This Latina Entrepreneur Shares 4 Things She Kept In Mind As She Built Her New Venture And Raised $4 Million

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Latina entrepreneur Shadiah Sigala pictured smiling wearing a blue dress

Shadiah Sigala co-founded HoneyBook back in 2013 as a business management tool for creative entrepreneurs. Under her leadership, HoneyBook helped creatives navigate everything from invoicing to building community. As the company grew, and Sigala with it, she realized that everyone from the company’s employees to its users were graduating into different chapters of their own lives as well.

“Kinside was inspired by my experience as a first-time-founder and first-time-mother at my previous startup, HoneyBook,” shares Sigala, while explaining the inception of her second venture, Kinside. “As a cofounder and as one of the early parents on the team, my pregnancy left me responsible for determining many of our company policies. Soon, more babies would start springing up in our employee population, and our family leave, parental benefits and workplace culture matured to meet the need. However, when we sought out a child care benefit to enhance our efforts, we found that nothing quite fit our modern workforce. So I decided to do something about it and start Kinside out of the famed Silicon Valley accelerator, Y Combinator.”

Closing in on a year and a half, Kinside has graduated out of Y Combinator and has publicly launched with a total of $4 million in VC funding raised over 18 months. The solution it is offering is both for parents and the companies that employ them — a child care app that works for both the person just launching their career to the executive leading the company.

“I’ve learned that the desire to be the best for your children is universal, and it transcends job title, salary, race, personal beliefs, location,” explains Sigala.

Below Sigala expands on 4 key areas that played the biggest difference in starting and raising funds for her second startup.

Learn from your past experiences

“My first startup, HoneyBook, was a crash course in scaling a product and company quickly—from learning about organizational best practices to managing teams, and making executive decisions,” shares Sigala. “Today, I have the benefit of pattern recognition in a way that’s doubled our pace. We have gone from 10 beta employers to over 1,000 in fewer than 18 months.”

As Sigala noted, don’t be afraid to use prior experiences and transferable skillsets — whether from past startups or corporate settings — to help set yourself up for success in future endeavors.

The right co-founders

Sigala’s first company, HoneyBook, emphasizes how important it is for creatives to build supportive communities around themselves and how the same can be said for founders of startups.

“My secret weapon is my cofounders,” explains Sigala. “I lean on them to steer the ship, make important decisions, and think through tough challenges. It doesn’t hurt that they are both black-belts, wicked smart, and incredibly funny.”

Figure out what grounds you

An entrepreneur’s journey isn’t full of only highs, figuring out what will ground you during the lower moments is what will help you hold on and keep going. Sigala credits her experience growing up Latinx with helping inform her perspective as an entrepreneur.

Continue on to Forbea to read the complete article.

7 Reasons to Participate in a Virtual Job Fair

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Back view of female employee talk with male businessman on webcam laptop conference, woman worker with man employer brainstorm on video call from home, online

Traditional job fairs can be a drag, requiring your recruiters to travel, set up an expensive display, and stay on top of their game when they’re tired and maybe even a bit overwhelmed by a crush of candidates. But if you need a good-sized pool of potential employees, you probably feel you have no choice but to participate.

Actually, however, that’s not completely true. Your business can reap many of the benefits of such an event without some of the drawbacks, thanks to the growth of virtual job fairs.

Here are seven reasons why your company should take part in a virtual job fair:

1. You can interact with potential employees from all over the world and a variety of disciplines.
In today’s job market, you can’t afford to limit your hiring pool to a small geographical area or a particular kind of person. A virtual fair can put you in touch with a huge variety of people quickly and efficiently.

2. Virtual fairs save you money.
When your “booth” is in cyberspace, you don’t have to pay for a big display or for your recruiters’ travel. Your team can manage everything from the comfort of their offices—or from their own homes, if you offer remote work options.

3. You can take advantage of pre-fair promotion.
These events are enthusiastically and broadly advertised by their sponsors, and your participation will allow you to piggyback on that promotion to build your brand—all without paying for advertising. You can’t beat that kind of opportunity to create awareness about your company and what you do.

4. You can manage and target your message.
When you’re participating in an online event, you can be sure that your talking points will be communicated consistently and will reach your intended audience. “All applicants will receive the same information, face the same questions, and confer with the same company representatives,” says an article from Getting Hired.

5. Virtual fairs allow you to use your time more effectively.
“You can have multiple conversations going at the same time with job seekers, so it is less time-consuming than traditional career fairs,” says an article from Right Management.

6. Online fairs let you communicate the way your workers do.
“Whether you’re a millennial, a Gen Xer, or baby boomer, we all communicate online through messaging apps, such as Facebook messenger or through text messaging,” says an article from Brazen. “Online events and online career fairs offer the same form of communication. Take advantage of this shift.”

