Six female entrepreneurs shared their stories of success at Kristin Ford’s first LevelUp – Building a Stronger Her event at The Frontier in Chicago, IL in October 2017.
This was better than a Forbes article – it was the real women – all young, all successful, all entrepreneurs sharing their stories about how they – well, how they got terribly ill, how they were under-resourced, how they were deemed too young, how they failed and how, despite all of those things, they made it. They built the businesses they said they were going to build. And some went on to build more businesses.
Kristin Ford, a successful entrepreneur, who has extensive work coordinating and running events for Nike Inc., and then in LA where she’s assisted with big events like LA Fashion Week and movie premiers, decided to break out on her own and start a company.
For her first event, she gathered strong, female entrepreneurs for a ladies brunch in Chicago at The Frontier in October 2017.
After a mimosa and some of the freshest and decadent food, including beignets, we all gathered to hear from these six women.
By the end of the luncheon, the bartender turned to me and told me about his dream to start his own company.
Female Entrepreneur Panelists:
Samantha Frontera- A former morning news producer at KQTV and television news reporter at WFFT-TV, Samantha didn’t want to be told she wasn’t good enough every day. She decided to take her talent and build her own PR company, Exclusive PR. Windy City Cosmo has worked with her agency on several occasions including this female entrepreneurship story and this Grateful4Her campaign.
Chrishon Lampley – Despite several setbacks, Chrishon followed her passion for wine and in 2013 founded Love Cork Screw wines. She also has six wine scented candles in Target. As she’s built her brand with 20,000+ social media followers, she’s been recognized for her brand. Chrishon was awarded Fifth Third Bank’s Entrepreneur of the Year and is a tastemaker for Mariano’s.
Chiara Graham – Chiara believes in creating a lifestyle with multiple forms of revenue. She is the co-owner of Graham Financial Mall. She is also a realtor in Atlanta at Keller Williams. On top of that, she founded iGoalDig, where she helps others become an entrepreneur and tap into their passion. From Chicago, Chiara now resides in Atlanta.
Theresa Siaw – Theresa is a serial entrepreneur. She is currently directing Omni Healthcare, a multi-location Chicago health clinic for the underserved. One of the projects at the Omni Healthcare Division Street location is to launch a program to reintegrate former gang members back into the Humboldt Park community in a positive, productive way. You can read about one of their back to school initiatives here.
Dominique El Jones – She is Miss. Illinois United States 2016. She is also a project engineer at Reed Construction.
Jessica Zweig Fisher – Jessica is one of Inc. Magazine’s top digital marketers to watch in 2017. She founded SimplyBe Agency where she does content development and content growth and much more. Prior to that, she built Chicago’s largest magazine for women.
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THIS IS A PVA: (Positive vibes announcement) Yesterday, my team and I went out for cocktails at @thechicagodelta for a Friday happy hour. (My new favorite bar in Chicago, PS.) The guy who sat us was named Eddie, and as he passed out our menus and filled our water glasses, he casually asked us how we were all doing. "Great, thanks. You?", we casually replied. His response: "Living the dream. I get to wake up every day, breathe, live this life, work this job, be in this cool city, hang around new people all the time. Living my best life." He meant every word of it, I could feel it. It wasn't cheesy, it was 100% sincere, and it shell shocked me. It made me super present to the language I use when describing how I am. It reminded me that we can ALL "live the dream," in any moment, of any day, no matter what it is we think we are chasing. The fact that we get to wake up to a life that let's us breathe, connect, work, do and meet people like Eddie IS the dream. So next time someone asks you "how are you doing?," consider that your answer could change someone's entire perspective, and that genuine positive vibes are not only effective, they are essential. Happy Saturday, guys. 💛✌🏼#positivevibes #livingthedream . . . . . . . . #liveyourdreams #followyourdreams #liveyourbestlife #spreadlove #kindnessmatters #positivevibesonly #vibes #vibesdontlie #youareloved #sincere #ootd #stylesaturday #styleinspo #igstyle #connection #girlboss #bossbabe #ladyboss #dreamteam #dreamwork #hustlehard #bareyoursoul #realtalk💯 #happysaturday #saturdayvibes
What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
“Entrepreneurship was always in me,” Chrishon Lampley.
