Brazen St. Louis had another fantastic, engaging roundtable in late July focusing on women “makers.” Thank you to Colleen Mulvihill of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership for her warm welcome to the STL Business Center at Wellston. (Great space-go check it out!) Guest speakers included Laura Lee Rose of Missouri Enterprise, Tori Gonzalez of NexMatix, and Claire Flowers of Claire Flowers. Our makers were able to receive advice about supply chain management, scaling, mentorship, and so much more.
Laura Lee can see that Missouri needs women in manufacturing. “Manufacturing is very often a man’s world.” Women represent 47% of the American workforce, but only 20% of the manufacturing workforce. But Laura Lee knows, as we all do, that women bring a special set of skills into the business world, including manufacturing, that are integral for the creativity and innovation of a successful company. With her background in quality assurance, Laura Lee advised our entrepreneurs who are considering scaling to put systems in place for quality and logistics before deciding to expand. She concluded our time together with reminding us of Rosie the Riveter, the iconic woman maker, and her tagline: you can do it!
“You have to fail fast, you have to fail cheap, you have to fail forward.” – Laura Lee Rose
Tori is an engineer by training and a change agent at heart. Her innovative technology that formed Nexmatix demonstrates just that. She encouraged Brazen makers who are eager to expand to listen to the market and always deliver on promises. From her personal experience as a CEO, she shared about her decision to cease production. Her advice about partnerships was unique: before accepting any money from a sponsor or investor, CEOs must make sure that this partnership adds value to their business outside of the financial. When asked what to say to possible investors, she replied, “Ask them: what do you need to see in order to invest in me?”
“I would call up the CEO of a company larger than mine and ask if they had a few minutes to answer my questions. Generally, people want to help. Find who you need and call them.” – Tori Gonzalez
Claire Flowers’ story hit home for many of our makers. She saw something she used every day that could be improved, so she made it better. As a working professional, she had to travel in pumps, but her shoes could just not keep up with her! So she asked, “What would the perfect pump look like?” And out of that came Claire Flowers, her professional women’s apparel company, which has expanded from her first order of 125 shoes to this fall’s launch of a new line that includes not only shoes, but handbags and apparel as well.
Besides Claire’s online store, she throws parties that show off her new lines, and she stressed how important building a network with people in your target market is for her business. She also explained her use of patents to protect things like her iconic hot pink heel cap. One of our members asked Claire about balancing new designs with the staples; to which, she said to allow yourself to be creative while also staying realistic about what your customers will buy. To conclude her thoughts, Claire underlined the importance of strategic partnerships in her success and urged our members to find a mentor in their industry.
“You have to scratch the designer itch!” – Claire Flowers
Thank you so much to all the amazing women that made this great conversation possible. And to finish it off, Tamara Keefe, Flavor Temptress and CEO of Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery, ended our evening with some great advice: “If you are not in a Brazen Growth Group, join one.”