By: Rebecca Maitland

It takes courage, tenacity and focus to start a business, and there are most definitely challenges along the way, but with the right attitude and information, women-led businesses can be – and are – extremely successful.

“In 2004 I left a 24-year career as a bank executive to smart my business. That was 15 years ago. I have built a six-figure executive coaching, consulting and leadership development firm and have clients all over the world,” said Bambi McCullough, co-founder and CEO of Chrysalis Partners.

Ariana Smetana, design principal and founder of Art Via, also owns a successful business. She started her business in 2010, and through patience, she built her targeted marketing through traditional and social media and referral networks in establishing her brand to being recognized as one of the top, award-winning design firms.

Wendy Nguyen, TNC CPAs

CPA Wendy Nguyen is a strategist for businesses, and started her own company seven years ago. It provides and range of operational and financial consulting. She also has a passion for helping entrepreneurs grow their own business.

The three leaders offered tips about the challenges women-led small businesses face – and solutions.

Nguyen sees the top challenge as finding the right financial partner for their business, and the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce (GHWCC) offers programs to help with this. Moreover, all three of these women are GHWCC members, where they have access to mentors, business coaches, and more resources.

Other issues are “having a vision but it is not big enough; not thinking about or lacking access to the right coaching,” said Nguyen, CEO and founder of TNC CPAs. On the other hand, some small business owners go the other way with their vision.

Bambi McCullough, Chrysalis Partners

“It can be tempting to take on too many things. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should include it as a part of your business. The market needs to understand your focus,” McCullough said.

When it comes to improving her skills, Smetana makes sure to take the time needed.

“Working on my leadership skills is paramount, as the company can only grow as much as its leader grows,” Smetana said.

Nguyen added that when starting a business, it is more important to build the right process to serve customers instead of trying to gain more customers. Yet, when the process is in place, you should start making connections.  Smetana built a network with GHWCC, is active within the organization, and took time for other organizations like Greater Houston Partnership, Center for Houston’s Future, American Society of Interior Designers, and trusted advisors who connect her with the right customers.

Ariana Smetana, ArtVIA

When it comes to hiring staff for your team, it’s important to use a model that saves time and provides quality applicants.

“Rely on your network to refer candidates who are highly regarded to build your team, and to guide you on HR rules,” Smetana said.

Doing business is about relationships. “People want to buy from people they know and trust. So, give back. Get involved in an organization with your target clients, and relationships you build will fuel your business,” McCullough said. Another challenge is undervaluing your services. The more the client values what you provide, the more they are willing to pay. “Know your numbers. What says that you are succeeding? Sales, revenue, profitability, client satisfaction, and your team’s satisfaction,” McCullough said.


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