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5 Women Entrepreneurs On Running A Start Up

5 Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Hard-Earned Advice On Running A Start Up

March 7, 2022

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Here at The Manual, we’re in the business of sharing the details behind the successes of everyday entrepreneurs and small business leaders. This year, for International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight the ups and downs of being a female in the small business space.

So, we sat down with five amazing women, each in their own stage of the entrepreneurial journey. We talked about their experiences as business leaders, the challenges of being a woman in the business world, and their advice for other females looking to make their way as entrepreneurs.

From their unique beginnings to the similarities in the challenges they faced, these women had a lot to share about their experiences. 

Introducing…

Entrepreneurs come from every walk of life, and we wanted our interviewees to reflect the wide range of those experiences. With various industries, educational backgrounds, and years of experience, these women have dealt with challenges that are both similar and distinct to their personal journeys.

Let’s meet the entrepreneurs:

Alicia Guerrieri is the founder and owner of iSearchDecor, a luxury real estate concierge service. She started her own business in 2010 after working investments at Hewlett-Packard and growing sales at her husband’s technology company.

iSearchDecor, which started as an online matching system for buyers and resources for their homes, evolved into the service company it is today. The business is best known for helping real estate agents stage the interior design of luxury homes so they sell at maximum value.

Photo: A woman smiling at the camera, sitting in front of a desk with sticker-making equipment.
Katherine Perez Hernandez

Katherine Perez Hernandez is a web and graphic designer and a former vice president of brand/design. Last September, she started All The Kewt Stickers, a sticker design and production business.

Katherine used her end-of-the-year work bonus to pursue her passion for designing stickers and stationery and jumpstart her entrepreneurial journey. With the support of her family, she has been steadily growing her customer base while remaining debt-free with plans to pursue wholesale and other online sales opportunities.

Photo: A woman smiling and looking left of camera with her hands posed under her chin.
Melissa Pruett

Melissa Pruett is the owner and founder of Melt by Melissa, a self care studio based in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. With a background in chemistry and nutritional science, Melissa always thought she would go to medical school. But, when she started an eyebrow treatment service in her apartment in January 2014, the concept gradually grew into a full-time business.

Since then, Melt by Melissa has grown from a home business to a self-care studio specializing in brows, skincare, and other beauty services. The company has 20 employees at two locations, an online beauty product marketplace, and an aesthetics training academy.

Jennifer Ruiz is the president of United Circuits, an electronics company based in Florida. She grew up helping with the business, which was founded by her father in 1993. And though she studied nursing in college, she came back to work at United Circuits alongside her father, with the expectation that she would take over when he retired.

Sadly, Jennifer took over leadership of the company much sooner than anticipated when her father unexpectedly passed away during the pandemic. She’s made the transition to leadership while maintaining the high quality of service that her customers have come to expect.

Photo: A woman in a black shirt sitting in front of a brick wall, smiling at the camera.
Brenda Schmidt

Brenda Schmidt is the founder and executive chairman of Solera Health, a healthcare connection platform. During her four-year tenure as CEO, the company raised $82M to build a digital health marketplace that connects people with chronic diseases to the best health solutions.

She has over 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry and founded her first company back in 2005. Brenda also acts as a mentor and advisor for other entrepreneurs, teaches entrepreneurial courses with NYU, and currently works at Redesign Health, which builds multiple healthcare startups.

All that is to say, we found an amazing team of women to speak to.

Finally… the questions

Speaking with these women offered us so many insights into the highs and lows of working in the business world. There was so much wisdom between them that to fit it all into one article would mean scrolling for ages.

So, we’re breaking it up and giving you double the love! Here’s part one of our roundtable with these female entrepreneurs and business leaders. We highlighted helpful quotes that anyone can take and apply to their own business and entrepreneurial dreams. (And now you’ve got a part two to look forward to!)

These quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

What got you interested in the entrepreneurial journey and starting your own business?

🛋 Alicia: “I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. My dad had his own business and he had a large, profitable construction company. So I grew up in the world of ‘You build your own destiny. You can have your own business and set your own course.’

I went to business school and got a job offer at Hewlett-Packard. I thought, ‘What a great teaching ground.’ I learned how to work with people, processes, documentation — everything I could bring to my own business.”

