Hands were in the air, music boomed, headliners rocked the stage. This wasn't a concert, but Spark & Hustle, my small business master class that kicked off a nationwide, 20-city tour this week.
Current and aspiring female entrepreneurs took cues from some of my favorite business rockstars, including Vera Bradley co-founder Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, real estate mogul and Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran, and QVC cosmetics queen Laura Geller -- to name a few. Three key messages resounded among every speaker:
Persistence prevails. "You'll hear a lot of no's, so be persistent," said maternity retail pioneer Liz Lange. After the high-end department stores rejected her pitch for designer maternity wear, Lange launched her business by taking individual orders for pregnant friends. The concept clicked: She soon opened a Madison Avenue boutique, Nike came calling for a licensing deal, and Lange just celebrated 10 years as the exclusive maternity designer in Target. As her business grew, she recognized the need to get help "When you're not able to get it done yourself, and it's becoming a detriment to your business, you need to delegate." (Lange still answers customer service emails.)
When asked how it feels to be a top selling brand on QVC, celebrity make-up artist Geller told the 500 women, "Never get comfortable. Always think what's next. And, stay current and stay new."
You are your best salesperson. "The key to selling is creating the impression that everybody wants it," Corcoran said. "No one knows and loves your business and mission more than you. You are the most zealous about it and the best person to sell it." This TV Shark knows of what she speaks: She started her real estate empire with $1,000 and sold the company for $66 million.
"Sell it yourself by sharing your story," advised Lisa Price, founder of natural skin care line Carol's Daughter. She started by making lotions and potions in her home kitchen that she sold at flea markets. Her fan base grew quickly -- and now her products are everywhere from Sephora to Harrod's in London.
Flexibility is the best small business advantage. Your company is young, and like your own children, you're limber, full of energy and quick enough to make fast change -- things big business can't do. As SurePayroll chief Michael Alter put it, "Use being small to your advantage. You're more flexible than the big guys."
"You have a right to be here," Corcoran said -- an important reminder to women to speak up and go after exactly what they want without questioning whether they're entitled to pursuing success. "The world belongs to the little guy."
Visit www.sparkandhustle.com to attend a Spark & Hustle event near you.