7. You can guarantee you’re capturing the information you need.
This is another point noted in the Getting Hired article. “A virtual career fair automatically captures the data of applicants, helping to ensure easier contact and follow up after the event, as well as retaining all candidates’ contact information for future roles and pipelines,” the article says.

Your company should explore opportunities to participate in these types of virtual activities. The savings in time and money, along with the ability to extend your recruiting reach nationwide or even worldwide, make them an obvious choice when you’re seeking the most talented workers to help your business grow.

Source: flexjobs.com

Merck Virtual Engagement and Educational Experience and Virtual Business Opportunity Fair

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Merck business fair announcement

Merck’s Virtual Engagement Center will offer two tracks for Diverse Suppliers:

The Merck Global Economic Inclusion & Supplier Diversity Educational Experience (kick-off May 21, 2020) is a webinar series geared toward the developing the knowledge of diverse suppliers in the marketplace.

These monthly sessions will give diverse suppliers a leg-up and get them ready to pitch their capabilities and services, while learning how to set themselves apart and ultimately win the business.

Register Here

The Virtual Business Opportunity Fair, June 17, 2020, one of two LIVE events in 2020, that will provide the opportunity for diverse suppliers to engage with Merck’s supply chain professionals, Prime Suppliers and Advocacy Organizations during a virtual tradeshow.
Register Here

Supplier development and diversity are critical to our mission of Inventing for Life. We are excited to deploy these two exciting programs as part of the Virtual Engagement Center and hope you will join us.

COVID-19 Highlights the Need for Increased Supplier Diversity

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A video conference with a diverse group of co-workers

By Elizabeth Vasquez

As global citizens prepare to fight against the current COVID-19 pandemic, I have been inspired by the individual stories of the women-owned businesses in the WEConnect International community and the resilience of my team and our supporters around the world.

As the CEO of a global nonprofit, I’m used to spending my life in airports and airplanes flying to meetings, speaking at conferences and meeting with our member buyers and the women business owners who supply a wide assortment of goods and services. But my intense travel schedule has ground to a halt as meetings have been canceled or postponed.

Earlier this month, I was fortunate to be at our WEConnect International South Africa Conference, Scaling Up in 2020 for Sustainable Growth, in Johannesburg. I met several exceptional women business owners and large buyers committed to inclusion.

Many are stepping up to help us all face the coronavirus challenge, like Refilwe Sebothoma, whose company, PBM Group, is supplying face masks. Belukazi Nkala, who owns Khanyile Solutions, is providing protective uniforms. And Judy Sunasky’s company, Blendwell Chemicals, is producing hand sanitizer.

In Singapore, Rithika Gupta is also increasing hand sanitizer production at her company, FP Aromatics, as is Sarah Sayed’s company, BX Merchandise, in the UK. WEConnect International educates and certifies women’s business enterprises based in over 45 countries, and women business owners such as these have registered with us in over 120 countries.

There are approximately 224 million women entrepreneurs worldwide who participate in the ownership of nearly 35 percent of firms in the formal economy. As traditional value chains shift, these business owners can step in to meet buyer demand.

Here in Washington, D.C., the WEConnect International Team has decided to hold our annual Gala and Symposium virtually. This is not a cancellation or a postponement but rather an opportunity for champions of diversity to leverage technology in support of inclusive global growth.

We are committed to creating opportunity in the face of adversity and have engaged our award winners, member buyers, women-owned businesses and strategic partners to join us for our first-ever 24-hour Cyber Gala culminating with the announcement of our Top 10 Global Champions.

Governments are taking the pandemic seriously and are working hard to protect their citizens through social distancing, while meeting the needs of those who fall sick. In addition to the human suffering, the virus has hurt domestic and international business. As a result, governments and business are working together to diversify supply chains to help mitigate future shocks to local and global economies.

 

Elizabeth Vazquez: Advocating for Women-Owned Businesses

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Headshot of Elizabeth Vasquez smiling for the camera

Professional Woman’s Magazine had the opportounity to speak with Elizabeth Vasquez, the founder of WeConnect Internatonal, on her business ventures as well as how to better advocate for Women-Owned Businesses.

Tell us about how you co-founded WEConnect International.

WEConnect International was established in response to a gap in the markets. Several corporate giants in the US and worldwide have committed to supplier diversity and inclusion. They want to buy more from women-owned businesses globally, but when we launched WEConnect International 10 years ago, there was no global database of women suppliers, no way to verify if women actually owned and controlled the companies they lead, and no easy way for women suppliers to connect with large buyers.

Globally, women control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending and make 85 percent of consumer purchasing decisions. And yet, only 1 percent of large corporate and government spend worldwide goes to women-owned businesses. WEConnect International is working to move the needle above 1 percent, generating market access opportunities for women business owners to sell their goods and services to large qualified buyers around the world.

