The US Small Business Administration recognizes October as Women’s Small Business Month. As part of that recognition, we at the county set out to acknowledge and honor the hard work of women who are business owners and entrepreneurs in Seneca County.
The 10 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. hold tremendous value, generating $1.4 trillion in revenue and employing 8.4 million people, according to the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC).
In the words of Carla Harris, Chair of the NWBC, October is “a time to acknowledge and applaud the talented, dedicated and driven women whose entrepreneurial spirit helps drive our nation’s economy forward. Women’s entrepreneurship has evolved from a growing trend to an inarguable contributor to the economic success, job growth and innovative backbone of this country.”
We couldn’t possibly feature every woman-owned business in the county (we wish we could!), but we were very excited to tell the stories of five female business leaders.
Danette Martin – Sweetums Signatures
Our series kicked off on Oct. 2, when we heard from Danette Martin, who owns and operates Sweetums Signatures. Martin launched the business in January 2007, with the love and support of her family and her entrepreneurial spirit. Sweetums Signatures serves customers through their website, their Etsy shop and as a supplier for retailers such as Overstock, Wayfair, and Amazon. Local customers can stop at our shop where we are in the process of adding a retail section.
Martin said it can be a challenge to have the “thick skin” necessary to be a business owner, especially as a woman. She said she has developed more confidence over the years and as her business grows, so does she personally.
Martin’s advice for other aspiring female entrepreneurs was simple. “Big dreams don’t happen overnight, it’s important to take small steps,” she said. “It’s important to take small steps. I have had countless defeats and bad decisions, but each wrong direction just gave myself some research into what I didn’t want to do the next time around. I think a lot of people have this mentality that working for one’s self means independence and “working your own hours”. If that’s what you’re looking for, don’t start your own business. It’s hard. It’s really hard. You will work more hours than you ever thought you would. But if you have a true passion for what you are doing and really believe in what you are doing, you will succeed. Just keep swimming.”
Check out Martin’s full story here.
Taylor Elchert Harrison – Taylor Elchert Photography
The second participant in our series is a young entrepreneur who started her business when she was just 15. Taylor (Elchert) Harrison runs Taylor Elchert Photography, a full-service photography studio focusing on newborn, child and family portraiture. Harrison offers clients a unique experience from start to finish that results in beautiful custom artwork for clients. “My goal is to provide families with heirloom quality artwork and cultivate life-long relationships with each client,” she said.
Harrison used her lifelong passion and love for photography to start her business. She said she continued to develop her photography skills while her father assisted her with the business side of the operation.
Harrison said she has experienced many ups and downs, but the most challenging part of her decade in business was being doubted by influential people in her life — teachers, professors and academic advisors. “They told me, outright, that I was going to fail as an artist/businesswoman,” she said. “These were people who were supposed to have my best interest at heart and they could not give my dream a fair chance. It was difficult for me to overcome their opinions, but I am so thankful that I did. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I chose to take their advice.”
Harrison’s advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs was to “go for it.” She said people should pursue their passions. “There are so many helpful resources to assist you in getting started. You are capable of following your dreams and achieving those goals. Do it!”
Check out Harrison’s full story here.
Sarah Hanna – ECS Billing & Consulting North
On Oct. 16, Sarah Hanna joined our series. Hanna is the owner of ECS North, a national consulting, training and revenue cycle management firm. The company provides business operations consulting to healthcare companies and trains in insurance claims billing and collections.
Hanna said she had the great honor of learning from one of the best and most talented business people she’s encountered. “She was my mentor and my role model,” she said. “I was blessed because I not only call her my first business partner, but also my mother, Elaine Hunt. She was truly a female business pioneer.”
Hanna said she’s encountered many challenges and that the most difficult challenges continue to change. “Just when you think you have faced the worst, something new sneaks up,” she said. Hanna said some difficult challenges include economic downturns, industry consolidation, business partner shifts, unreasonable clients and employee turnover. “When these trials have come, I continue to move forward, own my mistakes, look for ways to learn from those errors so that we become better,” she said.
Hanna said it is a great time to be a woman in business. “More women are empowering others and are in leadership positions,” she said. “However, starting a business, whether male or female, requires the same characteristics. Willingness to take risks, determination, extreme work ethic, sacrifice, positive attitude, perseverance, agility, open-mindedness, ability to work with others and a willingness to get your hands dirty and do the work.”
Hanna said networking and learning from others who you respect are great ways to develop the skills needed to be a good business owner.
Check out Hanna’s full story here.
Jennifer Karl – In Motion Dance Studio
Our fourth participant in the series graduated from the University of Kansas in 1999, but by following her dreams, ended up in Tiffin. Jennifer Karl is the owner of In Motion Dance Studio, which is celebrating its 20th year of business in the city. The studio provides high-quality dance classes for children ages 3-and-up and helps students develop confidence and self-esteem through classes that are fun, positive and inspiring.
Karl said she has faced many challenges. One of the most difficult was when she had her first child in 2006. “The studio had grown to 250 students and I was the only teacher at the time. I had to bring in some help to be able to take maternity leave and have someone teach all my classes while I was out,” she said. “It was difficult to step away and trust in others to take care of things while I was away. From this experience, I have learned that I need help and that I can trust in others to take good care of my business.”
Karl offered the following advice to potential female business owners. “You have to be all in or nothing,” she said. “You have to be willing to work on your business on days off, after the kids to go to bed, on the weekends, and more.”
Check out Karl’s full story here.
Jessica Wirth – Bailiwicks Coffee Company
Our final participant in the series has brought a good cup of coffee and a great social environment to downtown Tiffin. Jessica Wirth is the owner of Bailiwicks Coffee Company, a retail coffee shop and specialty, small-batch roastery. “Our shop strives to create a welcoming environment for everyone — it’s a place for people to hold meetings, to study, to play a game, to meet up with new friends or make new ones,” she said.
Wirth said each coffee is custom roasted in-house, meaning you can’t find a fresher coffee anywhere else. The business first opened in March 2012.
Wirth said the biggest challenge she has faced has been to manage her own mindset and expectations. “Sometimes, as a woman, it is incredibly difficult to find your own voice as an entrepreneur. The business world has changed dramatically, but we still have a long way to go,” she said. “People to this day still come into my shop looking for the “man in charge.” Sometimes I have to push my ego aside in order to take care of the things that need to be done.”
Wirth’s advice for other women who hope to start a business? “There isn’t much advice to give other than do your research and know your numbers, develop a strong business plan, find your voice and be true to yourself,” she said.