Articles Tagged with: women in business

Breaking Barriers: How US Womxn Entrepreneurs Can Overcome These 4 Common Business Hurdles

Hurdles are nothing new to womxn entrepreneurs in the US. While we’ve come a long way from challenges like needing our husbands’ or fathers’ signatures for loan or credit applications thanks to the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, we still have some ways to go to secure our seats at the table. Still, with passion and determination, womxn business owners can overcome any obstacle on their path to success.

Let’s look at four common hurdles that womxn entrepreneurs typically face in the business arena. More importantly, let’s examine how we can get over them

Hurdle #1: Lack of Access to Capital

One of the biggest obstacles to any womxn entrepreneur’s success is lack of access to capital. Without funding or resources, we can’t build, much less grow, a thriving business.

As of 2019, women-owned businesses have created 10.8 million jobs in the US. They’ve also generated $1.8 trillion in earnings. And yet, in 2022, some 25% of women entrepreneurs have had their business loan applications denied compared to 19% of men. In 2023, only 28.4% of loans backed by the US Small Business Administration went to women-owned companies. As for venture capital funding, women-owned businesses received only 2% of the total capital invested by the end of 2023. 

We’re clearly looking at a considerable gap in capital access for womxn entrepreneurs here. This is why many opt to self-fund their businesses by dipping into personal savings, using their personal credit cards, or with the help of family and friends.

But self-funding isn’t a choice that everyone can make. If that’s your case, here are options you can explore to raise capital for your business:

  1. Check out resources like Access to Capital Directory for Entrepreneurs by Bank of America.
  2. Set up crowdfunding campaigns through sites like Kickstarter and IFundWomen.
  3. Find women-led investment groups like Broadway Angels and TrueWealth Ventures.
  4. See what funding avenues are available at your local SBA Women’s Business Center.

 Nina Vaca: Starting a business with $300

As the CEO of Pinnacle Group, Nina Vaca is one of the rare Latina leaders in the male-dominated IT industry. Her father’s death in the late 1980s compelled her to take over his travel agency at age 17. In 1996, when she was 25 years old, Nina started Pinnacle in her living room with only $300 in her pocket as a way to expand her family’s network. Today, Pinnacle is a billion-dollar company and one of the biggest workforce solutions providers in the world. It’s also one of the fastest-growing woman-owned businesses in the US.

 

Hurdle #2: Gender Bias and Stereotypes

Getting funding is challenging for women business owners because of two huge factors: 1) the prevailing stereotypes our society has formed for females and 2) the gender bias that grew from these stereotypes.

A 2018 study showed that white male-dominated investing companies tend to look at the applicant’s gender when considering business pitches. These investors often see women-owned businesses as riskier. They also judge female applicants based on the quality of their pitches and their confidence in delivering them.

Another 2018 study found that male investors usually perceive that the venture has a higher risk of failure if a woman’s business is in a male-dominated industry.

And then, there’s the age-old debate about women and emotional labor. Women are expected to bear the brunt of the labor at home. According to this article, traditional financiers are likely to deny loans to women business owners who are mothers and homemakers. The common belief is that CEOs who are also moms won’t be able to prioritize growing their companies. 

Lastly, we have the common gender perception that women are emotional and, therefore, lack the assertiveness necessary for leadership. While this characteristic is now seen as empathy, being more in tune with their emotions is still seen as a negative for women entrepreneurs in some circles.

Gender perceptions are learned, so it will take time for society to completely change how women are seen. We need to fight our small and personal battles in this arena. Here are some strategies we can adopt to win these battles:

  1. People don’t know what you know. Explore ways to position yourself as an expert in what you know.
  2. In a room full of colleagues and peers, don’t wait for others to introduce you as the expert in what you know. Introduce yourself.
  3. Surround yourself with a tight circle of diverse advisors and mentors, not just women. Having male advisors will give you an insight into why men in your industry behave the way they do. 
  4. Build your social capital and plug into business networks in your area, such as your city’s chamber of commerce or local NAWBO chapter. 

Mariyah Saifuddin: Setting the stage

Innovative Solution Partners CEO Mariyah Saifuddin often finds herself the only woman in the room whenever she meets with colleagues. The experience made her an expert at setting the tone whenever she enters a room. She does this by introducing herself as the owner of her company and showing what she brings to the table as an IT professional. She doesn’t wait for anyone else to make introductions for her.

 

Hurdle #3: Work-Life Imbalance

Prevalent gender stereotypes also contribute to another hurdle that women business owners typically experience: the lack of work-life balance. As mentioned earlier, women are expected to shoulder the brunt of emotional labor. They’re traditionally seen as the primary caregivers for their families and households.

A San Diego, CA-based study in 2023 found that the participating women struggled to balance the demands of caring for their children and running their businesses. This was especially true during their early years of operations. Ironically, the participants shared that they started their own business to have more time for family.

Why do women business owners need to balance their personal and professional lives? For one, it helps us stay healthy physically and mentally. It’s all too easy to get caught up with the demands of running a business. If we don’t keep this balance, we’ll soon be headed for burnout.

Another is it gives us a sense of fulfillment, especially regarding relationships. Maintaining balance allows us to strengthen and enjoy our relationships with family and friends. It also makes space for us to relish the fruits of our labor.

Yet another reason is it keeps us productive and creative. Time away from work helps us relax and recharge. We can do more when rested and process information more effectively when our minds have had time to unwind.

How can we create a balance between our professional and personal lives?

  1. Build a team to support you. Having a team to whom you can delegate tasks can free up much of your time and energy. This lets you focus on what matters instead of getting tied up with the day-to-day. Even hiring a part-time virtual assistant to, say, manage your emails and phone calls can make a difference.
  2. Explore childcare options. If you need to attend to tasks without getting distracted by your kids, check out available childcare options. Your spouse or a family member can look after your kids while you work. You can also sign up for daycare or get a babysitter.
  3. Set boundaries. Setting boundaries will prevent you from getting too caught up with the demands of your business. This can be as simple as limiting your work time to certain hours. On the flip side, you may need to impress upon your family that you can’t be distracted during your work time unless necessary.
  4. Schedule some me-time. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Keep your cup refilled by setting aside time for yourself – for meditating, exercising, working on a hobby, reading a book, or even lolling in bed and doing nothing.

Queirra Fenderson: Building your business around your life

Business coach and The Ambition Studio founder Queirra Fenderson talked about building your business around what’s going on in your life. She shared that when she and her husband were trying to get pregnant through IVF, she reorganized her work around her doctors’ appointments and prioritized self-care. She stressed the importance of identifying the life you want to lead and structuring your business around it.

 

Hurdle #4: Limiting Beliefs

Perhaps the biggest hurdle that womxn business owners face is their own limiting beliefs. If you see yourself in a negative light, you’re restricting your potential.

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to have faith in our abilities. When we have a strong self-belief, we empower ourselves to overcome the obstacles to our success. We become resilient enough to push against the challenges ahead. We can trust our judgment and decisions and take the risks we need to grow.

Plus, a strong self-belief negates the impostor syndrome that can keep you from celebrating even your smallest wins. When you believe in yourself and act on your beliefs, you win your team’s and peers’ respect, and you can inspire others with your story.

How can you overcome your limiting beliefs?

  1. Journaling. Writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help you identify and question your limiting beliefs. Ask yourself why you believe or feel the way you do. Analyze your behavior and what triggers them.
  2. Reframe your beliefs. Once you’ve identified your limiting beliefs, find a way to reframe them into empowering statements about yourself. Instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” tell yourself, “I am capable of learning how to do this.” Also, list the values you want to believe you have, visualize yourself achieving success through them, and affirm yourself daily with them.
  3. Set smaller and achievable goals. While setting big and lofty goals is exciting, you may reinforce your limiting beliefs if you don’t achieve the expected results. Set the bar within your reach. Celebrate once you’ve reached the goalpost, and then take one step out of your comfort zone and set another goal.
  4. Get support. Having someone to talk to and be accountable for your limiting beliefs helps a lot in overcoming them. That someone could be your spouse or partner, a trusted family member, a close friend, or maybe your therapist or life coach. Hearing yourself talk to someone about how you see yourself can be enlightening. You can also gain perspective when you hear someone else’s thoughts about you and how you’re doing. 

Nicole Chamblin: Knowing your worth

Leadership and productivity coach Nicole Chamblin shared that doubt is the biggest challenge she must continually go through. She said it’s easy to compare ourselves with others and allow the negative voices to creep into your head because of these comparisons. Knowing your worth and reminding yourself frequently of your worth are powerful weapons against self-doubt.

Hurdles are nothing new to womxn entrepreneurs in the US. We’ve come so far, and we still have a lot of challenges along the way. But as long as we are determined to overcome these hurdles, we can achieve our success stories.

 


Josie Natori: Filipino Fashion Trailblazer

“I just don’t like to settle. Good enough is never good enough.” – Josie Natori

Josephina Almeda Cruz, also known in fashion circles as Josie Natori, is considered one of the most outstanding women business owners in the Philippines. This Filipino-American entrepreneur runs The Natori Company, an international women’s fashion brand. Her products retail in the U.S.’s most prominent department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus. Her products are available worldwide today through her brand’s website

All in the family

Josie grew up in a matriarchal society surrounded by her close-knit Filipino kin. “Women are encouraged to be entrepreneurs,” Josie says of her family. This encouragement stayed with her throughout her life. Even when she was a child, her grandmother would remind her that she should never be in a position where she had to depend on anyone. This upbringing gave her the motivation and inspiration to start her own business.

When she was younger, Josie didn’t plan to enter the fashion industry. Artistically talented and naturally inclined to play the piano, Josie performed in a solo concert with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. She was only 9 years old. At 17, she left for New York and pursued an economics degree from Manhattanville College. 

From banking to fashion

After graduation, Josie embarked on a career in banking. Eventually, she became the first female vice president of investment banking at Merrill Lynch. There, she met and married Ken Natori, a fellow executive in the banking world. She then gave birth to her son Kenneth Jr. in 1976,

The following year, Josie found herself looking for new challenges and wanting to start her own business. Before entering the fashion industry, Josie opened several different ventures, from a McDonald’s franchise to a carwash.

Josie’s namesake company began when she brought an embroidered garment from the Philippines to a buyer in Bloomingdales. The buyer advised her to turn it into a sleep shirt; the rest was history.

In the early years of The Natori Company, many of Josie’s friends and relatives pitched in to help her make her vision a reality. For example, an uncle pitched in to sew labels onto clothes. Other family members once gathered to help make a small trim cut on a special order of a thousand blouses. In 1985, Josie convinced her husband, who was still working on Wall Street, to help run her growing business. He became chairman of The Natori Company.

An international empire

More than four decades later, The Natori Company has transformed into a lifestyle brand that includes popular lingerie collections, ready-to-wear apparel, home items, eyewear, and fragrance. Aside from being the founder of an internationally successful fashion business, Josie works to give back to society. She sits on the board of several organizations, including the Asian Cultural Council and the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines. Her factory in the Philippines handles over 60% of her company’s production and employs 500 workers.

Josie Natori is an admirable example of a woman who pursued her dreams and achieved success with the help of family and friends. From a single sleep shirt, she has built an international empire now seen as one of the world’s top lifestyle brands. “Now, as the company grows, we grow our sensibility too, taking our concept and making it a whole world. As we say here, Natori is ‘where life meets art,’” she shared.

Sacred Fire Creative honors visionary women who forged their own path to success in this #WomenWhoMatter series. If you see yourself as a visionary, who wants to create a lasting, positive impact on your community, come work with us.


Monique Lhuillier: Elegance for the Everyday Woman

“I am a perfectionist, but I know how to live life. When I’m working, it’s 100%. When I’m with my friends, I put everything away and enjoy life. When I come home to my kids, it’s pure joy and everything’s worth it. Every time, I really focus, 100 percent on one thing, I’ve learned how to juggle my life and I feel like now I have the perfect balance.” – Monique Lhuillier

What do Taylor Swift, Michelle Obama, and Reese Witherspoon have in common? They’ve all worn Monique Lhullier’s creations. The Filipino-American fashion designer has made a mark on the fashion industry with her sophisticated, feminine, and glamorous ready-to-wear and bridal collections. 

From regular brides to famous celebrities, most women have heard of Monique Lhuillier. Her brand is synonymous with elegant and timeless feminine designs, whether in dresses or houseware. The renowned fashion designer has been a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America since 2003. Since then, she has ventured into fragrance, jewelry, and various partnerships with other brands, such as Pottery Barn.

Monique was born in Cebu City, Philippines, in 1971. She spent her childhood in the Philippines before attending boarding school in Switzerland at 15. Monique loved fashion at an early age, and after leaving Switzerland, she attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise in Los Angeles. This school is where she met her husband, Tom Bugbee, who also became her business partner. Aside from being her life partner and father to her children, he has also helped her build her business empire.

She began designing wedding gowns in 1996 when she was preparing for her own wedding and couldn’t find anything she liked. Although she eventually found a wedding gown from another designer, this event sparked her motivation and interest in the fashion industry and began a successful fashion career.

Thanks to Monique and her elegant brand, women worldwide have access to sophisticated styles that are designed for a woman by a woman. Whether it is a milestone event like a wedding, or everyday pleasures, like wearing a favorite perfume, Monique Lhuillier continues to add beauty to women’s lives.

Sacred Fire Creative honors women who make a difference in everyday life. Contact us to learn how you can make a difference through your own business.


3 Key Leadership Lessons from Women CEOs

Did you know that, as of 2018, 12.3 million businesses in the U.S. are women-owned? That’s roughly 42% or four out of 10 of all companies in the country. Interestingly, these women-led enterprises generate around $1.8 trillion in earnings every year.

Judging by these figures, the current notion that men are better at leadership and women should emulate them is becoming obsolete. Women generally have a distinct leadership style that their male peers can actually learn from.

What leadership lessons can we learn from female CEOs? Let’s spend some time pondering these three:

Know your strengths and limitations.

Women tend to be more self-aware, and they’re usually not prone to bluster. This tendency for self-awareness gives women a deeper insight into their own strengths and limitations. They build on their capabilities and lean on others to make up for their weaknesses.

What does this mean for you? If you want to be a good leader, you need to learn more about yourself. Know the traits that make you strong and acknowledge your weak points. Use your strengths to grow your business and surround yourself with a competent and inspired team to make up for your limitations.

“It’s OK to admit what you don’t know. It’s OK to ask for help. And it’s more than OK to listen to the people you lead.” – Mary Barra, General Motors CEO

Put your team first.

Women are often stereotyped as too compassionate and relationship-oriented to be competent leaders. But the fact is that these traits are now seen as indicators of high emotional intelligence, which in turn has become a desirable trait among leaders.

As mentioned earlier, a woman business leader tends to surround herself with a team to augment what she lacks. But this relationship is rarely one-sided. Female leaders often serve as mentors and cheerleaders to their team. They encourage and empower their team to grow professionally and personally through validation and empathy.

“I think about: ‘Have I been bringing enough people along?’ You can help a peer become a CEO… This is not a competition or a race.” – Rosalind Brewer, former CEO of Walgreens

Be a transformational leader.

Perhaps one of the best leadership lessons we can learn from a woman CEO is the art of transformational leadership. A transformational leader is someone who leads by example. Their sense of purpose and values inspire their followers to change their own beliefs, bring out their best selves, and positively impact their world. Women CEOs tend to be gifted transformational leaders.

How can you become a transformative leader? It starts with yourself. You need to be a model of integrity and principle. You have to have a clear vision and measurable goals. And you have to win your team’s trust, be ever-reliable, and inspire them to serve the higher good rather than their self-interest.

“Leadership is service to others.” – Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Co. President and CEO

These are only a few leadership lessons we can learn from women CEOs. Spend some time meditating on these lessons and see how you can apply them to your own business.

Sacred Fire Creative is a digital marketing agency that positions itself as a force for good. Reach out to us today and let us help you build a solid, authentic brand that matters to your audience.


Material Change Institute: Diversifying Capital Investment One Cohort at a Time

The investment industry has one glaring issue – it’s predominantly white and male. Given the role that investments play in driving economic growth, the fact that the industry lacks racial and gender diversity can be detrimental for women and people of color. Most of the time, they simply can’t get in the door.

Material Change Institute is set to change that. Helmed by woman investor and entrepreneur Eve Blossom, this new non-profit provides women and BIPOC professionals the skills and connections they need to succeed as investors.

Material Change Institute offers training for would-be investors.

Material Change Institute equips would-be investors from minority and underrepresented groups with the essential knowledge and tools for getting started in investment. It offers a 12-month executive program called the Material Change Fellowship.

Through the Material Change Fellowship, professionals receive training in leadership and strategic skills for different forms of investing. They also get access to mentors, peers, and partner funds that can help them apply their learnings practically. Hybrid training modes – internships, cohort-based learning, and online modules – are available. As of this writing, Material Change Institute only accepts fellows with at least five years of professional experience.

Eve Blossom aims to change the landscape of investing.

Material Change Institute founder Eve Blossom is set on transforming what the investment industry looks like. As she said in this article, “[D]isruption is needed when a system is not inclusive, does not apply different perspectives that would increase the opportunity and wealth for all of us.”

She has a point. A 2019 study revealed that women- and minority-led investment firms manage only 1.3% of the world’s assets. The worldwide asset management industry is worth US$89 trillion as of 2019. Additionally, a 2022 report found that the venture capital workforce is only 4% Black and 5% Hispanic/Latinx, though 45% is female.

Through its training program, Material Change Institute is opening the doors to investment for more women and people of color to come through. We can look forward to when the industry is not so white or male anymore.

 

Sacred Fire Creative is a Portland, OR-based digital marketing agency that aims to promote good in the world. Work with us to strengthen your brand’s connection with your audience and become a force for good.


4 Proven Ways Your Personal Brand Can Dominate 2022

The business world is changing. Human connection is becoming an increasingly essential element of business success, and as a further result, the role of personal brands in the world of business is evolving. And make no mistake about it, personal branding is no longer just for CEOs. Instead, it’s for every individual who wants to build their brand, grow their social presence and have a profound impact on their community.

Personal branding is the process of building a unique image that recognizes your talents, credibility, skills, and goals—looking to start building your personal brand in 2022? Here are four tips to help you dominate 2022!

1. Establish your value

When you build a personal brand, the value you can deliver to people through your work shapes the content you create and the type of audience you engage. When it comes to marketing, value is king. To help establish trust with your audience, focus on delivering excellent content around your audience’s pain points.

2. Be crystal clear

Before investing heavily into your personal brand, make sure you’re crystal clear on what you want to be known for, who your audience is, and where you’re going. Your true calling will help you determine your niche, create a cohesive message around it, and then build an audience cheering for you.

3. Don’t be boring

Everyone is trying to get the same message across. That dull, generic content doesn’t cut it anymore. Surprise your audience with something new and different, and give them a reason to stick around. You’ll get the reward, attention, and success you deserve if you do.

4. Keep it real

Social media is supposed to be a place where people can connect, but all too often, it’s filled with false attempts at self-promotion. Remember that trust between you and your audience is so much more valuable. Every time you put yourself out there, you build trust and connection. Leaders tell their true stories transparently and authentically, and at the end of the day, people only care about one thing: The real you and your message!

With a little preparation and strategy, you can build your personal brand the right way. Start by understanding these four elements and get ready to change the world!


Kamonwan Wipulakorn: A Leader’s Profile

A well-respected figure in the hospitality industry, Kamonwan Wipulakorn started her career in finance and is now a prominent leader in the Southeast Asian hotel and tourism industry. Notably, she is also one of the few female executives in this male-dominated field.

Although she has a long list of accomplishments under her belt, she is most well-known for her former position as the president and director of Erawan Group. Erawan is Thailand’s leading hotel investment company with a diversified hotel portfolio across Southeast Asia. Kamonwan was also included in Prospects Top 10 Women in Entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia.

Kamonwan’s educational background and professional start

In October 2021, she was appointed Managing Director of Bound and Beyond Public Company Limited (BEYOND). She is also Vision CEO of business investor One Origin and an independent director of Star Petroleum Refining Public Limited, a leading producer of petroleum products in Thailand.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and obtained her MBA from Western Illinois University in the USA. Even after these accomplishments, she didn’t stop learning and continued to pursue self-development. She also attended the Certificate Harvard Executive Program in Harvard Business School and the Certificate Stanford Executive Program at Stanford University. Her impressive educational background is a testament to her dedication to continuous learning and improvement.

Kamonwan started her professional career as an associate at a brokerage firm more than thirty years ago and has worked her way up ever since. “I’ve worked in the financial field for 15 years, mainly in investment advisory,” Kamonwan said in an interview with the Bangkok Post. “I left the banks in 2002 to become the chief financial officer of my client’s petrochemical company for five years. But I always had an interest in the hotel business.”

Joining and leading Erawan

Kamonwan joined Erawan in 2008 when she heard about the vacant position of Chief Financial Officer in the hospitality company. After she entered, she continued climbing the corporate ladder. In 2011, she became president and director of the group and joined senior management in 2013.

Kamonwan calls her management style adaptable and always tailored to the situation she faces. She left Erawan in 2018 and continued to hold director-level positions in other companies. Her current positions are Director of Origin Property PLC, Board Member of Padaeng Industry PCL, and Managing Director of BEYOND.

While she was with Erawan, she was essential in driving the group forward and spearheading its expansion in Southeast Asia. She oversaw more than 7,000 hotel rooms and 6,000 workers in Thailand and the Philippines during her time as president of Erawan.

She expounded on how she works with people around and under her management. “My style is very flexible. It’s my job is lead my team to achieve the result we want, so I can be direct and diplomatic at the same time. My other important responsibility is to build my team to succeed me, so coaching and empathy are essential in my routine,” Kamonwan shared.

