Saturday, December 20, 2008

Inspiring Female Entrepreneur - Karen Darby

I've just discovered this wonderful entrepreneur from the UK called, Karen Darby. Here's a woman says she felt she knew she wanted to run her own business from around the age of 8. She took on lots of jobs as a youngster, and lied about her age to get a job at a laundromat. She set up her own telemarketing company at the age of 22, and after 7 years had 200 employees and was making 4 million pounds. In the 90's she had two kids and started to work for herself again, training up customer call centers. In 2003 she set up a new business called, 'simplyswitch'. She was thoroughly passionate about the business as it was responsible for helping people get a good deal on switching between services (phone, energy, etc). She loved the business, and finally decided the time to sell the company in 2006 for 22 million pounds (approx $44M). Below is her list of top tips for success, and here's a link to a terrific interview with her - full of much sound advice and wonderful insight on the why behind her decisions.

Here's her tip list to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Do what you love
Create a white hot burning desire
Create leverage – commit to doing something with determination
Maintain a laser beam focus on your business idea
Use someone else’s money – seek funding opportunities
Be a rhino – learn how to handle rejection
Employ smart people + network like crazy – surround yourself with a strong team
Be enthusiastic
Live the brand – you are the best possible PR for your company
Give yourself a check up form the neck up on a regular basis
Hypnotize yourself – tell yourself you’re wonderful and your ideas are
Know when not to listen – especially to negative comments
Double your failure rate
And remember most of all - timing is everything.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Transferring Passion for Shoes to Technology? How Could That Be Possible?

Christina Tynan-Wood writes a simple yet direct article on why there aren't more women in technology and why they are needed on the Product Design and Development site. She recounts a time in 1996 when she was the @home technology editor for PC World, and after spending time with the 'suits' presenting new home computers asked why they were so ugly if they were for the home. At that time she was brushed aside. Yet, really home PC for the home should be more attractive - she had a point. She mentions that while men may say that women are the ones who are fussy about trend and color in fact men are actually possibly more fussy. Women put up with the black technology that is obviously geared to men's decor, whereas make it for women and men won't use it. (Isn't this true of women being more accommodating of seeing block buster male movies, than insisting taking partners to women movies? - too darn accommodating is our problem at times).
So yes, she says today it's more important than ever that we speak up and let it be known we want choice. I love her comparison to shoes. Have technologists not realized how much insane money women spend on shoes - it's completely irrational spending but a wonderful defining experience. And thank you Christina also for saying that we can't say what those technologies will look like because we don't have a room full of women designing the technologies. A possible example is some research done at HP Labs, where they have used their color matching technology to assist women in finding the perfect foundation make-up shade - this is applying technologies previously used for color copiers for more creative uses - yes there were women in the room when the idea came up.

Make the Path Easier for Next Gen

So 40% of all businesses in America are owned by women, but only 20% of the women owned businesses make more than $1M. Of those that are making the big money 80% of them say they belong to a formal business organization or network. Making those connections, networking and getting mentoring truly make a difference. If you have an opportunity to provide a helping hand to women owned businesses do - it makes a difference. Rivea Lesonsky, in a Bizjournals post, points to the need to pass on experience and assistance and don't make those that follow in your footsteps have to learn all the mistakes themselves because there was no one to teach you. How true that is. I am committed to working the change of empowering women to be who they are and achieve what they desire, and know it will take more than a lifetime to succeed. I do it to make a path a little less challenging for my daughters.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Women Are Better Marketers. What Does That Mean?

Here's a comprehensive article on why women make better marketing people than men from Branding Strategy Insider. The author even drives home the point that when you look in most marketing departments, sure the most highly paid marketer is probably going to be a guy but the actual best marketer is likely to be a woman. What does that tell us?
The article has so many complimentary points as to why you'd want a woman as your marketer, and so much resonated in general with the world I have worked in, like, males tend to want to step into the limelight when product launches are heralded, whereas women are more about the right people being forward to represent the brand. A fine example was given in Rose-Marie Bravo, chief executive of Burberry. She hired a designer, creative director to become her spokesperson for the brand whenever the press needed to engage in brand rather than step into the limelight herself. Right thing for the brand, but would a guy have been as willing to take a back seat?
One take away from the article should be for women in marketing to have confidence and ask for more recognition - you are worth it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No Movement for Women in Top Earner Numbers

New numbers came out today looking at the percentage of top earners that are women in the US - and that percent would be .... 6.2% which is basically the same number as last year 6.7%. (Catalyst). Across the board there were no gains in number of directors on board of companies (15.1%), and number of corporate officer positions being held by women (15.7%).
The manager of the research is optimistic change is in the air in a good way for women next year but not based on fact but their feeling about how Obama is making up his cabinet with women and minorities. Unfortunately I am not as optimistic given the economic climate. As jobs become fewer, opportunities close, and the need for a strong network will be more important than ever.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strong correlation between female senior executives and strong financial performance

A piece of research by McKinsey suggests that there is a strong correlation between having high numbers of women senior executives and stronger financial performance. Companies with this make-up also have a stronger opportunity to draw from a larger talent pool as talent is in short supply.
Unfortunately I don't have access to the research at the moment, but I will be on the look out for additional quotes from this particular study. It's not the first time there have been positive correlations between financial performance and having women senior executives in the company. However the more data we have to support this situation the better and the more diverse the types of company the better. The previous research I saw was based primarily on the financial industry.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Products Aim at Female Audience

Oooooh two new products targeted at women, how do you like them?
First is a wrist watch from Sony Ericsson that has built-in blue tooth. As someone who still doesn't really use a cell phone (long story, but so far has worked to my advantage) I'm not sure how to rate it, however the features are cool in the way that I use to think being a spy could be a glamorous adventurous job - I'd glance at my watch to see who is calling on the phone. It will also vibrate when a text is sent, and can hook up to a blue-tooth ear piece to accept a call. However I'm not entirely sure on the watch design - I may lack cell phone cool, but I happen to be a watch wearer and these don't really hit my bar for trendy watches. HOWEVER - I credit companies for trying to address the female audience, we're a tough crowd but when they get fashion and technology in sync someone is going to have a huge success.
Next up is Audio Technica headphones, they claim designed for women. They come in an array of different colors, and colorful tins to keep the earbuds in. They claim to be with 'superior comfort designed for women' but the proof is in women finding them comfortable - I would hate to think someone launched into a new range of hardware without considering the anthropomorphic differences of the audience they're targeting.
So two product areas where companies are trying to blend technology and fashion to address women. I'd like to meet their engineering/design teams to understand the gender mix of the groups - are these products designed by men for women, or mix gender teams?
Bottom-line -- keep trying the innovations aimed at women, I really appreciate it.