What was your path to writing your book, Buying for Impact: How to Buy from Women and Change Our World?

The written word is a powerful tool to communicate, inform and call to action. I wanted to write something practical for people and organizations who care about women’s economic empowerment, and I was fortunate to have business guru Andrew Sherman co-author the book. Frankly, I wanted to document the WEConnect International journey in one place so more people could learn about the model and about how their purchasing power can change the world.

What women-owned business is making a global impact?

Our certified women-owned businesses are making an impact across the world – from a women-owned business in Mexico that provides transport services, to a South African events manager now working with Avon to an Indian woman who owns a trucking company. Women business owners are working in all fields from agriculture to IT, manufacturing to services. They just need that market knowledge and access to compete and win. WEConnect International certification allows them to leverage a Women-Owned Logo that is respected worldwide.

Who inspires you?

I am constantly inspired by the commitment of our member buyers who have pledged to scale up their inclusive sourcing, leverage WEConnect International to find qualified women suppliers and get more money into the hands of women business owners.

As CEO of WEConnect International, I’ve traveled to every continent other than Antarctica. I am so inspired by the creativity, determination and business savvy of these women business owners. I work as hard as I do because I believe deeply in our mission and I know that our work is changing the lives of these women who just want an equal opportunity to compete. These women inspire me every day to be brave and do more because they are delivering innovations and solutions that make the world better for all of us.

What is your experience as a Hispanic woman leader?

I have worked very hard throughout my career and have achieved a level of success that I never dreamed possible. That being said, I am aware that there are challenges for women and Hispanics throughout our society. Our mission at WEConnect International is to supplier diversity and inclusion – for women, for Hispanics, for ethnic minorities, for the LGBTQ community, for people with disabilities and for other under-utilized groups. As CEO, I am working with our member buyers and our women-owned businesses to make sure that our vision becomes a reality and that everyone has equal access to opportunities.

What advice do you have for other women aspiring to be in leadership positions?

Take risks, follow your dreams, and embrace what the universe opens up to you because your journey could go far beyond what you imagined when you started.

I co-founded WEConnect International at my dining table, and now we are working with more than 100 corporations with more than $1 trillion in annual purchasing power.

Why is WEConnect International important to corporations?

Corporations created WEConnect International as a global peer network committed to doing more business with women suppliers because it’s good for their bottom lines. We give corporations easy access to competitive women-owned business of all sizes, in all sectors, across all major markets to help ensure they are doing business with the world’s best suppliers.

Where do you see WEConnect International in the next 5 years?

By 2025, WEConnect International wants 200,000 women suppliers in our network, 400 buyers sourcing inclusively, 50 countries served on the ground and 150 countries served virtually and corporate and government spend with women-owned businesses to move beyond 1 percent. It’s a heavy lift, but we can do it, especially as more and more people find out.

A Remote Manager’s Guide to Successful Teams

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Remote team working from home in a video conference and manager communicates via video call communication with her team using laptop

Being away from your employees can create its own challenges when you work remotely. It can be difficult to gauge how employees are doing and what they are getting accomplished, which can cause a tremendous amount of stress.

Ryan Malone, the founder of Smartbug Media, has run his company 100% remotely since he opened in 2008. To be successful as on off-site manager, Malone offers his top four tips.

1) Adjust Work Hours

Working remotely has different challenges on different work styles, ways of efficiency, and in decreasing commute time. Working a 9-to-5 work day may work best for you but may not be the best way for your employees. Assess the needs of the company with how your employees work best to find the work hours that would be the best for them and the company.

2) Keep Your Documents Updated

Keeping track of your business’ various tasks and who is completing them can get confusing. Implement a system that will track the status of ongoing projects and tasks. This way, employees can easily locate what step of the task is being completed and what they need to implement for the next step.

3) Connect and Bond

Getting to know your co-workers is important for work morale, teamwork, and finding ways to best communicate. Talking about work is important, but it doesn’t have to be the only conversation that you ever have. Create a space where your employees can have a “water cooler” of sorts. Creating chatrooms and hosting virtual non-work-related events for your employees to attend will aid in strengthening these relationships with your co-workers.

4) Exercise

Exercise is not only important for your physical health but also for your mental health. Ryan Malone uses exercise as a means of health and to relieve stress. It can be difficult to directly gauge where your company is at from the comfort of your own home, but you need to be able to stay calm and think clearly to proceed. Exercising is a great way to keep your mind sharp and your anxiety levels down.

