The decision to leave the security of a job and start a new business is one of the most exciting and daunting changes that anyone can make. There are a lot of challenges, including finding the right source of small business funding, and female entrepreneurs face additional challenges that include professional and societal expectations with limited resources and role models.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF) talked to some of our most successful women-owned business clients. They’ve grown their businesses from the ground up and in this article, they provide insight and encouragement for female business owners about the process of starting and growing a small business.
Milène Jardine, Milène Jardine
Milène Jardine Chocolatier offers more than the average chocolate truffle—her delicious, artisanal treats were inspired by the people she met after exploring 35 countries.
“Switching from a corporate fashion career to starting a chocolate business has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. After having a steady source of income and established reputation at my previous employer of 12 years, I was also filled with fear of the unknown journey ahead of me as an entrepreneur,”’ says Milène.
Milène surrounded herself with a network of small business owners to support her after she launched her self-funded start-up, and she continues to be pleasantly surprised by all the support she’s received through small business resources and collaboration from other entrepreneurs.
“As the business continues to grow, I’m learning about external funding, which helped me hire kitchen support and invest in additional equipment for Valentine’s Day,” Milène explains.
Her advice to other female entrepreneurs is, “Keep pushing for your dreams. Write down what you want and create the life you want.”
Emily Limoges, Limoges Beauty
After seeking out electrolysis hair removal services, Emily Limoges quickly discovered that even in New York City, finding a reputable business was difficult. Electrolysis isn’t regulated in New York State and many of the businesses were unsanitary or had antiquated technology and unfriendly staff.
Finding an unmet need prompted Emily to leave her corporate job, and with loans from her supportive and entrepreneurial-minded family, Emily opened Limoges Beauty. “I had no client base, I had to learn how to be patient,” she says.
Once business started growing, Emily gained so many clients that she was forced to turn some away. “I feel very fortunate,” says Emily, “my clients are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.”
She encourages aspiring business owners not to be afraid of taking calculated risks and to trust themselves. She says, “See risks not as obstacles or challenges, but as adventures. Adventures are always more fun.”
Maria Cruz, Heavenly Flowers Too
Maria Cruz spent years working in her sister’s flower shop, Heavenly Flowers, before she decided to invest her savings and open up a shop of her own, Heavenly Flowers Too.
“I wanted to be independent and become my own boss,” says Maria. Six years later, her success enabled her to expand and open a second shop.
After an unusually slow summer and an equipment failure, Maria took out an online loan that she thought would solve her financial problems. Unfortunately, the high interest rates and unrealistic payment terms led to $550 daily payments, and Maria struggled to keep up. At risk of losing everything she had worked for, Maria received an EGF SmartLoanTM that enabled her to refinance her debt and get her business back on track.
“I would advise people to pursue their dreams. I would rather work 80 hours a week for myself than a 9-5 for someone else,” she said.
Learn more about Maria’s story here.
Ingrid Murray, Prospect Cleaning Service, Inc.
When Ingrid Murray bought Prospect Cleaning Service, Inc. from her former employer, she was already familiar with the business’s finances – she had been its bookkeeper and office manager.
However, even with her experience, Ingrid fell prey to an unregulated online lender and her business was burdened with dangerously high monthly payments before she refinanced the debt with Excelsior Growth Fund.
Ingrid now knows that educating herself on best business practices is a key to success. “I learned that it’s important to look for funding before its needed,” she says. “If I did that before, I would have been in a better financial position and not felt pressured to work with a predatory lender.”
See Ingrid's full story here.
Katie Krawcyzk, 19 IDEAS
“I take great pride in seeing our work ‘in the wild’—meaning, out in the community,” Katie says about her marketing agency, 19 IDEAS, in Buffalo, NY. Her business focuses on bringing local clients’ ideas to life through design, web, application development, marketing, and public relations services.
Katie tells us that the jump to going out on her own was driven by the people around her. “I was inspired by many around me who had taken the leap to being an entrepreneur,” she says. “This, coupled with the feeling that Buffalo was a supportive community for business owners.”
“Don’t let your doubts get in the way of your success,” she advises aspiring entrepreneurs. “As a business owner, it’s important to utilize a support group who shares the same vision as you. This network is what will help you get through the difficult times, and help you celebrate your wins.”
Share Your Story With Us!
Despite the 54 percent growth of women-owned businesses over the past 15 years, women still receive 80 percent less business capital than men (see this article for more eye-opening statistics). Whether you’re starting a new small business or are seeking support to expand, our expert advisory team at Excelsior Growth Fund can help you through the process, from securing needed funding to gaining access to education, mentoring and more.
About Excelsior Growth Fund
Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF) helps businesses in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania grow by providing streamlined access to business loans and advisory services. EGF’s signature product, the EGF SmartLoan™, provides up to $100,000 in fast, transparent, and affordable financing through a secure online platform. Larger loans up to $500,000 are also available. EGF is a nonprofit organization and is certified by U.S. Department of Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Learn more atwww.excelsiorgrowthfund.org.