Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Women and Business…

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"Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I have always loved this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt and I try to abide by it each day.  I’ve been to numerous conferences lately and there is much continued discussion about women in business and women entrepreneurs.  Most successful women have had to take on the things that have been challenging and often scary. Did you know that of the estimated 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States generate more than $1.4 trillion and employ 7.9 million?  Surprising isn’t it? 

According to the 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, women across the country are launching 1,288 new businesses each day and women-owned businesses account for 30% of all enterprises.  The report that was commissioned by American Express was recently released in March of this year.  What is intriguing to me however, is that while there is unbelievable growth in women owned business, there have been numerous pioneers from the early 19th and 20 centuries who changed history in their own way.  Two such women while coming from totally different worlds enjoyed the success of their labor and in turn built a legacy…  

Madame Clicquot born Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1777 came from wealth and and privilege.  Married at 21 and widowed six years later, her husband left her in charge of the entire company…champagne production.  She became the first woman to run a champagne house, invent the “riddling table” (the table holds bottles at a 45 degree angle during fermentation) and the first to blend white with red wines. Yes, she invented the rose in 1818!  A savvy businesswoman, Madame Clicquot had unbelievable success in a man’s world. She created a champagne empire in spite of civil uprising and amid the chaos of the Napoleonic wars.  And, while in addition to the unrest there was economic depression and poor harvests, she still emerged as a prominent female leader in her industry that was strictly male dominated.  In spite of these challenges she went on to produce a product and a brand with international recognition.  In 1972, Veuve Clicquot established the international Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award in Madame Clicquot’s memory, to advocate for enterprising female talent.

You may have heard of Annie Malone.  Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone is America’s first African American female millionaire thanks to her hair care empire in the 1900s. Born in 1869, Annie’s parents were runaway slaves and she grew up on a farm in Illinois.  She joined her love of chemistry with her love of hair care to manufacture oils and products to protect, strengthen and straighten hair. Annie sold her product door to door in little bottles.  By 1903 she expanded her business and by 1904 opened her first shop in St. Louis.  By 1914 her company was worth more than a million dollars which included a factory and beauty college that employed 200 people.  It’s reported that her franchises created nearly 75,000 jobs for women in the United States and abroad. 

While known for her wealth and spirited ways, she was also well known for living modestly and giving generously to numerous organizations including the Howard University College of Medicine, the YMCA and the St. Louis Colored Orphans’ Home, where Malone served as President of the Board of Directors from 1919 to 1943. In tribute to her loyalty and dedication to the Home’s goals, it was renamed in her honor in 1946 as the Annie Malone Children’s Home.

It’s just a bit of history, but I’ve taken a chapter from their life story and try to apply it to my own professional life.  I have learned, however, the most from my close mentor Carmen Jacob.  Carmen has taught me to be fearless, to not be afraid to ask for business, to be open-minded and to take risks.  She is great role model to women in business and a great representation of what an immigrant entrepreneur can accomplish in the United States.  

For Carmen and the many other mentors (women and men ) in my life…I am truly thankful for each one, this Thanksgiving season.

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