How One Latina Entrepreneur Founded An Award-Winning, Female-Led PR Company

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Natalie Boden the founder and President of BODEN is setting on her desk in her home office

She dreamed of becoming a librarian. As a child, Natalie Boden would spend hours organizing books on her shelves. She even developed her own card catalog filing system. The Honduran native today is the founder and President of BODEN, a public relations and social media agency which counts McDonald’s, Target and UnitedHealthcare among its clients.

The bibliophile little girl has grown up to become quite the successful woman. PRWeek inducted her into the 2020 “Hall of Femme” class earlier this year. She’s on the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation committee and serves on the Board of Directors for CMC, the Culture Marketing Council.

Boden even now maintains a collection of books, including sections for business, female empowerment and children’s literature. Calling her library “my pride and joy,” she admits to still keeping a card catalog file.

In this interview, the Miami-based business leader talks about her path to entrepreneurship, the importance of “leading with culture” to reach the U.S. Hispanic marketplace and what her firm is doing to help brands during the COVID-19 crisis.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

The part of you that wanted to be a librariando you see her dreams in your business work today?

The love of books, of stories, of words that draw you in, are certainly part of what we do today at BODEN. We use words to sell, which I think is the perfect blend of what I loved as a child—storytelling and selling. Other than a librarian, I always knew I’d be an entrepreneur. I had great examples in my parents and my grandmother. That’s what drove me to set up lemonade stands when I was seven and sell cakes at my parents’ store. No matter what I would have done in life—even as a librarian—I would’ve figured out a way to generate revenue from it. It’s in my blood.

How did you start your firm? 

It started organically, on my own, a client or two. My first client was The Miami Parking Authority, $1,000 per month. I was subcontracted by a larger agency. I then got our first set of small retainer clients and hired my first employee. We’ve grown organically since then. When we won our first pieces of Fortune 500 business, Target and then McDonald’s, we were in a 900-square-foot office. Several years later, we won the Hispanic Public Relations Association’s “PR Agency of the Year” and then PR News’ “Best Places to Work” in 2018. This year, we’ve won a PRWeek “Hall of Femme” Award, as well as signing on DishLATINO and L’Oréal’s Dermablend. It hasn’t been without its ups and downs, but I’m certainly proud to be where we are today.

As an independent PR company, what’s the competitive advantage that helped you grow from a team of three during the last financial crisis to 25?

We use our independence to our advantage. Our clients often say we are the perfect blend of the standards of a global agency, with the creativity and speed of a boutique agency.

What do we do well? We understand how to generate trust. You cannot buy your way to trust, you must earn it. Many brands, when thinking multicultural or Hispanic, immediately turn to paid media and advertising. And whereas that is extremely important, our approach is an earned media-first approach. All our initiatives, whether they be sales-driven or purpose-driven, generate earned media and build brand advocacy. We are trusted by the press, by influencers, by organizations, by community leaders. That gives us an edge.

Your company’s stated mission is “to help global brands lead with culture.” What does “lead with culture” mean? 

There’s a famous quote by author Shaun Hicks: “Only someone wishing to disappear would ever strive to fit in.” When it comes to Hispanic, many brands want to develop a Spanish language ad, hire a Hispanic celebrity, sponsor a soccer tournament, or develop a recipe with a “Hispanic” ingredient. Suddenly trying to fit in and be safe is the strategy.

Leading with Culture is about being bold, being first out the gate with an insight that is true and authentic and inspiring. And to lead, and to be bold, you have to ask yourself, “What is the legacy you want to leave with this segment? What is the long-term purpose-driven strategy?” Leave one-off Hispanic Heritage celebrations to the followers.

What does diversity and inclusion mean for you on a granular level?

D&I is not about checking the box. It’s a question of what an organization believes in, and the impact it has on its stakeholders: employees, consumers, communities and suppliers.

As marketers and communicators helping support some of the leading brands in the world, we have the ability to continue to invest in the sectors of society that are the most vulnerable, that are in need of our help. It’s not a creative imperative. It’s a moral imperative and a business imperative, because by investing in these groups we will not only continue to prosper as businesses but also as a society and a country.

Does your emphasis on diversity have to do with your past? 

There is no doubt that my upbringing has to do with what I do today. Growing up with an English father and a Honduran mother of Palestinian descent made our household incredibly multicultural. I didn’t really know it at the time, but I realize it now.

My father instilled that love of culture in all of us. I was reading The Economist by the time I was 12. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and we were there the following year. Whether it was in my African American Literature or European Politics class, I knew I was somehow going to do something that helped others understand the importance of culture. What that was, I didn’t know.

What’s the worst day of your career? 

A few weeks ago—when all came to a grinding halt. The lockdown began as a result of COVID-19, and, as business leaders, we were faced with an avalanche of challenges. That first week I had to make tough decisions, plan for all contingencies, make sure our employees were safe, ensure continued excellence service to our clients, while turning outwards and asking ourselves how we could support our Hispanic community—all while ensuring my own family was safe.