“I think I got turned down a lot of times in the job market. I started my own business. It was very hard to get my first client. I saw a check for $5 one time. I loved being my own boss. I started with one employee and now we have 20. Everyone has it in them – you have to find your own passion and what you’re good at,” Theresa Siaw.
“Right now I still work for a corporation. I think it’s important to understand your own goals. Yes, you’re working for someone else but it’s going to benefit you. Never lose your dream while serving someone else’s dream. I started my first company when I was 26,” Chiara Graham.
“I did what a lot of entrepreneurs did – I solved my problems. I launched Cheeky Chicago,” Jessica Zweig Fisher.
“I feel like I fell into being an entrepreneur. I was a broadcaster and it’s not glamorous. In small markets, you don’t have your family and the women are very competitive. I didn’t love going into the cornfield and hearing I wasn’t good enough for the news director. I worked at an agency who fired everyone a week before Christmas…Someone just said, ‘why don’t you try to do this and go for this?’ Having that one person who believes in you, helps you take that step forward,” Samantha Frontera.
When Do I Start Charging Clients? And When Do I Start Charging Them More?
“Money. I have none. It has to move off the shelf. And consistently move off the shelf. You always have to feed profits back into your business,” Chrishon Lampley.
“When I started iGoalDig, it was just a t-shirt line. I wasn’t charging people for picking my brain and for consultations. I was talking to strangers for 30 min. I realize the value of just talking. Everything costs. Someone asked if I can sit down with a stranger about business. I thought, ‘You want to have lunch? You have to pay,'” Chiara Graham.
“A year ago a couple came to me who owned a restaurant. Again, my company is a re-launch. So, I was willing to take smaller clients…Now, people try to low ball me, I just say ‘no.’ Know you’re worth. It’s okay to have a lower price contract, but once you have several case studies, you need to keep going,” Samantha Frontera.
“When you feel that fear rise up that you’re going to ask for more money than you’re used to, lean into that,” Jessica Zweig Fisher.
Social Media is All About Me: A Wake-Up Call to Turning Likes Into Dollars:
“People aren’t picking up magazines like they use to. They’re looking at Facebook. Tell people to like your Facebook page,” Chrishon Lampley.
“Social Media is no longer social media, it’s the Internet. I’m in branding. They don’t call it ‘talk media.’ They call it social media because it’s about socializing. You want to inspire, entertain,” Jessica Zweig Fisher.
She encouraged everyone to read, “Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.” As a branding expert, Jessica shared that people don’t really care about you, it’s more effective when your social media comes from a place of service or value.
Resources to Pursue Entrepreneurship:
This LevelUp luncheon addressed several questions, but one of the main ones is how to start a business. We all have ideas. We all wish that things existed that don’t. But, there’s only a select few that pursue their dreams every single day. So, how do you get started?
I encourage everyone to take these three steps:
- Find a group: there are so many female groups and resources out there to help you get started and to introduce you to the people you need to know. There are these professional networking groups and then there are groups like Ms. Tech, SheSays Chicago, and pop-up events like this panelist discussion: Chicago Female Entrepreneurs and ArcLight Partner to Discuss ‘Joy’. Get to know the women who are raising over $1 million for their startups or those who are building their empire in Chicago. We all need people to bounce ideas off of, learn from, and encourage us on the journey.
- Write down your goals. Write out your ideas. And put them into a business plan. Do some research about the industry. Find out how you can make a profit. Think about how much money you will need. Consider how you will bootstrap or raise money.
- Start. After you have thought about everything that could go wrong – the money you don’t have, the knowledge you don’t have and every other fear or doubt – start, despite it all. Don’t quit your job. Don’t do something irrational. But where you are right now, you can start working on your passion.