Interviews

Fighting the Patriarchy

Author Jessica Bennett Published September 26, 2017
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Jessica Bennett, author of Feminist Fight Club, and New York Times contributing writer, was recently in St. Louis for the Women’s Foundation’s annual Making a Difference event. We were so lucky to catch up with here and see what she has to say about sexism in the workplace and surrounding entrepreneurship.

Photo by Sharon Attia

 

How do you suggest that female entrepreneurs foster their own “female friendly” workplaces?
Hire women, mentor women, promote women. The reality is that working with men is a crucial part of being an entrepreneur — and, unfortunately, it is still largely men who hold the majority of the investor roles — but there are plenty of ways that women can support each other, create networks, and fight for their fair share of funding.

 

Obviously sexism towards women from men is a problem, but what about the “women on women” crime? How do we treat other women and how should we treat other women?

Rule No. 3 of the FFC is we fight patriarchy not each other. That means treating other women as allies not as enemies. The way I think about this is that part of the reason women often feel competitive with one another is because we’ve been taught — over the course of hundreds of years — that there are only a few seats, a few slots, a few token positions for us. And if there are only a few positions for us — if the “women” jobs at the top are still just a tiny slice of the pie — then how could you not feel competitive with other women? The most basic way to solve this problem is to get more women in power. It makes organizations stronger financially, it makes them more collaborative, and having more women in power actually helps women at all levels. So one thing I try to remember is that we are more powerful together. Or as I often say, the only thing more powerful than a self-confident woman is an army of them.

 

What hurdles do you think a female entrepreneur faces as opposed to a male entrepreneur? What do you think about a woman’s transition from being in the workforce to being an entrepreneur? Do you think she faces the same challenges, different challenges, new challenges?

Lack of funding, for one. Women entrepreneurs receive just 2.7 percent of all venture funding — and less if they are women of color. But there are also all sorts of other challenges: daily microaggressions; not being taken seriously in pitch meetings; imposter syndrome. Did you read that article recently about the women who pretended to have a male cofounder when they went in to pitch their business? It’s sad that still has to occur. But the important thing to remember is that we can HELP EACH OTHER. For every man who decides not to give a woman funding, there’s a woman who’s decided to start a business and is relying on new ways of investing, and then helping a woman who comes after her.

 

Do you find it easy to speak out about sexism in the workplace? Has this made you a target and how? How have you dealt with it?

I certainly find it easy now — but I didn’t always. I always say that one of the things I think I can add to this conversation is the ability to speak out. I have a platform, I am my own boss, and I have the privilege to be able to speak about a lot of these issues and not fear repercussion. Because of that, I consider it a duty to do so. Because the reality is that many — most women, in fact — face all sorts of barriers that make it difficult to speak up: fear of being penalized, fear of being fired, lack of power, lack of resources, lack of financial security to fall back on, or the double and sometimes triple bind of being a woman but also being a minority member of some other group. So what I would say to those who ARE able to speak up is do it. It’s your responsibility.

 

What are your top 3 tips for dealing with sexism at work?

1. Recognize that we’re all a little bit sexist. Yes, even women. Try to notice if women are being interrupted in meetings, and see if there’s a way you can jump in to help. Notice if you’re automatically feeling competitive with other women just because they’re women. Try to catch yourself if you begin to think that a female colleague is bossy or braggy — and ask if you’d think she were that way if she were a man.

2. Find yourself a Boast Bitch. She’s like your female hype man. When you don’t feel comfortable bragging about your accomplishments, or alerting your bosses or colleagues to the awesome thing you did, it’s her job to do this for you. Research shows this works — you don’t get dinged for coming off as conceited or braggy, and she looks awesome and selfless for helping out a sister.

3. Form your own Feminist Fight Club! Which basically is to say: find a posse. It doesn’t have to be all women, or all people you work with. But you will have an understanding with these people that you have each other’s backs.

 

Check out Jessica’s book, Feminist Fight Club at feministfightclub.com.

Being Brazen

Being Brazen with Whitney Jones

Author Whitney Jones Published September 19, 2017
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Whitney Jones has no regrets stepping out of her comfort zone and finally following her passion. Her advice for others who haven’t yet pursued their ideas? Just do it!

When I had my Brazen moment I was in business for 5 months. It was April 2016 and I was finishing senior year of my bachelor’s degree at Columbia College. As a business woman, I was still wondering if Liv & Kiss would work. I knew it was a good idea but wasn’t sure it would actually work.

