(BPT) - Sponsored by Office Depot
More women than ever before are using their energy, passion and insights to create new business ventures. What they've learned along the way can provide valuable lessons for anyone dreaming of owning their own business or even those who are farther along on their entrepreneurial journeys.
For more than 35 years, Office Depot has offered innovative solutions and support to help business owners achieve success. In 2020, the company became the premier and founding sponsor of Selfmade, Brit + Co’s interactive virtual community and membership program geared towards connecting women with tools, resources, community and coaching to help them start, manage, and grow their own businesses. Through this collaboration, Office Depot has provided hundreds of female entrepreneurs with the opportunity to participate in the program for free via Office Depot OfficeMax-funded scholarships.
In honor of small business week, here are four tips from some of the dynamic small business owners who took part in the Selfmade program. For more stories, studies and strategies for success, visit Office Depot's content hub, The Stepping Stone.
1. Home in on the big idea
How does someone know their business idea is good? Most importantly, it should address a problem that needs solving. That's what led Domeanic Carter-Banks to her great idea. Waiting in a car dealership playroom with her three-year-old, who was diagnosed with non-verbal autism, she saw her daughter become frustrated and irritable.
"There were no appropriate sensory toys to hold her focus and attention," said Carter-Banks. "I wished there was something I could leave behind to help other autistic children and their parents."
Carter-Banks applied for an Office Depot OfficeMax scholarship to Selfmade to get feedback from others and hone in on her idea for a sensory toy company. After participating in live workshops with business coaches, one-on-one mentoring and group chats with other entrepreneurs like her, she started Masterpiece Kids Box, a curated subscription box for children with autism that encourages sensory and discovery play.
"My advice to busy moms with an idea is to do what you can in small leaps if you can't make the big one yet," said Carter-Banks.
2. Build a network and positive mindset
To help prepare for whatever comes next, it helps to learn from others who are on similar paths. "Being an entrepreneur can be a super lonely journey, so having other people there, especially other people who can understand the highs and the lows, is really helpful," said Karly Hiser of Crann Organic, which sells 100% GOTS certified organic cotton kids' clothes for the 9.6 million American kids who suffer from eczema, like Hiser's son.
And every entrepreneur can feel a bit of doubt at some point, but letting it overcome them in a way that prevents them from moving forward can hinder their success. "It's very easy to let your feelings and negative emotions get in the way," said Hiser. "Starting off your day with a little bit of meditation, breathing, yoga, whatever it is, really helps to calm your nervous system so that you can approach your day with a really positive attitude."
3. Stay organized to avoid burnout
Disorganization in the workplace can have many negative impacts like leading to lower-quality work, missed deadlines, wasted time on unproductive tasks and even burnout. Kinsey Egan-McGee is the founder of Claim Your Roots, a virtual hair care platform for women with textured hair, and she prioritizes organization to help stay productive.
"Whether it's inside or outside of the business, I try to weigh the importance, immediacy, and level of detail something should be dealt with, so I don't burn out. I have pretty extensive to-do lists that I have broken down by months and weeks. I've loved crossing things off my agenda since elementary school, but I also realized as an adult that it’s great to have a list of completed items that you can reference. You just have to be honest with yourself, whether a task has actually been completed or not," McGee said.
"I make sure to record meetings ... so I can be present and not fixated on taking notes. I also always write down questions/talking points to prepare for a meeting with someone," said McGee.
4. Nurture creativity when the going gets tough
Being a business owner can be overwhelming. How can an entrepreneur feed the creative passion that inspired their dream? Stay open to new ideas — especially when external circumstances throw curve balls. Jenifer Shwartz owned a wholesale bakery when the pandemic hit. After losing sales from events, catering and restaurants, she had to think creatively and pivot fast.
"I thought, let's start making Japanese cheesecake," Shwartz recalled. She sold through food delivery services, then fell ill. She had to pause her business, so she freeze-dried the cake. "When I came back to work, I opened a bag of freeze-dried cheesecake, it literally had the same flavor as the fresh-baked cheesecake."
Her next step was learning how to sell packaged products in stores for her new business, Freezcake. That’s when she saw an opportunity to apply for an Office Depot OfficeMax scholarship to Selfmade. Shwartz also turned to Office Depot for a new printer and laminator machine to help her run her business more smoothly.
Shwartz finds time to nurture her creativity every day. "I always thought that, as a pastry chef, I have to constantly be making new things," said Shwartz. "But there's so much creativity in the decision making and different parts of running a business."
And as a mother of five, she finds ways to be creative at home with her kids as well. "We have lots of coloring, painting, clay. It's a good way for me to get my creative juices out. I was an artist before I was a pastry chef. Now instead of clay, my medium is flour, sugar and butter!"
Small business giveaway — Lessons in Success
The path to success can get a little bumpy, but the lessons learned along the way can help entrepreneurs take the biggest steps forward. Small business owners can share some of the biggest lessons they've learned as a business owner and enter the Office Depot Lessons in Success Small Business Giveaway for a chance to win a $250 Office Depot OfficeMax card to help them achieve their business goals. Winners will be selected at random on or about 5/28/23. Complete the form to enter online at officedepot.com/giveaways.
Small business owners can find innovative products and solutions to help them be successful online at officedepot.com and at Office Depot and OfficeMax stores. They can also take advantage of exclusive benefits and everyday savings on products like furniture, paper and cleaning supplies through the Office Depot® OfficeMax® Business Select program. Now through June 3, a first-year Business Select membership is just $49.