When one hear the phrase “Who runs the world” does “girls” immediately follow? Besides being a phrase in a popular Beyonce song, it turns out this statement has never been more true. With female-owned business growing five time faster than the national average, More women and girls than ever are finding ways to turn their ideas into tangible ways to make the world a better place.
I (Lizzy Geraghty ‘18) have had a photography business for the last four years and love being a part of the generation where technology, creativity, and communication come together to create a more unified culture. “Women’s economic equality is good for business” says UN Women, an organization dedicated to paving the way for gender equality and empowerment. “It is estimated that companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organizational effectiveness.” With the number of young entrepreneurs on the rise, I decided to ask a few Saint Ursula Academy businesswomen their thoughts on the ins and outs of their business experiences.
When thinking about what does it take for a high school student to have a good business, what comes to mind? Perseverance. Time management. Efficiency. “It takes dedication, motivation, confidence and patience to have a successful business. It's not easy but if you stick with it and you are doing what you love, then it’s worth it,” says Katie Hobler, ‘18.
Hobler runs her own portrait photography business. “I started because of my passion for photography. I've always loved taking pictures ever since I was little. As I grew older I enjoyed capturing the beauty of a person in front of the lens.” Juggling the balance between school, sports, and a social life is not as easy as it seems. Caroline Wells ‘18 started a frame-decoupaging company after a soccer injury left her with a lot of extra time. “After I had my 2nd ACL surgery, I was cooped up in the house for a few weeks unable to do anything. I had been making my frames for awhile and a lot of people had been asking me to make some for them. That was when I decided to make a business out of it.” Ava Donofe ‘18 who has a fitness and body positivity business notes that “It is difficult balancing a company and school but if it’s something you love doing, you will want to put time aside to work on it!”
Women in business are on the brink of a startling new revolution. There are now 9.9 million firms in the United States owned by women. Internationally women make up more than one-third of all entrepreneurs worldwide. It is estimated that 340,000 jobs were created by female-owned business in 2007 and 2015 and there are almost 7.9 million people employed by US businesses owned by women (upworthy.com).
This uptick in female-forward businesses also sheds light on a larger global movement for women’s empowerment and education highlighting the perseverance and creativity in young females in the 21st century. Even with this recently developed success, women have come a long way.
In a 2014 report from the Center for American Progress, although women held almost 52% of all professional-level jobs, they were only 14.6% of executive officers, 8.1% of top earners, and 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs. Why? This may be because women and young girls sometimes lack the confidence to break into the business world when they do not see themselves represented in the modern business sector. Donofe ‘18 says, “If you are thinking about starting a company, just go for it! My only regret with this business is that I didn’t start soon enough.”
Another fascinating aspect of business is how advertising on social media can have an effect on consumers. The Pew Research Center found that 94% of US teens have access to a mobile device and about 71% of teens used more than one social media site. The percentage is expected to grow steadily in the future. Even more impressive is that teens spend almost one third of their day plugged into various types of mass media.
“I think social media in this way is a fantastic platform to build your business,” says Hobler who uses Instagram to showcase her photography. “You can post stories and people can see your work and see if you're the right person for them, or the stuff you're selling is what they want.”
Lizzie Neeb ‘17 who has her own cookie business uses Facebook to boost viewers and reach the majority of her clientele. “Facebook advertising is very helpful because I can customize the audience.” Neeb also uses Instagram to share photos and gain inspiration but notes that Instagram has a younger target audience but likes Facebook for its overall functionality. “On Facebook, I can communicate with customers, share photos, book appointments, and add services like advertisements.”
Popular Youtubers and social media celebrities credit their success largely to social media’s availability and its ability to connect people worldwide. But success does not come without trial and error. Neeb says, “There is nothing wrong with starting something that fails. The lessons I have learned from my experiences with my own startup will stay with me for the rest of my life.” When asked who helped you along the way, “My mom was there from the beginning helping me make some the frames when I was short on time and my dad helped me put together my business cards. Without this encouragement the business would not be successful,” notes Wells.
Now you may be asking, where would one even begin to create a identity, brand or put themselves out on social media? “When I first started my fitness business, I went to a coffee shop from 8-5 and just planned everything! It’s not an easy task starting a business, however it is so worth it when you are able to use your gifts to help others. I found it very beneficial to meet with mentors and talk with other people who have already been in my shoes,” says Donofe.
First, one helpful tip is that some methods work better for some than others. As the St. Ursula students have mention in the article, try looking into what it is you are passionate about and remember business is all about trying something new even if you are not successful the first time. You could offer to lead or start a club, volunteer your time to help others, or go mission trip. At Saint Ursula the Students for Advancement organization even has a student-alumnae job mentorship program for incoming juniors and seniors. Wells agrees: “You will never achieve success if you don’t try. So don’t be afraid to start your business and ask for help because it will only make you more knowledgeable.”
Ultimately, spend time thinking about the skills you have and how you use those skills to help others. “If someone tells you to not do it or that it's stupid, don't believe them,” warns Hobler. “If it is something you are truly passionate about then go for it. Don't let someone get in your way of making your dream come true.”
Want to learn more about the businesses featured in the article?
(In order of appearance)
Lizzy Geraghty ‘18 - Elizabeth Geraghty Photography (elizabethgeraghty.photo)
Katie Hobler ‘18 - K.M Photographs (Instagram: k.m.photographs_)
Caroline Wells ‘18 - Midwestern Prep Designs (Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/MidwestPrepDesign, Instagram: @midwestprepdesign)
Ava Donofe ‘18 - Ava Natalia Fitness (Instagram: avanataliafitness)
Lizzie Neeb ‘17 - Cookies By Lizzie (Facebook: facebook.com/cookiesbylizzie, Instagram: @cookiesbylizzie)
More facts about women in business: