2020 Lessons Learned from Women Entrepreneurs

Kiley Peters

Small Business

If you didn’t already know, we’re all about supporting women over here at Brainchild Studios, so International Women’s Day (IWD) is a big deal for us. It’s a day to celebrate the achievements of women all across the world and to continue the fight for women's equality. This year’s IWD theme is “Choose to Challenge,” where we’re all challenged to raise our hands and show our commitment to confronting and overcoming gender bias and inequality. Count us in!

Now, it should also be noted that taking a single day to celebrate the multitude of accomplishments we women are capable of is clearly insufficient. We actively celebrate these accomplishments 365 days a year. But if the world wants to pick a day and spin up lots of hoopla about it, YES PLEASE!

2020 challenged us all with so many unexpected challenges that brought out our strength, our tears, our fears, our fight, our might, and our resilience. From additional caregiving responsibilities and homeschooling to increased workloads and a lack of personal time, the pandemic has significantly impacted women and continues to affect our daily routines, physical and mental health, and careers.

The past year presented a unique set of challenges for women in business, but so many of them survived and thrived! So while any day is a great day to celebrate amazing women, today we’re extra excited to share the stories of  28 businesswomen about how they weathered the storm!

 


Denise Thompson, Founder/Owner
The Effective Communication Coach
  • Follow your mission. Continue to operate in the mission of your company. Reinvent your company's "how" to align with your clients' needs.
  • Stay connected. Reach out with a handwritten note or personal phone call. Understand what matters to your clients. Stay focused on the possibilities and detach from the barriers.

Jill Koziol,
Co-Founder + CEO
Motherly
  • Adapt. It’s a given that 2020 was a hard year for everyone — personally and professionally — and I feel business leaders carried an especially big load, forcing many new lessons, as well as reinforcing old lessons. We have always known that women — and in particular mothers — bear the majority of the household workload responsibilities even in households where partners are present. Still, the biggest lesson I learned in 2020 is that, when crisis hits, it will hit working mothers the hardest. To address this in 2020 with a workforce comprised of many working mothers we offered even more flexible schedules, instituted mental health Fridays, and urgently focused our team on business priorities that underscored our mission to empower mothers. 2020 reinforced the adage that the only constant is change. We pride ourselves at Motherly in our ability — as leaders and as mothers — to adapt to whatever challenge life brings.
Susannah Lago,
Founder & Owner
Style Up Group
  • Get involved in your local community. Volunteer, be passionate about a cause, connect with people, and support organizations that share your values. You’ll never regret the investment you make in your community.
Marcia Taylor, CEO & Owner
Lush Popcorn
  • The power of resilience. We are a family-owned and operated business. 2020 brought so many new and unforeseen obstacles; however, the biggest lesson we've learned is the power of resilience and the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. In a matter of days, we lost thousands of dollars in sales and perishable products and saw many canceled contracts/events. Our resilience taught us to never stop, never give up, and pivot. We understood that we offer essential products and job opportunities for our community. So we had to bounce back, and quickly, to ensure that we could get our staff back to work as quickly and safely as possible. Although the pandemic impacted our growth in 2020, we found new ways to partner with local retailers and source from local farms to expand our fresh, farm-to-bag product offerings to ensure we offer sustainable food sources in our community.
Jill Salzman,
Founder
The Founding Moms
  • Community matters. Nothing rang more true for me in 2020 than just how much community matters. The resilience of mom entrepreneurs is incredible. I’ve known that for a long time. But 2020 was a banner year that revealed how women who were facing literal trials of a lifetime were able to survive and then thrive because they knew they were not alone. Frankly, I was confident in March of 2020 that The Founding Moms was going to close up shop. People were scared. The future was the most uncertain it had ever been, even for risk-taking entrepreneurs. My founder reflex kicked in and I stepped up the supportive messaging to our members. And while I expected deafening silence, I heard from Founding Moms everywhere that community was exactly what they needed. So, we got busy lifting each other up. We provided get-togethers and educational bootcamps and as many resources as we possibly could to help keep our members afloat. As a founder of a community, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was to see how global pandemics or political unrest couldn’t undo the determination of mom entrepreneurs. It confirmed the importance of community work and has led us to double our efforts to bring as many mom entrepreneurs together as we can.
Ashley Town,
Designer, Printer, Boss Lady
Bay View Printing Co
  • Put good out into the world. Even when you're watching a lot of folks around you scramble to get ahead, remind yourself that you're supported by your community and you exist to serve them. Keep putting good out into the world and it will come back ten fold every time.
Krisit Ross,
Co-Founder, Co-CEO & President
TastyTrade
  • Embrace Zoom. The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the broadest reaching, most challenging times for individuals, families, businesses, cities, states, our country, and people and institutions across the world, no matter your wealth, age or gender. We have all been affected in so many ways and with varying degrees of severity: mentally, physically, financially and with a foundational question around purpose and connections. 2020 made me realize there was one component I was possibly missing…deep human connections. March 2020’s pandemic kickoff sent us all reeling back into our own homes, scurrying to find better ways to connect for business meetings, customer communications, and grasping to find a way to recreate the internal, innovative-water-cooler-conversations. Zoom became our gateway.
  • Be more human. For all the Zoom fatigue people soon felt, I saw Zoom as not only a way for improved remote communications, but also a gateway into people’s lives. It helped me, as a leader, see each and every person I connected with or have a business relationship with, not just as an employee or business contact, but as a human.  Zoom provided a gateway into people’s homes. It provided me “context” around each person as a human. It reminded me that we are all human. I’m a truly committed supporter of technology and all of its benefits, but 2020 reminded me of the undeniable fact that truly successful businesses, loving families, effective cities, and ecosystems are all built on deep human connections. 2020 created an opportunity to unlock this gateway by allowing compassion and empathy to enter into our everyday lives and businesses. It has been a tremendous gift. 2020 reminded me to be more human.
Kailei Carr,
Chief Executive Officer & Founder
The Asbury Group