😊 Katherine: “I always had an interest in journaling, planners, and stickers. So, I thought it’d be fun to create some of my own stuff that I know people like. And I have future plans expanding to online and vending machine opportunities.”

💆 Melissa: “I didn’t really know I was starting a business; I considered eyebrows my creative artistry and my hobby. And people will pay me for this? Yeah, cool, great! And so the business grew very organically. But looking back, I was always meant to be an entrepreneur.”

🔋 Jennifer: “The company was started by my dad in 1993. I worked at the business while growing up. And when he got pneumonia a few years ago, I had to step in and be his middle man and I was like, ‘Huh, I kinda like this.’

So I stayed working here and the goal was always that I would take over after he retired. But as far as me being ready for that? I was not. He passed away suddenly, and I had no preparation for that. I knew some things, but I had no idea what I was doing, running a business. So it’s not like I started this myself; I’ve hit the ground running.”

🏥 Brenda: “I worked for a really large healthcare company and was frustrated by the pace of change. I couldn’t tie my role to the direct impact and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for a large company. I really had the desire to see if I could be an entrepreneur, so I negotiated a severance package to last eighteen months and used that time to see if I could develop a profitable business.”

What are some of the most important characteristics a leader can have? 

🛋 Alicia: “I’m always willing to do what I ask anyone to do. I’ll jump in and help wherever I need to help, and I feel like that grows a great bond with your employees. Because they know that I understand their role and what they go through.”

😊 Katherine: “One of the most important characteristics a leader can have is empathy. You need to understand everyone else’s point of view. And as a mom, if somebody comes in angry or frustrated, you just know something else is going on. Knowing everyone is multifaceted and everything is combined together. You want to be there for them.”

💆 Melissa: “Communication in that team community is critical. The ability to communicate with empathy and clarity is an art. And I’m not perfect, but this is something I’ve worked hard on as a leader. Not everybody is going to be able to read my mind and not everybody is going to do things the way I do. Us women, we really are communicators, so to communicate with empathy is important.”

🔋 Jennifer: “For me, being a leader means taking the advice of people who know better than me. To not pretend I know what I’m doing when I don’t. Because that’s not going to better anything and will just make me look foolish. And as a woman, you don’t get the chance to look foolish.”

You need to be one step ahead. And that means admitting when I don’t know the answer and asking others for help. And I feel like when my team sees that their input, guidance, and expertise is being used, it makes them respect me more as a leader.”

🏥 Brenda: “I think these leadership characteristics are general to all entrepreneurs: it’s the resourcefulness, the grit and perseverance, being a lifelong learner.

And for me, having diversity in the team was really important. You want people in the room who think differently because as a leader, it’s really important to have a strong sense of collaboration. And to some extent, my being a woman supported that collaborative approach to leading, as opposed to more of a command and control approach.”

As a woman, do you feel like there was anything you had to sacrifice in order to become an entrepreneur and a leader in the business space?

🛋 Alicia: “I work 24/7 and that’s how I built my brand. I had the mentality that if I want to build a business in this world, I have to be available, I have to be flexible for my clients.”

😊 Katherine: “Starting your own business does take a lot of time. Last Christmas was so busy, and I had a guarantee that everything ordered by a certain date would be there by Christmas. So, during Christmas vacation, my family and I maybe didn’t get to do all the things we wanted to do. But it’s worth it.”

💆 Melissa: “I gave up a lot — dating, getting married in my twenties, having children early. But I was willing to sacrifice that and put it off to a later date because my business was my boyfriend, my baby, my everything. I sacrificed being home for the holidays and going on trips with my friends to build my business because that was my highest priority.”

🔋 Jennifer: “Before, I used to feel like wearing makeup and a cute outfit made me feel more powerful. But I notice not wanting to dress a certain way or put makeup on. I felt that I didn’t want people to look at my face or my clothes; I just wanted to talk about the business at hand.

I talked to another female business owner about this, and she talked about how she embraced the fact that people are going to look at her. So she opened my eyes; in reality, looking a certain way shouldn’t matter.”

🏥 Brenda: “I always say, ‘You can have it all; you just can’t have it all at the same time.’ Whether it’s your family or your friends or your own self-care, something has to be sacrificed. So you have to consciously make that choice.

You also lose that sense of belonging in your own organization. And I know that sounds counterintuitive, but when you go out with your team, you go out to happy hour, and when you’re the CEO, they all go without you and talk about you. So it can get really lonely.”

