been exceedingly gratifying, to say the least.
How do you SHOW UP?
I know first-hand about the difficulties in starting a company and growing it. Back when we were launching our eCommerce company, no support systems existed – no incubators, no mentor networks, no angel groups – nothing. Today, that’s all changed. I help founders, especially female founders, by providing advice and coaching pro bono. I do this through many of the startup incubators and accelerators in the DC area. Besides doing free workshops and office hours, I’ll select one or two founders each quarter to help personally. It involves everything from making introductions, serving as a sounding board, assisting in raising capital.
If you could give one piece of advice for women who are entering the workforce or launching their own business what would that be?
Take risks. Launching a business is all about risk. If your first business does not make it, you’ll learn so much by its failure that your next one will be infinitely better positioned for success. We really don’t succeed until we’ve failed first.
Being an entrepreneur had delivered tremendous personal and career satisfaction to me, even in the early days when that word was not even mentioned. Find the thing that makes you passionate about waking up each morning. Life is short, but the workday is long. If you’re not ecstatic about what you are doing, do something else.
Contact Liza Sara
And, connect with us at National Women’s Business Council, too.