  • The importance of listening to myself and what I needed. As someone who pours into and serves others constantly through my practice, I've had moments when I've realized that I needed to elevate my self-care practices in order to be able to show up for my clients, my family, and myself. So now, I find myself taking a jog in the middle of the day or sometimes even a nap, even for 15 minutes, if my body tells me it needs it. It has been a game-changer.
Donata Kalnenaite, President
Termageddon, LLC
  • The value of patience. While 2020 came with a lot of challenges for all of us, for me, the greatest lesson that I learned in 2020 is the value of patience. In 2020, a lot of the events that I was selected to speak at were canceled and I was not able to do even a fraction of the networking that I had planned to do. Experiencing all of the confusion, political upheaval, and false starts back to "normal" was frustrating, to say the least. To me, 2020 really exposed the value of patience and the benefits of focusing inward, whether that be through virtual events, hobbies, or my work. 2020 taught me that it's ok to wait and that the journey towards my goals should be appreciated as much as the finish line.
Ab Yang,
Business Owner
RPM Bodywork
  • Stay resilient. 2020 was the year that tested my ability to stay resilient. It forced me to push emotions to the side and seek innovative ways to keep the business going for myself and my team members. I was reminded that any business model must be ready to pivot and change as quickly as possible to succeed. Change really is the only thing that never changes.
Rachael Kay Albers,
Digital Strategist & Business Comedian
RKA Ink
  • You are enough. The greatest lesson I learned in 2020 was one I had IGNORED for the 11 years I was an entrepreneur before that, namely - the best coach, the best mentor, the best advisor, the best biz BFF, is YOU! If you can learn discernment and to fully trust your gut in business, then you are unbeatable and no battle is unwinnable. You are exactly the person you need right now.
Ashley Logan, Founder & CEO
Yakkety Yak
  • Resilience is key. Leading a team through the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the greatest honors I've had as CEO of Yakkety Yak. Using clear communication, transparency, and vulnerability, we navigated the stay-at-home order, transitioned to fully remote, and have continued to grow as a team. I am proud of the resilience of my team and learned that being vulnerable isn't a weakness: it's a way to build trust and camaraderie.
Lindsay Pinchuk,
Founder + CEO
Bump Club and Beyond
  • Diversify your offerings. If 2020 taught me anything it was that you have to diversify your offerings and not put all of your eggs in one basket. As a primarily events-based company, Bump Club and Beyond was poised for major failure in 2020. However in the few years prior, we spent a lot of time investing in our digital offerings---content, community, and social media. When the pandemic hit, we were in the middle of a HUGE in-person retailer activation. Almost overnight we pivoted and took it online. Following its success, we were able to put all of our in-person activations online. In the end, 2020 turned out to be an amazing year for our company in terms of audience growth, revenue, and profit margin. Had we only focused on events---and never had other offerings or capabilities for the brands we work with, we surely wouldn't be around anymore. It's important to make sure you have a well-rounded offering to the brands (and audiences) you serve.