The thought of having to lay off personnel, furlough or cut salaries was dreadful. I ended that first week with my head buried in my hands, thinking of all that could happen. Thankfully, we’ve been able to ensure that no furloughs, layoffs or cuts have had to be done, except to my salary.

I can’t think of any other time in history as bleak as this one—and I lived through the dot-com crash, 9/11, and the 2008 recession. And much like a tsunami, it came in one big blow.

But as they say, “Anyone can lead when the plan is working. The best lead when the plan falls apart.”

What’s the best day in your career? 

For Boss’s Day last year, I received a gift from the team at BODEN—a pair of Reebok shoes that read “It’s a Man’s World” but with the words crossed out. It was great to realize how well our team knows me. I love sneakers and I’m a staunch feminist. There were also several balloons with a personal message from each person on it. As leaders we strive to be the best we can be for the business, our clients, our employees, our communities, our families—and we know we don’t always get it right. In that moment I thought, “I must be doing something right.”

Talk about the launch of BODEN’s Covid-19 Hispanic Public Relations Resource. 

It’s important to support our Hispanic community, and today they need the help of both the private and public sector more than ever before. So, we did what we do best and built a PR resource. We brought our team, friends in the media and Hispanic celebrities together to launch the COVID-19 Hispanic Public Relations Resource. This resource provides insights from the top Hispanic journalists, influencers and experts from around the country. It also includes a downloadable list of stakeholders including media companies, celebrities, organizations and social media influencers.

It will help brands broaden their message of health and wellness to the right stakeholders, helping them make a positive impact across the Hispanic community. The Hispanic community constitutes an economic, social and political force in the U.S. Nevertheless, it faces a great threat from the COVID-19 crisis as a result of various socio-economic factors, including lack of health insurance and lack of trust in the healthcare system. This resource is our way of giving brands insights to the most important voices in our community right now, as well as ways brands could help support this 50+ million Hispanic segment.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Diversity Organizations: Seize This Moment

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Woman looking at computer while working remotely from home office

By Jennifer Vasquez

As the new normal of working from home blurs the line between work and life, professional organizations focused on diversity have the opportunity to drive change on creating cultures of equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Over the past few weeks, the way we live, and work has been shaken up, giving us a new normal that none of us have ever seen or experienced before.

One of the many lessons the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us is how business leaders respond in a crisis. The employers who are rising to the occasion are finding a way to shift workplace culture to meet these dramatic changes. It is a crash course in equity, inclusion, and belonging, as we are no longer segmenting ourselves from what we bring to work. We simply can’t. Work-life balance has now become work-life integration.

As a result of these necessary adaptations, we see that change in major corporations is actually doable. Always an important resource, the role of professional organizations/associations that are focused on diversity now have an even higher imperative as companies have the opportunity to reflect on where they have missed the mark and quickly shift to improve efforts for equity, inclusion, and belonging. Industries may now, finally, be ready to listen.

For years, all sectors have been fixated on how to solve the lack of diversity and inclusion influenced by social movements around race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity. Many have created new leadership positions, such as chief diversity officer, to spearhead change. More recently, “diversity” has evolved to encompass equity and belonging.  Companies continue to face harsh criticism from current, past, and potential employees, as well as consumers and the general public as awareness and accountability standards begin to rise. In an effort to prove commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), many industries have taken it upon themselves to create diversity reports and communicate their efforts to the public.

Research on diversity and inclusion has been conducted for over twenty years from academic experts and consulting firms such as McKinsey & Company—most notably its Diversity Matters report. These studies have helped position the importance of DEI beyond just a compliance issue, indicating that DEI is a social, moral, and business imperative. However, these studies miss an integral group influencing the field: the professional organizations/associations within the social sector that are focused on diversity.

Very little collective research has provided data on what diversity organizations do, how many exist, and what they have accomplished. There are many diversity organizations founded in the era of the Civil Rights movement that have been bringing communities together with a grassroots spirit for nearly fifty years. Despite these efforts, the “needle” has not moved much on DEI. Too often the call to action from diversity organizations seems to register just as white noise.

The onus for this stagnancy falls on both employers and diversity organizations. Simply put, many diversity organizations have missed the mark. They often exist in a vacuum without significant conversation and connection to the institutions of power that hold the key to actually driving change. Moreover, many diversity organizations can actually be counterproductive by reinforcing the stigma that you must look and act a certain way to fit into the box or fit to the existing culture of a company. The message to the communities they serve is that you must assimilate to get a job. Essentially, they are grooming the communities they serve to fit into a broken system instead of disrupting a system that is built on inequities across all sectors and industries.

