While many solopreneurs build multi-million dollar businesses, not every solopreneur sets out with the intention of remaining solo for the duration of their years in business.
In October of 2002, Susan Rice launched Cavanagh Services Group, Inc in the back room of her home with one contract in hand and two loyal dogs at her side. Today, her company consists of over 50 employees, four national offices and many multi-million dollar contracts with Fortune 500 companies, totaling over $75 million. Although Rice made the astounding leap beyond the one million dollar mark in just over a year, she craved support to reach the next levels. And in 2010, Sue was one of only eleven winners in an impressive competition and instantly knew that she was no longer alone.
Ernst & Young's Entrepreneurial Winning Women competition changed Sue's life forever . 'They mount you on the horse, give you the reins, tell you to win the Triple Crown and then help you do it!'
'Women are afraid to ask for help and we aren't always taken seriously when we walk into a bank and ask for a loan,' Rice says. 'We really have to prove ourselves – this program helps us get to the table, renews our confidence and teaches us how to refine our natural skills of negotiating, budgeting, marketing and multi-tasking. And it gives us access to world renowned thought-leaders along with access to the necessary capital to scale our businesses!'
Rice was surprised at how well she could relate to these thought-leaders as she witnessed a number of them reveal surprising confessions at the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum, which competition winners have the privilege of attending each year. 'When I heard Bill Ford say that he makes mistakes every day, and Sir Richard Branson remind us that, as entrepreneurs we must take risks and live day-to-day, I could relate to them immediately,' she says. 'To listen to these leaders who have taken risks AND asked for help along the way taught me that I could be bigger than I was.'
Maria Pinelli, Americas Director, Strategic Growth Markets, at Ernst & Young says,
'Women entrepreneurs are clearly a powerful economic force. They own or operate nearly 40% of all private businesses in the US and are responsible for 16% of US jobs – employing 23 million people. However, women-owned businesses do not typically reach the scale of businesses run by men, so we created the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women program to supercharge the way women think about accelerating the growth of their businesses. The program is designed to empower women to think bigger and more strategically by exposing them to what's possible when they have the same access to capital, mentorship and networks as men.'
Lisa Bair, founder and owner of The Hobart Group couldn't agree more.
'This program has given me exposure to some of the highest profile entrepreneurs in the world,' Lisa says. 'It continues to put me in front of self-made multi-million and billionaires who offer advice based on what they did right, as well as what they did wrong. These people, and this program, challenge you on the way you think about business and pushes us all to grow. I had no idea how it would change my world!' Quite an endorsement from a woman who has taken her company well into the millions.
When I asked Lisa about some of the most significant changes that have occurred in her life and business since entering the program, she mirrored Rice's observation of the female mindset. 'Women can be very limited in the way we think about our corporate growth objectives and being around these entrepreneurs motivates us to push ourselves to reach higher.' I now have very aggressive growth goals,' Lisa says. 'This program gives you access to enormous capital. I don't have any limits in terms of what I can create now! I have a long-term vision for The Hobart Group that will be highly unique in what I can offer to pharmaceutical clients.'
One of Bair's greatest realizations while going through this program was that women don't know how to access capital. 'We don't even know how to make that first step - where to go, how to begin,' she recalls. But this program provides you the opportunity to attend a strategic growth forum that gave Lisa and others like her a whole different vision for their organizations. 'Not a week goes by that they don't plug me in to a major opportunity!' says Bair.
Rice and Bair were two of eleven winners in the Entrepreneurial Winning Women competition in 2010 and are ready to 'pass the crown' to the new class.
The competition is designed for women CEO's who have founded their companies within the last 10 years and have achieved at least $1 million in revenue in each of the past two fiscal years. Both Rice and Bair cited that the program is an evergreen program, once you are in, you are in for life; the rewards just keep coming!
The June 30 deadline for the fourth annual Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women competition is fast approaching. Is it time for you to believe in yourself enough to take the leap? Or, do you know of a deserving woman to nominate? The ten winners will be announced in October 2011; perhaps you will be amongst them!
For more information on eligibility, visit www.ey.com/us/entrepreneurialwinningwomen.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.