 

Right before the Columbia College Student Entrepreneur Showcase, I was in the hallway with three beautiful models wearing Liv and Kiss. I was repeatedly going over my pitch to make sure I had it down. All of the other presenters were walking around looking nervous and scared. It felt like an eternity but they finally called my name, “Whitney Jones of Liv & Kiss.” I said my prayers, made sure my lipstick was perfect, and walked into the auditorium with my head held high. I introduced myself and I gave my pitch. The judges started asking questions and I answered them the best way I knew how. Once I was finished the audience was clapping and I received a standing ovation. I thought to myself, “OK Whitney, you did an amazing job! High five! THANK YOU GOD!”

 

I was so happy, I was so excited, and I felt like I could take over the world. It felt so right and felt like this is what I should be doing the rest of my life. I ended up winning third place and receiving funds for my business.

 

This moment was beyond scary because it was the first time that I went out of town, stood in a room full of strangers, and told them about my business. It felt scary at the time, but looking back I am excited to think about it because I was actually living my dream. I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to do this because I know have a great feeling of peace when I do anything pertaining to my business.

 

I’ve always said that when I turn 80 years old, I’m going to look back on my life and have no regrets. I have a list that I’m going to complete, and “being a business owner” is already checked off. I have a list that I’m going to complete and being a business owner is checked on my list.

 

Advice that I have for other women entrepreneurs is to try whatever it is you want to do! If it fails, so what!? At least you tried. If you’re young, do it now. Being young is no excuse. As you get older and maybe get married or have children, it might get harder to follow your dreams. If you’re wiser in age, still do it! Start your business or do that thing that you have been putting off for a long time. Who knows? What you want to build could take off and you would be working with your passion every day.

 

Have faith in yourself and don’t worry too much about having a support system. God didn’t give your dream to someone else; he gave it to you! Others might not understand your vision. You have to be your biggest supporter and remember: If you don’t believe in it, no one will believe in it!

 

Follow Whitney and Liv & Kiss on Facebook and Instagram @LivAndKiss and check out their website at livandkiss.com.

 

Whitney Jones is the owner of Liv & Kiss, a women’s apparel line that caters to women sizes 14 to 32. All of the garments that Liv & Kiss offers are designed, constructed and produced in St. Louis. Liv & Kiss makes sure that all of the garments they offer will transition with whatever is on the schedule. So if you have a meeting or parent teacher conferences after work, your Liv & Kiss garment will keep you comfortable and fashionable throughout the entire day.

Being Brazen

Being Brazen with Kelly O’Malley

Author Kelly O'Malley Published September 12, 2017
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When will YOU get that entrepreneurial itch? When it hits, will you take it and run with it? Will you decide to do things your way? Read about Kelly O’Malley’s Brazen Moment full of thrills, risks, successes, and bootstrapping below. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Veith

In 1995 I had been working in public relations for nearly 20 years – first at a small agency, then a Fortune 500, and finally at a global agency.  I was a leader in that organization working with the biggest brands in the world, but I started thinking about how I might run things differently, how I might I do things better. That’s a fairly cocky thing to say – it was and still is a highly regarded organization — but as a 20+ year pro, I had the confidence I could be successful on my own.

 

It was just months before my 40th birthday and my best friend sent me a Fortune article, “No Fear” about women and our aversion to risk. Women don’t take chances. At the time, I was working a lot and spending less and less time doing what I love: being creative and working with clients. I had that entrepreneurial itch – what if I created a business that would deliver high-quality work product and outstanding client results in a more nimble, creative and entrepreneurial organization?

 

I ended up launching my business from a temporary workspace in my sunroom by sending a persuasive email to my future business partner, Todd Hansen, asking him to join my new venture.

 

We’ve come a long way from that sunroom. The agency has flourished, with an enviable client roster of marquee brands, innovative start-ups, and worthy nonprofits. The long-tenured team drives the entrepreneurial spirit of the agency, innovative thinking, and business results for our clients across multiple touchpoints. The agency experienced a healthy 23% growth in 2016.

“It didn’t feel like work. I was building a brand and an organization exactly how I envisioned it. I took the best of the three organizations I had worked for and left the rest.”

 

2016 was a career high point with the acquisition of Alpaytac Public Relations, our second acquisition in two years. The integration of Alpaytac gave us expanded consumer and digital media offerings, a stronger team and broader client portfolio including housewares powerhouse SharkNinja.

 

When I launched my own firm, I definitely had a good mix of scared and excited emotions.  Scared? I was contributing financially to support our young family (kids 5, 3 and 2). I couldn’t take my time to be profitable. I needed revenue immediately.

 

Excited? Absolutely. It didn’t feel like work. I was building a brand and an organization exactly how I envisioned it. I took the best of the three organizations I had worked for and left the rest. It was thrilling to hire the team we wanted to hire. To create a workplace culture that would attract the best team. To bring on new clients in new industries and wow them. To win awards even when competing against the biggest agencies.