The role of diversity organizations is critical now more than ever in light of our new normal.  They can no longer just serve as a hiring funnel. Self-acceptance, self-advocacy, and cultural awareness programs in diversity organizations can serve as a model for best practices for the sectors they partner with for both recruitment and retention. Diversity organizations that integrate cultural awareness and the importance of bringing one’s whole self to these disciplines and to the workforce have more of an impact in removing barriers and biases.

Large companies particularly need to pay attention to excelling diversity organizations to inform them of ways that they can build true DEI programs.  Leaders at these companies need to engage diversity organizations as thought partners in building a true culture of inclusion beyond the ERG, which while important, exist in a vacuum. In order to accomplish sustainable change, you have to transform the way that all sectors embrace diversity and build inclusive environments as part of their DNA.

Diversity organizations are at a crossroads. They can either enforce the status quo of a broken system or expand to serve as a thought leader with best practices, offering a framework of change that will deepen their influence with institutions and leaders of power. During this time of uncertainty, the root causes of inequitable practices, and the importance of inclusivity and belonging are more critical to address.

*Originally featured on Hispanic Executive

Jennifer Vasquez is a multifaceted, bilingual executive, cultivating partnerships with academia, government, and industry and advising leaders on the DEI strategies and cultural change.  She has more than thirteen years of hands-on experience in strategic planning, DEI, change management, organizational agility, partnership development, revenue generation, project management, marketing communications, and corporate social responsibility.

Vasquez holds dual bachelors and dual master’s degrees in international development and Latin American and Caribbean studies and an MBA.   She has been appointed to various commissions by the mayors of Miami, Washington, DC, and for the last 2 years, appointed by Mayor Garcetti for the City of Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @jennifervasquez.

COVID-19 has been harder on women business owners. These 11 resources can help

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Powerful Latin businesswoman leader standing with arm crossed in city office building background

For years female entrepreneurs have fought for their seat at the table, collectively inching from secretary desks to C-suites. In 2019, American Express reported that majority women-owned businesses made up 42% of all businesses, employing 9.4 million workers—up from just 4% of businesses and 230,000 workers in the 1970s.

And for years small businesses have been the engine fueling female entrepreneurs’ rise, as 99.9% of women-owned businesses employ fewer than 500 staffers.

Now the coronavirus pandemic threatens to undo much of that progress in a matter of months.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the economy, a recent poll from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that 24% of small businesses are less than two months away from shuttering permanently, and 11% are less than one month away. And according to American Express, many women-owned businesses work within industries most vulnerable to COVID-19 devastation. Roughly 22% of all women-owned businesses are hair salons, nail salons, and pet groomers, and women also own 16% of the hospitality and food service sector.

These women are in need of emergency funding. But the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which offers $349 billion in loans to small businesses, was running on empty as of yesterday—and if the program sputters, female entrepreneurs, who have historically faced difficulties securing capital, will be left with even fewer options.

“Women tend to have less of a track record with banks,” Laurie Fabiano, president of the Tory Burch Foundation, explains, “because women tend to borrow less than men. Most of them don’t have a banker on speed dial.”

The Tory Burch Foundation is one of many organizations that have mobilized to support female entrepreneurs during the pandemic, in ways ranging from resource gathering to professional mentorship to COVID-19-specific funding.

If you need help, start here:

Tory Burch Foundation

The foundation’s website has transformed into a resource hub for women-led small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, spanning guides on applying for loans to managing cash flow to handling childcare during the pandemic.

“Navigating the information online is a labyrinth of a job” that many business owners don’t have bandwidth for, Fabiano says, so her staff spent weeks scouring the internet for the top resources, pulling together hundreds of links and also creating content. “We can help people know what to do,” she says.

The foundation is also hosting a webinar on stimulus funding.

Bumble Community Grant

The female-friendly app is offering 150 grants of up to $5,000 to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. To apply, log on to the app and use any mode to match with the Bumble Community Grants profile.

COVID-19 Business For All Emergency Grant

Hello Alice, a machine learning company founded as a women’s virtual accelerator, is offering immediate $10,000 grants to small businesses, supplied by Silicon Valley Bank, the eBay Foundation, and other partners.

IFW COVID-19 Relief Fund

IFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform, is giving micro-grants to women-run businesses, issued on a rolling basis. “Start a campaign” to be considered.

Facebook Small Business Grants Program

Of the $100 million fund, $40 million in grants is set for 10,000 U.S.-based small businesses. And of those, Facebook said it’s “prioritizing 50% of grants to eligible minority, women and veteran-owned businesses.”

Applications open by location, with an upcoming round in New York and Seattle on April 18. Check the website to see when your location opens.