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? What advice would you give to women looking to start their own business?

🛋 Alicia: “First of all, believe in yourself. If you have that belief, you will make it. Never, never give up. In the beginning, it’s tough; you’re still trying to define who you are.

Another thing someone told me that helped me grow my business exponentially — ‘A niche will make you rich.’ You can’t be all things to all people. So, be willing to evolve and morph your business to where the market takes you.”

😊 Katherine: “One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received is ‘you are your only limit.’ As long as you know what you want, you can accomplish it. My brother, who passed away, told me that a long time ago, and he’s the one who passed all the design stuff on to me. So, whenever I get discouraged, I remind myself — your only limit is you.

And for any woman who is looking to start a business, the first thing to know is if you keep thinking about it, you were meant to start it. There’s no point arguing with yourself; at least start and give it a try. Take it one step at a time.”

💆 Melissa: “One of the big takeaways in business is from a mentor of mine, Robin Sharma, and his quote says, ‘All change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.’

That has really stuck with me because in business and in life, we are always changing. And that’s what makes entrepreneurship so exciting. And I remember it was hard in the beginning, and you might not know how it’s going to work out. But there’s beauty that’s waiting on the other side. And the more you go through that cycle, the more confident you get. And you’re more willing to take those bigger risks.

And I would have to pay that forward to anyone who’s looking to start in business. There is always something gorgeous waiting on the other side.”

🔋 Jennifer: “This is what I’ve learned: don’t be so scared to look dumb. And don’t always assume that people are thinking you’re dumb because you ask a question. I’m not Lebron James; I’m not the king of basketball. And I’m not the queen of electronics; I’m not going to know everything. Ask the question.”

🏥 Brenda: “Don’t tie up your identity with the company, so much that if the company fails, you feel like a failure. Keep the perspective that your entrepreneurial endeavor is like a child, but it’s not indicative of your total success as a person. Keeping that balance is really important from an identity perspective.”

👉 Continued in part two… coming soon!

Share it!
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Thank you! Your submission has been received!
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Article

5 Women Entrepreneurs On Running A Start Up

5 Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Hard-Earned Advice On Running A Start Up

March 7, 2022

Jump to a section
Share it!
Sign up for our newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Here at The Manual, we’re in the business of sharing the details behind the successes of everyday entrepreneurs and small business leaders. This year, for International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight the ups and downs of being a female in the small business space.

So, we sat down with five amazing women, each in their own stage of the entrepreneurial journey. We talked about their experiences as business leaders, the challenges of being a woman in the business world, and their advice for other females looking to make their way as entrepreneurs.

From their unique beginnings to the similarities in the challenges they faced, these women had a lot to share about their experiences. 

Introducing…

Entrepreneurs come from every walk of life, and we wanted our interviewees to reflect the wide range of those experiences. With various industries, educational backgrounds, and years of experience, these women have dealt with challenges that are both similar and distinct to their personal journeys.

Let’s meet the entrepreneurs:

Alicia Guerrieri is the founder and owner of iSearchDecor, a luxury real estate concierge service. She started her own business in 2010 after working investments at Hewlett-Packard and growing sales at her husband’s technology company.

iSearchDecor, which started as an online matching system for buyers and resources for their homes, evolved into the service company it is today. The business is best known for helping real estate agents stage the interior design of luxury homes so they sell at maximum value.

Photo: A woman smiling at the camera, sitting in front of a desk with sticker-making equipment.
Katherine Perez Hernandez

Katherine Perez Hernandez is a web and graphic designer and a former vice president of brand/design. Last September, she started All The Kewt Stickers, a sticker design and production business.

Katherine used her end-of-the-year work bonus to pursue her passion for designing stickers and stationery and jumpstart her entrepreneurial journey. With the support of her family, she has been steadily growing her customer base while remaining debt-free with plans to pursue wholesale and other online sales opportunities.

Photo: A woman smiling and looking left of camera with her hands posed under her chin.
Melissa Pruett

Melissa Pruett is the owner and founder of Melt by Melissa, a self care studio based in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. With a background in chemistry and nutritional science, Melissa always thought she would go to medical school. But, when she started an eyebrow treatment service in her apartment in January 2014, the concept gradually grew into a full-time business.