A goal of learning every day

Her life philosophy of learning and re-learning for self-improvement is reflected in both her personal and professional life. She lives with the goal of learning every day because the hotel industry and the world around her are constantly changing. The only way to keep up is to be open to learning. She believes that the best way to work with uncertainty is to keep learning. Kamonwan also wants others to have this mindset, and she focused much of her attention on staff development.

Another one of her key goals with Erawan was to create and implement sustainable practices throughout its operations. She wanted to develop a sustainable platform for the group to carry it well into the future. The group also gives back to local communities and is mindful that each property should benefit the local community. From hotel construction to operations, the group made sure that locals would gain income from the project. Locals were employed from the hotels’ building phase, and some were employed by the hotels when they were operational.

A product of Thailand’s openness to female leadership

Kamonwan has also shared her experience being a top Thai executive and if being a woman affected her career path in any way. “I’ve never felt that there were barriers for women getting into leadership roles in Thailand, but I do see it is an issue elsewhere. In Thailand in general, you see more and more women given the opportunity to run organizations. We have a very open work culture and are probably in the top 10 countries in the world for the number of women in leadership roles,” she said.

It’s important to note that Thailand is one of the leaders globally that accepts and supports women in leadership roles. According to studies, women hold 37% percent of leadership roles in the country, compared to 24% globally. In terms of education, it ranks first in the world of enrollment of women in higher education. For every man enrolled in university, 1.41 women are enrolled as well.

The world can learn from Thailand’s attitude towards women leading companies and in other leadership positions. Kamonwan explained how the decision-making process works in Thai corporations. “We see diversity at all levels. But in other aspects, we welcome comments from everyone. We don’t do top-down decision-making. Everyone in the company drives the business. Every decision or project, it comes from a team, not from one person. The way we make decisions comes from the different opinions in the team, and it is always cross-functional, and everyone has the same chance to get their views across,” she said in an interview in 2019.

“This approach is quite common, especially among the big corporations in Thailand. That’s why they become so big; I believe that if the organization does not embrace diversity, it is difficult to grow. For family businesses that haven’t yet transformed into that corporate environment, it may be different. There is perhaps not so much diversity there,” Kamonwan explained.

Valuing inclusiveness

Aside from gender diversity, Thai companies value inclusiveness as well. Kamonwan emphasized that it’s more about respecting everyone’s opinion than seeing decision-making as solely coming from management. She has also imbibed this in her own management style and empowers the people around her. For example, when she was working in Erawan, they conducted town hall meetings to encourage employees to give their feedback and comments to management.

Kamonwan is a woman everyone can look up to and should admire. From finance to hospitality, and from an entry-level position to CEO, she made her way to the top through hard work and an open leadership style. Even if she’s leading top corporations, she also makes time for her family. She enjoys traveling with them around Thailand and other countries.

Openness, continuous learning, self-improvement, and flexibility are recurring themes in Kamonwan’s life. Because of these admirable traits, she has led teams of thousands of people to success and continues to be a prominent figure in the hospitality industry. She has made it to the top through the combination of all these traits. “All people make mistakes, but we should not repeat our mistakes. Life should be a process of improvement,” Kamonwan mused. Indeed, these are wonderful words of wisdom from a great leader showing the world how life should be done.

Sources:

Bangkok Times

Grant Thornton

Business Times


Value in the Valley: Empowering Women to Reach Their Highest Potential

On September 27, 2021, the Oregon Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO Oregon) will hold a virtual event entitled “Value in the Valley.” It is a message to encourage every professional woman to climb their highest mountain and become who they are capable of becoming. The guest speaker for this event is Tammy Butler Robinson.

We invite you to join us at this event. You can register here:

About the event

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, and how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. You may know which destination you’re headed to, you may know how to get there, and you may even have that strong desire to arrive there. But you will never reach that destination if you don’t make that first, small, single step.

Our journey to greatness begins this way. We may have the passion, the drive, and the plan to make our dreams a reality. But without taking that first step, our dreams will be just that—dreams. And there’s no assurance that the journey itself will be easy. More likely than not, we’ll be called upon to make sacrifices, as well as to face setbacks and heartaches. Nonetheless, if you truly believe that your dreams are worth pursuing, that you’re willing to persevere against all challenges, that you stay true to your values, and that you exercise self-care no matter how hard it gets, you will see the value in the valley and finally reach your destination.