Red Backpack Fund

Backed by billionaire Spanx founder Sara Blakely, whose “lucky” college book bag inspired its name, the $5 million fund is donating $5,000 grants to 1,000 female entrepreneurs. The fund is accepting applications in waves starting on May 4, June 1, July 6, and August 3. Sign up to be notified of these dates.

Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund

Verizon joined with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to offer up to $5 million in grants of up to $10,000, “especially entrepreneurs of color, women-owned businesses and other enterprises that don’t have access to flexible, affordable capital.”

Its next round of applications starts mid-April. Register to stay updated.

SheaMoisture Community Commerce Fund

The beauty brand announced a $1 million campaign to support minority business owners. While the fund’s grant applications appear closed, women of color entrepreneurs can still enroll in an e-learning lab to “gain education, access to resources, mentorship, and advice on how to prepare for the economic downturn” from Sundial Brands, Unilever, and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

AssistHer Emergency Relief Grant

Texas Woman’s University is offering $10,000 grants to women-run businesses in Texas. The funds are intended for “technology upgrades or other items needed to change or adapt your business model,” but should not be used for “payment of sales tax and payroll, advertising, purchase of food for consumption, penalties and fees, and charitable donations.”

Anonymous Was A Woman Emergency Relief Grant

Anonymous Was A Woman and the New York Foundation for the Arts are offering $250,000 in grants of up to $2,500 apiece, to women-identifying visual artists over the age of 40.

Visa Foundation

The Visa Foundation pledged $200 million over five years, to be distributed in $60 million grants to NGOs that support small and micro businesses worldwide, with a focus on women’s empowerment.

Continue on Fast Company to read the complete article.

Best Practices On Running Virtual Teams From Founder Of Company With 1,000 Remote Employees

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There’s never been a time in our life when businesses couldn’t gather in their buildings and offices for work. While we’re finding ways to work virtually, leaders are still looking to understand how to run their businesses without the ability to meet in person. As we navigate this new norm, I want to help you by providing some tips on how to run your teams and businesses remotely.

I recently interviewed my friend Bryan Miles, Chairman & Co-Founder of BELAY – a leading virtual services company. While this time of operating remotely is new for many, it is business as usual for Bryan and his team of nearly 100 employees and 1,000+ virtual contractors who have been operating virtually for 10+ years.

Bryan shared with me how his company successfully operates remotely by offering tips on the best platforms and technology to use, adapting your leadership style, how to maintain collaboration and productivity, and how to offer grace and trust in a virtual environment.

Here are the 8 components of successful remote working I learned from Bryan:

1 – Have the Right Video Conferencing Tools

Bryan mentioned that businesses operating virtually must have trustworthy video conferencing tools. While there are many options on the market, such as Skype and Google Hangout, Zoom has taken the lead as the preferred system. Ensuring you have a dependable way to communicate when working remotely is the best way to maintain collaboration, trust, and productivity.

Tip: Use these video conferencing tools to continue or instate morning check-ins with your team or company. This will help you all feel more connected and get a closer look into each other’s personal lives, which will build strong bonds of trust between team members.

2 – Ensure You Have Solid Equipment

To maintain daily business operations while remote, it’s crucial to have a good computer, high-speed internet connection, a webcam, a good microphone, and any other necessities required to do your job and communicate with your boss and co-workers. This seems like a no-brainer, but these are often things we don’t think about until a remote situation arises. It’s important to make sure you have access to these necessities at all times.

3 – Maintain Your Routine

When you work from home, it’s easy to forget your normal routine. But the best way to show up for work, ready and prepared is to continue the same routine you would do on any working day. Whether that’s a morning quiet time, going on a walk before work, exercising at lunch, or prayer breaks throughout the day, be sure to keep that going. It’s also helpful to have a designated workspace. Ensuring you can work without the distraction of household responsibilities or family members will help your productivity throughout the day.

4 – Create Company-wide Guidelines

You don’t want to create a company policy just for the sake of having guidelines, but setting expectations in a remote environment helps people know where boundaries are and sets them up for success. It’s good for leadership to set expectations about when people should be online or how to best communicate under these unique circumstances.

Tip: One expectation that will help employees stay focused is to hold calls with mandatory video and audio access. Asking your team to share their workspace on video will ensure they’re actually attending the meeting, paying attention, and in a focused-environment.

5 – Ask Your Boss for Clear Expectations

Every boss is facing hard decisions right now, so have grace with your boss and do everything you can to support them. They will be adapting how they lead in this unprecedented time, so have understanding and patience as they navigate. Make sure to maintain open communication as you navigate this space together.

6 – Over-encourage Feedback and Communication

On Bryan’s team at BELAY, they use a “fist to five” system. When the team needs a quick read on how people are feeling about a topic, they ask participants to use their hand to put up a fist (a 0 on the comfort scale), or five fingers (a full-fledged approval) to show their acceptance. If most people are a five, you know things are going pretty well. Easy forms of feedback like this will help monitor morale even during periods of distance.