Since then, Melt by Melissa has grown from a home business to a self-care studio specializing in brows, skincare, and other beauty services. The company has 20 employees at two locations, an online beauty product marketplace, and an aesthetics training academy.

Jennifer Ruiz is the president of United Circuits, an electronics company based in Florida. She grew up helping with the business, which was founded by her father in 1993. And though she studied nursing in college, she came back to work at United Circuits alongside her father, with the expectation that she would take over when he retired.

Sadly, Jennifer took over leadership of the company much sooner than anticipated when her father unexpectedly passed away during the pandemic. She’s made the transition to leadership while maintaining the high quality of service that her customers have come to expect.

Photo: A woman in a black shirt sitting in front of a brick wall, smiling at the camera.
Brenda Schmidt

Brenda Schmidt is the founder and executive chairman of Solera Health, a healthcare connection platform. During her four-year tenure as CEO, the company raised $82M to build a digital health marketplace that connects people with chronic diseases to the best health solutions.

She has over 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry and founded her first company back in 2005. Brenda also acts as a mentor and advisor for other entrepreneurs, teaches entrepreneurial courses with NYU, and currently works at Redesign Health, which builds multiple healthcare startups.

All that is to say, we found an amazing team of women to speak to.

Finally… the questions

Speaking with these women offered us so many insights into the highs and lows of working in the business world. There was so much wisdom between them that to fit it all into one article would mean scrolling for ages.

So, we’re breaking it up and giving you double the love! Here’s part one of our roundtable with these female entrepreneurs and business leaders. We highlighted helpful quotes that anyone can take and apply to their own business and entrepreneurial dreams. (And now you’ve got a part two to look forward to!)

These quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

What got you interested in the entrepreneurial journey and starting your own business?

🛋 Alicia: “I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. My dad had his own business and he had a large, profitable construction company. So I grew up in the world of ‘You build your own destiny. You can have your own business and set your own course.’

I went to business school and got a job offer at Hewlett-Packard. I thought, ‘What a great teaching ground.’ I learned how to work with people, processes, documentation — everything I could bring to my own business.”

😊 Katherine: “I always had an interest in journaling, planners, and stickers. So, I thought it’d be fun to create some of my own stuff that I know people like. And I have future plans expanding to online and vending machine opportunities.”

💆 Melissa: “I didn’t really know I was starting a business; I considered eyebrows my creative artistry and my hobby. And people will pay me for this? Yeah, cool, great! And so the business grew very organically. But looking back, I was always meant to be an entrepreneur.”

🔋 Jennifer: “The company was started by my dad in 1993. I worked at the business while growing up. And when he got pneumonia a few years ago, I had to step in and be his middle man and I was like, ‘Huh, I kinda like this.’

So I stayed working here and the goal was always that I would take over after he retired. But as far as me being ready for that? I was not. He passed away suddenly, and I had no preparation for that. I knew some things, but I had no idea what I was doing, running a business. So it’s not like I started this myself; I’ve hit the ground running.”

🏥 Brenda: “I worked for a really large healthcare company and was frustrated by the pace of change. I couldn’t tie my role to the direct impact and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for a large company. I really had the desire to see if I could be an entrepreneur, so I negotiated a severance package to last eighteen months and used that time to see if I could develop a profitable business.”

What are some of the most important characteristics a leader can have? 

🛋 Alicia: “I’m always willing to do what I ask anyone to do. I’ll jump in and help wherever I need to help, and I feel like that grows a great bond with your employees. Because they know that I understand their role and what they go through.”

😊 Katherine: “One of the most important characteristics a leader can have is empathy. You need to understand everyone else’s point of view. And as a mom, if somebody comes in angry or frustrated, you just know something else is going on. Knowing everyone is multifaceted and everything is combined together. You want to be there for them.”

💆 Melissa: “Communication in that team community is critical. The ability to communicate with empathy and clarity is an art. And I’m not perfect, but this is something I’ve worked hard on as a leader. Not everybody is going to be able to read my mind and not everybody is going to do things the way I do. Us women, we really are communicators, so to communicate with empathy is important.”

🔋 Jennifer: “For me, being a leader means taking the advice of people who know better than me. To not pretend I know what I’m doing when I don’t. Because that’s not going to better anything and will just make me look foolish. And as a woman, you don’t get the chance to look foolish.”