Lisa Estrella Yang,
Founder, CEO
Faceted Beauty®

 

  • Listen to your customers. My business is teaching me how to be the CEO it needs to get it to the ultimate vision. Listen first, ask your customers questions, and then act. Mistakes will happen but what matters most is how you show up after it happens. To my fellow founders, you're not alone!
Carolyn Jahnke, Founding Attorney
Athena Legal Solutions LLC
  • Don’t try to do it alone. It is easy to feel like you have to be a lone wolf as an entrepreneur; even I have to constantly remind myself I don’t have to do it alone. My success in 2020 came from building a strong network of other entrepreneurs and coaches who could support me as I handled the daily challenges of starting and running a business. They held up the mirror for me, encouraged me to take action, kept me grounded in my purpose, and constantly pushed me to do more and be better. They also had tips and tricks from what they’ve learned in their businesses. With their support and advice, I was able to triple my revenue goal for the year. It can be scary to ask for support, but it will pay off exponentially.
Jamie Andrzejewski, Founder & Owner
Nourish Natural Products
  • Keep showing up. Sure, we had to get really creative in the how and the where, but we committed to consistently showing up and were rewarded with incredible opportunities to both give AND receive.
Heather Wentler,
Executive Director & Co-founder
Doyenne Group, Inc.
  • Lean on your team. I can never be the keeper of all the knowledge, answers, and resources if I want my team and company to thrive. 2020 dealt Doyenne many knockout blows, but we have continued to build and recreate ourselves into a new organization. Part of this growth had to include me being able to lean on my team as much as they lean on me, making sure I have the team to do all we promise to the community, and also letting the team know I support and believe in the decisions and ideas they're bringing to the table, while also balancing the role of final decision-maker.
  • Be vulnerable. As much as we all want to be the boss, it's tough being the boss, and showing vulnerability is something we're not taught to do ever, let alone when we're the boss. But, if you don't show your vulnerabilities or say "I don't know, can someone help me?" it can become harmful to the venture as you're only allowed to go as far as your skills will take you.
Leah Roe, Founder & Leadership Coach
The Perk
  • If you’re going to go out, go out swinging. We lost 90% of our revenue in March & April due to COVID and were preparing to find new jobs. We received the PPP loan, so I told Steph, my employee, that she had a job through the end of June, but that she should probably start looking for a new one. I was devastated - I loved being an entrepreneur and business owner, building a culture, leading a team, and our clients - all of it. It was my identity, and I was losing it all. I was heartbroken. One day I woke up and said to Steph, “You know what? If we’re going to go out, let’s go out swinging!” We made a list of our ideal, dream clients. The ones we had discussed working with SOMEDAY, once we were big enough to attract them. We decided to make someday TODAY, and instead of attracting them in, we went straight to them and said we want to work together. The result? They said YES. Now, we work with our DREAM clients doing work we ABSOLUTELY LOVE! Also, we crushed our 2020 revenue goals, generating more than we had originally set out to do (pre-COVID!), and that was after having ZERO revenue for a couple of months.
  • Keep dreaming big. Love your people & your work with all of your heart. Find opportunity in everything. Choose to have an Infinite Mindset. Trust your crazy ideas. And please - have some FUN while doing it!
Kim Nguyen-Ehrenreich,
Founder and Managing Director
STEMful
  • Show vulnerability. Show vulnerability to your team when you don't know everything that is happening so if you need to make a pivot then they will be willing to follow. Be honest and open to your team and explain to them why you need to make the hard changes
Kristin George,
Founder
Dotted Comma, LLC
  • Be flexible and ready for anything. Living through 2020 taught me to be flexible and ready for anything. 2020 was quite the test in pivoting and taking each situation as it comes. Being a planner it is hard for me to be flexible and "go with the flow." 2020 taught me that we can choose to stay stuck in our current situation or move forward through the adversity, learning and growing in the process. For that I am grateful — we can do hard things.
Rhiannon Hendrickson,
Founder + CEO
Orapin Marketing + Public Relations
  • The small things are the big things. With all the devastation 2020 brought to so many, it's hard for me to admit it was a year of great blessings for me. Not the kinds of blessings I would have asked for prior to the pandemic, but the ones that are actually most important. I went into 2020 with big goals and came nowhere close to realizing them. But sometimes you don’t get what you want. You get what you need. Last year, I spent more time with my kids than ever before. I love my kids. Yet, “spending more time with them” wasn’t actually on my list. I am fortunate to make my own schedule and spend a lot of time with them anyway. So I wasn’t actually longing for that. But the pandemic shutdowns and forced family time gave me the kind of quality, mundane, joyous, drive-me-crazy, rich time with them I didn’t know I truly needed. The great lesson I took from last year is that the small things truly are the big things and that a grateful heart can bring tremendous freedom, clarity, and abundance.
Shiloh Caffrey,
Owner & Founder
We Drink Bubbles
 