7 – Extend an Overabundance of Grace

This applies to your bosses, co-workers, and vendors. When remote, you don’t have body language to help communication, you can’t ask your office-mate for a quick favor, and it probably takes some adapting to work as efficiently as you were in your office. Giving people the benefit of the doubt in these situations will build strong bonds that will transcend this temporary time.

8 – Remember – Culture is Not an Office, it’s a Shared Vision

Bryan reminds us as business owners that it’s not your pool table in the office that creates your exceptional culture, it’s how you trust and treat your employees. While it’s easy for leaders to micromanage in times of uncertainty, try to allow your team space to prove their competence and drive. Give them the freedom to work creatively toward a united goal and vision, rather than creating a list of tasks for them to complete.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

7 Ways To Make Your Online Virtual Conference Successful

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The COVID-19 global pandemic has upended the conference and events industry. While some events have been canceled or postponed, others are being moved to an online, virtual setup in order to safeguard the health of attendees and presenters.

Virtual conference events aren’t new (indeed, some very large ones are held each year). However, they are unfamiliar to many meeting planners, and it’s important to understand that the keys to a successful virtual conference event are a bit different than those for a traditional live event. Keynote speakers need to recognize this, as well, since keynote programs that work well onstage might not translate well to an online format.

As a keynote speaker who’s headlined both live and virtual conference events for over a decade, here are 7 tips I’ve learned about how to make digital events successful, from large online gatherings to small eLearning sessions:

1. Use video if at all possible.

Even when delivered by the best speakers, it can be difficult to hold a virtual audience’s attention with a slide-based presentation, alone. Most webinar platforms support videoconferencing, and virtual conference speakers should absolutely make use of that capability. When your audience can see the speaker at a virtual event, it makes for a more engaging, more personalized attendee experience. If video is not available, then consider shortening the speaker sessions from a standard one-hour keynote to something more abbreviated, in an effort to maintain audience engagement throughout the entire presentation.

2. Carefully consider the best available audio option.

One surefire way to disengage a virtual audience is to subject them to poor audio quality. If they’re unable to hear the speakers clearly, they’ll tune them out (if not actually disconnect from the live feed). In contrast to a live event, with carefully controlled, professional A/V equipment – audio quality for a virtual session can be negatively impacted by a wide variety of factors: the quality of the speaker’s microphone, the platform used to capture the audio (landline phone, cell phone or VOIP), and network quality/connectivity (for cell and VOIP audio). The most reliable, high quality alternative is a landline phone – encourage your speakers to use that device, if at all possible. If a landline isn’t available, the second-best option will vary depending on the speaker’s equipment setup and connectivity. Test out those different options well before the event, and select the one that provides the best listening experience for the audience.

3. Make sure your speakers have customized their presentations for a virtual audience.

A speech that works well in a live venue may not translate perfectly to a virtual one. Speakers may not at first realize it, but gestures and other visual cues that they (sometimes unknowingly) use during a live speech won’t work in the virtual event. For this reason, speakers skilled in virtual events will utilize special materials for that delivery medium, such as a modified slide deck which helps convey information or emotion that wouldn’t otherwise be communicated effectively across a digital medium.

4. Keep the session interactive.

Depending on the size of the audience, the degree to which the virtual session can be made interactive will vary. Even large virtual conferences, however, can be made more interactive simply by using the audience polling features which are available in many online event platforms. Explain to the audience how to submit questions via the platform, and encourage them to do so, be it during a designated Q&A period at the end of the session, or during the program. Make sure speakers keep an eye on questions as they are submitted, so they can address some of them on the fly during their prepared remarks.

5. Do a comprehensive A/V check – and take it seriously.

Most speakers can do A/V checks at live events in their sleep, as it’s an exercise with which they are exceedingly familiar. That’s not the case with virtual events. Even if a speaker has done virtual sessions in the past, there’s no guarantee their next virtual event will use the same technology platform as their last. Great speakers leave nothing to chance when preparing for an event, and that approach is especially important with virtual sessions. Check everything in advance – audio/video quality, screen sharing, host-to-speaker private messaging, audience Q&A – and do it all with the same equipment and internet connection that the speaker will be using on event day.

6. Plan for technical issues.

Live events are conducted in well-controlled environments, where skilled A/V technicians are overseeing the entire endeavor. That’s not the case in a virtual conference event, where there are a host of potential breakpoints (network connectivity among them) that nobody has to even think about when putting on an in-person meeting. Develop contingency plans for whatever technical issues might crop up during the session. For example, if speakers are using slides, have them send their presentations to the event host in advance – so if the speaker loses connectivity, the host can at least step in and advance the slides for them.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.