About NAWBO

The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) is the unified voice of over 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States representing the fastest-growing segment of the economy.

Founded in 1975, NAWBO propels women entrepreneurs into economic, social, and political spheres of power worldwide by:

  • Strengthening the wealth-creating capacity of our members and promoting economic development within the entrepreneurial community
  • Creating innovative and effective change in the business culture
  • Building strategic alliances, coalitions, and affiliations
  • Transforming public policy and influencing opinion-makers

About Tammy Butler Robinson

Tammy Butler is a proven leader with a strong background in housing and community development, expertise in public finance and management, and a deep commitment to improving communities and the lives of women in Indiana. As a Managing Principal with Engaging Solutions, she has successfully led and managed the company’s call center business and co-managed the firm’s planning and community outreach sector. Prior to that, Tammy spent over a decade in State government as a fiscal analyst for the Indiana House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee; Assistant Director of the Indiana State Budget Agency; Director of Claims Management for the Family and Social Services Agency; and Data Director for the Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning.

Tammy’s passion for improving the lives of women and families in Indiana extends beyond her corporate life. She is pastor of The House of God Church in Indianapolis, leading a congregation whose members are among the most underserved and underrepresented populations in the state. Her problem-solving skills, knowledge, and experience engaging stakeholders in the community planning process have led to the creation of multiple programs that have changed lives.

Tammy lives in McCordsville, Indiana with her two children, Myles and Brian Jr.


Diversity and Inclusion in Business: A Look at the Wedding Industry—A Recap

On March 8, 2021, Sacred Fire Creative explored another avenue in the conversation on diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging with the forum “Diversity and Inclusion in Business: A Look at the Wedding Industry.” Writer-turned-wedding planner Elisabeth Kramer led this particular discussion.

About Elisabeth Kramer

Elisabeth Kramer is an award-winning journalist and former magazine editor. She stumbled into a career in wedding planning after helping a friend with her own. But beyond coordinating these dream events for couples, she has made it her mission to, in her own words, “tear down the wedding industrial complex.”

Elisabeth came up with this mission after talking to clients about their weddings and her own interactions with other wedding vendors. As a feminist, she often hears issues that to her seem like total red flags. These red flags often indicate that something is going on and is usually part of a larger issue—that couples are being actively harmed or attacked by the wedding industry.

Thus, she has made it her goal to change the wedding industry, and she does it in two ways with her business. One is through her work with couples as she plans their weddings. The other is by actively collaborating with other vendors.

Elisabeth has a podcast called “The Teardown,” where she interviews couples and vendors about their experiences within the wedding industry. In this podcast, she tackles how diversity, inclusion, Black Lives Matter, and other similar issues affect the industry.

Moreover, she is the co-founder of Altared, a Portland-based event for wedding vendors. Altared holds classes where wedding vendors can learn and share ideas on making the wedding industry a more inclusive, sustainable, and mindful place to work in.

Questions Raised during the Forum

What does “changing the wedding industry” actually mean?

Elisabeth explained that the term “wedding industrial complex” is a shorthand she uses. Still, it’s not a term that she invented. The phrase has been around for a while now. It refers to the many nasty “isms” we encounter in our lives as human beings, but specific to the wedding industry. These “isms” include racism and ageism, as well as non-isms like homophobia and fat-phobia. In other words, it pertains to the toxic things we deal with in society.

She feels that these isms manifest strongly in the wedding industry. However, in some ways, they are all wrapped up in tulle. That’s because weddings are supposed to be happy spaces—about the joy of the couple to be married and about making people feel good.

Elisabeth used race conversations as an example. The word “race” is loaded right now because it’s political. She said she really tries in her work to talk about it. That’s because she thinks the issue manifests a lot of stress, anger, and pain, not just for couples getting married but also vendors in the wedding industry.

She points out two resources that help address this issue. One is Vendors of Color, a Pacific Northwest-based community of exclusively BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color) wedding vendors. The other is Rad Wedding, a Slack group born out of Altared. The group has 150 members; they share leads and support fellow members who are part of the LGBTQ and BIPOC communities or attend classes on inclusivity.

Can the wedding industry change without the service industry changing first?

During the forum, a participant pointed out that the service industry, which covers hotels and restaurants, is not a very inclusive one. Given that the wedding industry is interdependent with the service industry, can the wedding industry change without the service industry change first?