 

I have three pieces of advice for other women entrepreneurs who might be thinking about starting out on their own:

1. Know your craft. Soak up everything you can in your current position. Be intellectually curious.  Be the best practitioner. Figure out what you don’t know.

2. Do your research. Talk to others who are doing it. People are incredibly generous with their time and expertise when you ask. Ask about the best parts of entrepreneurial life. Ask about the downsides, the mistakes entrepreneurs have made. Go in with your eyes wide open.

3. Be ready. Be ready when opportunity knocks or be ready to put your plan in place when it doesn’t. Only you know when the time is right but getting ready can start today.

 

Follow Kelly and O’Malley Hansen Communications on Facebook and Twitter @omalleyhansen and visit their website at www.omalleyhansen.com.

 

O’Malley Hansen Communications is an award-winning integrated communications agency located in in St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. The agency provides consistent brand communications working across core disciplines of corporate reputation, marketing communications, social/digital communications, influencer outreach and employee engagement.  Current clients include Tyson, Hanesbrands, Barclaycard, Charter, Fortune Brands and SharkNinja. Through its membership in ECCO, an international network of public relations and marketing firms, additional clients are based around the globe with particular expertise in Latin America. 

 

Interviews

Building a Team to Help Drive Success

Author Krista Clement Published September 5, 2017
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When hiring, Krista Clement suggests finding team players who believe in the mission and establishing a company culture that fits with your employees. She believes if you do these things you will have the foundation for a team that wants to go above and beyond.

 

Are you a natural leader? What do you find easy about leading a team? What do you find difficult?

I think so 🙂 Leadership and Teams have been a constant in my life since a very young age. Leading teams is “easy” for me because I get so energized by my teammates. This becomes difficult especially at a small company when the team is moving in so many directions.

 

What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?

At Helper Helper the culture is fabulously competitive and full of laughter. We established this tone together by setting goals around what meetings and days together look like and feel like. We are thrilled to be making a positive impact in the community, making money, and having a fantastic time together. We all enjoy including play in our work so we wanted to make sure the culture of our company blended with our personalities and brand.

 

“At Helper Helper the culture is fabulously competitive and full of laughter. We established this tone together by setting goals around what meetings and days together look like and feel like.”

How do you find people to hire that truly care about the organization the way you do and how do you know you’re bringing on the right team member? (What’s your biggest hiring tip/secret?!)

The culture at Helper Helper is unique. Our team is dynamic so when we hire someone it’s important for the team to feel that his/her values align with what we’ve established. That’s probably my biggest hiring tip.

 

Throughout the last couple years Team has been a huge driver in our success so making sure people fit into our culture is important with our hiring process.

 

When you first started hiring employees, how did you delegate tasks, create a company structure, and make sure everything worked efficiently as you grew?

I’m still not sure I’ve conquered delegation. 🙂 But the folks I’ve been able to hire are incredible team players. They are able to see the scope of the business and take on different tasks and responsibilities. They believe in the mission so they want to go above and beyond what I “delegate” to make our clients happy and to bring in more business.

 

Do you have a business partner? How did you find them? How have they added to the success of your business?

I do have a business partners. They were all part of my life through some other experience and actually volunteered their time on Helper Helper before stepping in full time. I believe teams are important and our team has especially added value to the success of our business.

 

“I believe teams are important and our team has especially added value to the success of our business.”

 

What do you think are some major differences between someone who is an entrepreneur and someone who works for someone else?

Great question. The three major things I see in the entrepreneurs I know that I don’t always see in people that work for someone else are the following. 1. A deep passion for what they do. 2. A desire to solve a problem they’ve seen. 3. A thrill for risk with an entirely optimistic view on how they achieve the reward.

 

As our name indicates, we are all about women being bold and unapologetic. Being Brazen! Tell us a about a time when you were Brazen in your business.

The vision I have for Helper Helper is Bold. So every day I wake up I’m “Brazen”.

 

Owning a business is a lot of hard work and comes with its fair share of difficulties. What have been your biggest rewards as a business owner and entrepreneur?

The top 3 biggest rewards have been building a team, building community in college students all across the US, and living out my grandma’s mantra – be a Helper Helper.

 

We’ve asked you a lot about your business, but tell us a little bit about YOU! What do you do outside of work? How do you maintain a work / life balance? Besides your company, what are some things in life that are important to you?

I enjoy skiing, tennis, running, volleyball and being outside. Outside of my company, my family is extremely important to me. I’m also passionate about education and giving students opportunity to dream and succeed.

 

Follow Krista and Helper Helper on Twitter and Instagram @HelperHelperApp and check out their website at helperhelper.com

 

Helper Helper is a platform that makes coordinating and tracking community service fun and competitive.