  • Create a space of positivity. Wow, what a roller coaster 2020 was! I can honestly say that never before in a single year have I learned so many lessons and experienced so much growth, both personally and professionally. I think it’s safe to say, that everyone last year had to learn adaptability and flexibility, but I’d say the biggest lesson, or insight rather, that I learned from 2020 was the incredible loyalty of a customer, when you create an authentic and positive community. I was shocked by the outpouring of support I’ve received from customers new and old within the past 12 months. My focus last year was to create a space of positivity and uplift my customers, regardless of the monetary value because I genuinely believed that people were needing space from the negativity that came with 2020. This lesson, brought about by the craziness of 2020, will forever be part of the We Drink Bubbles culture.
Christiana Trapani,
Owner & Founder
Door County Delivered
  • Step out of your comfort zone. The greatest lesson I learned running my business in 2020 was to always be ready to adapt to an ever-changing world. Always grow, and never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. After all, we're women, we can do anything...we run the world!
Stephanie Melnick,
Owner
Melnick & Melnick, S.C.
  • Compassion and grace are fundamental. We experienced more than our share of dark and heavy last year. And even in non-pandemic years, stress and anxiety plague all of us. In leading my all-female team and working with mostly female business owners, I learned that compassion and grace are fundamental. Our clients know they can lean on us. My team knows that I’ll cut them a break and I know they’ll do the same for me. Turning to a favorite source for wisdom, rom coms, I recall what Mark Darcy told Bridget in Bridget Jones’s Diary, “I like you very much, just as you are.”
Gini Dietrich,
Founder
Spin Sucks
  • Create additional revenue streams. Because I have the Great Recession in my rearview mirror as a business owner, I spent the last decade creating multiple revenue streams to weather major storms like that one. Of course, I couldn't have predicted the decimation of a global pandemic (I think only Bill Gates called that one), but because I'd spent all of that time building, it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. So, while that's not a lesson from 2020—more 2009/2010—it definitely helped us not just survive but thrive last year. I cannot recommend that enough. When business owners ask me what's the most important thing they can do, I always tell them to create additional revenue streams. When one is down, another is up and it helps you maintain business growth during tough times.
Margaux Chandler,
Owner/Instructor
Shred415 East Side
  • Be true to your passion. Entrepreneurship is hard work. Make sure what you are doing is your passion!
Mara Natkin
CEO
Artery Ink
  • Give back. Throughout this past year, we've learned that the more we can give back the more we get to engage with our community and really see how small acts can make a big difference - especially in hard times!
Kiley-PetersKiley Peters,
Founder & CEO
Brainchild Studios
  • Captain your ship. One analogy that kept me going throughout 2020 was that a business owner is the captain of their ship. Your job is to steer the ship to calm waters. The skies will not always be sunny, but if you don't keep the ship afloat, if you don't make the hard decisions to patch the holes, mend the sails, and remove unnecessary weight, you will sink your ship. And if you sink your ship, you fail your entire team. You can no longer provide the means for your team to pay their rent/mortgage, put food on their table, cover a medical claim, or save for retirement. It is not easy being captain and it is a big responsibility, but your team depends on you to have their backs and keep them afloat. Captain your ship.
  • You don't have to have all the answers. Let's be honest, no one had answers last year. But what I realized was that more than anything, our team just wanted to be kept up-to-date. Even if the response was "I'm not sure, but we're working on it" communication was key. Communication, humility, and transparency were essential to staying afloat last year and will continue to be so moving forward.

 

Welp, that's what these incredible women have to say. What about you?
If you have additional words of advice, please share them on social media or email us at info@brainchildstudios.com and we'll work on extending this piece!

Kiley-Peters-Headshot-FINAL-web

Kiley
Owner & CEO

Kiley Peters is the Founder and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a boutique digital content marketing and website creation agency primarily serving brands targeting Millennial Moms. She is also the Founder of the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurial moms through the steps of starting a virtual business. She also launched the Brainchild Fund, a nonprofit initiative to support women and girls in business and entrepreneurship Follow her on Instagram.

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