Elisabeth thinks the wedding and service industries have to change together. She believes that changes in the wedding industry can affect the service industry. However, she stated that this is part of a much broader discussion. It’s part of a deeper systemic issue that needs to be addressed, not just in the service industry or the wedding industry but also in other elements of our society.

What steps has Elisabeth herself taken to make her business more inclusive?

Maricella Ehmann, a Vermont-based wedding planner, as well as Elisabeth’s friend and collaborator, shared that Elisabeth has done quite a bit to help small businesses over the years. She asked her to enumerate some of these steps.

Elisabeth replied that, because of capitalism, the first place to start helping others is with money. Thus, she:

  • Donates 5% of every booking to one of six non-profits, a model that she borrowed with permission from Portland-based photographer Marissa Solini.
  • During the pandemic crisis, put up a donation form on her website for wedding vendors in need. This project, however, was short-lived, and Elisabeth shifted back to donating part of her proceeds to non-profits.

Additionally, she put up an anti-racism action plan on her website that she constantly updates. She also takes classes outside of Altared and recommends the LGBTQ+ inclusivity course developed by Kirsten and Maria Palladino of Equally Wed.

What steps can wedding vendors take to make their businesses inclusive right now?

One of the forum participants asked Elisabeth for examples of steps wedding vendors can take to make their businesses more inclusive that they can do right after the forum. Elisabeth responded by demonstrating representation, which can be done by:

  • Being sensitive about language and pronouns. Not every couple who is getting married is a bride and a groom.
  • Making the vendor’s website less bride-centric. Many wedding vendor websites feature couples where one person is white, cis-hetero, and a woman.
  • Including more photos of POC and LGBTQ+ couples on the website.
  • Including the vendor’s own pronouns in their email signature.

Elisabeth reiterated taking classes on inclusivity, as well as mentioned making friends with other wedding vendors. She stated that businesses in the wedding industry run a lot on referrals—vendors referring other vendors, couples referring vendors. Having a referral list is common in the industry.

She shared that she has her own referral list on her website. But she actively makes sure that her list isn’t just a bunch of white people referring white people, with a few Asian-Americans she found off Google thrown into the mix. Instead, she tries to have conversations with them to find out their goals and how she can support these goals with her own business.

Elisabeth remarked that venues are potentially powerful when it comes to referring vendors. That’s because couples often have venues as their first touchpoint in the wedding industry. She thinks that there is a lot of power in venues being really thoughtful about directing people to places like vendors of color.

Elisabeth added that couples themselves have a lot of buying power. Thus, they should think about who they’re employing for their wedding. On average, couples spend $34,000 on their wedding, which is a huge amount of buying power.

What are things in the wedding industry that are considered or accepted as traditional but are actually discriminating?

Elisabeth mentioned walking a bride down the aisle is one that comes up a lot as traditional. However, rather than cherry-pick examples, she said she encourages couples and vendors to talk about prioritization. Prioritization answers the “why” of the wedding—why have a wedding, what parts of the wedding are meaningful to the couple. Those things have meaning, and they come from a place of inclusivity to begin with.

Elisabeth said she could have a whole list of all the “traditions” in a wedding, and all of them are kind of horrible in a way. But that’s because the way we think of weddings and marriages in the US is rooted in a very patriarchal system. She notes that it can seem a little funny when she talks about these topics because they sound so anti-wedding industrial complex.

Can wedding vendors reflect their inclusivity through their pricing?

One of the forum participants shared that, as a new wedding vendor, they’d like to make their decisions about pricing more inclusive. She asked Elisabeth how she would potentially see that happening.

Elisabeth responded that the question about money in the wedding industry is a totally loaded one. She shared that when she started her business, she made less than minimum wage. She does not recommend doing this today. But that’s what she offered because she had a full-time job and was only testing out wedding planning as a career. These days, however, she charges between $1,800 to $2,300 for her services. That’s about $50 an hour, an amount that can be entirely cost-prohibitive for many couples.

What can be done for couples in such a situation? Elisabeth shared the following suggestions:

  • Offering a discounted or free rate for fiscal for, like, every fourth couple booked. Elisabeth said she knows some vendors who do this.
  • Providing free wedding planner resources for couples who want to do it themselves or have a friend who can do it.
  • Making themselves accessible. Elisabeth says she tries not to put her information in an ivory tower that people can only get to if they pay her.
  • Offering straight-up discounts for couples in vulnerable communities.

Sacred Fire Creative continues the conversation on diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging in its series of free online forums. Check out the schedule of these events here: .


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