You need to be one step ahead. And that means admitting when I don’t know the answer and asking others for help. And I feel like when my team sees that their input, guidance, and expertise is being used, it makes them respect me more as a leader.”

🏥 Brenda: “I think these leadership characteristics are general to all entrepreneurs: it’s the resourcefulness, the grit and perseverance, being a lifelong learner.

And for me, having diversity in the team was really important. You want people in the room who think differently because as a leader, it’s really important to have a strong sense of collaboration. And to some extent, my being a woman supported that collaborative approach to leading, as opposed to more of a command and control approach.”

As a woman, do you feel like there was anything you had to sacrifice in order to become an entrepreneur and a leader in the business space?

🛋 Alicia: “I work 24/7 and that’s how I built my brand. I had the mentality that if I want to build a business in this world, I have to be available, I have to be flexible for my clients.”

😊 Katherine: “Starting your own business does take a lot of time. Last Christmas was so busy, and I had a guarantee that everything ordered by a certain date would be there by Christmas. So, during Christmas vacation, my family and I maybe didn’t get to do all the things we wanted to do. But it’s worth it.”

💆 Melissa: “I gave up a lot — dating, getting married in my twenties, having children early. But I was willing to sacrifice that and put it off to a later date because my business was my boyfriend, my baby, my everything. I sacrificed being home for the holidays and going on trips with my friends to build my business because that was my highest priority.”

🔋 Jennifer: “Before, I used to feel like wearing makeup and a cute outfit made me feel more powerful. But I notice not wanting to dress a certain way or put makeup on. I felt that I didn’t want people to look at my face or my clothes; I just wanted to talk about the business at hand.

I talked to another female business owner about this, and she talked about how she embraced the fact that people are going to look at her. So she opened my eyes; in reality, looking a certain way shouldn’t matter.”

🏥 Brenda: “I always say, ‘You can have it all; you just can’t have it all at the same time.’ Whether it’s your family or your friends or your own self-care, something has to be sacrificed. So you have to consciously make that choice.

You also lose that sense of belonging in your own organization. And I know that sounds counterintuitive, but when you go out with your team, you go out to happy hour, and when you’re the CEO, they all go without you and talk about you. So it can get really lonely.”

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? What advice would you give to women looking to start their own business?

🛋 Alicia: “First of all, believe in yourself. If you have that belief, you will make it. Never, never give up. In the beginning, it’s tough; you’re still trying to define who you are.

Another thing someone told me that helped me grow my business exponentially — ‘A niche will make you rich.’ You can’t be all things to all people. So, be willing to evolve and morph your business to where the market takes you.”

😊 Katherine: “One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received is ‘you are your only limit.’ As long as you know what you want, you can accomplish it. My brother, who passed away, told me that a long time ago, and he’s the one who passed all the design stuff on to me. So, whenever I get discouraged, I remind myself — your only limit is you.

And for any woman who is looking to start a business, the first thing to know is if you keep thinking about it, you were meant to start it. There’s no point arguing with yourself; at least start and give it a try. Take it one step at a time.”

💆 Melissa: “One of the big takeaways in business is from a mentor of mine, Robin Sharma, and his quote says, ‘All change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.’

That has really stuck with me because in business and in life, we are always changing. And that’s what makes entrepreneurship so exciting. And I remember it was hard in the beginning, and you might not know how it’s going to work out. But there’s beauty that’s waiting on the other side. And the more you go through that cycle, the more confident you get. And you’re more willing to take those bigger risks.

And I would have to pay that forward to anyone who’s looking to start in business. There is always something gorgeous waiting on the other side.”

🔋 Jennifer: “This is what I’ve learned: don’t be so scared to look dumb. And don’t always assume that people are thinking you’re dumb because you ask a question. I’m not Lebron James; I’m not the king of basketball. And I’m not the queen of electronics; I’m not going to know everything. Ask the question.”

🏥 Brenda: “Don’t tie up your identity with the company, so much that if the company fails, you feel like a failure. Keep the perspective that your entrepreneurial endeavor is like a child, but it’s not indicative of your total success as a person. Keeping that balance is really important from an identity perspective.”

👉 Continued in part two… coming soon!

Article

5 Women Entrepreneurs On Running A Start Up

5 Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Hard-Earned Advice On Running A Start Up

March 7, 2022

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