By NAWBO Publications
It's no surprise that the economy is on virtually every business owner's mind these days, but economists and women entrepreneurs who are weathering the Wall Street and mortgage crisis say there are still plenty of opportunities for women business owners to adapt, move into new niches, and not only survive but flourish.
National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) chapter presidents and chapter board members, along with national economic and business experts across the country, offer some perspective on how to thrive and prosper in the current economy.
Be Creative. As traditional customer bases and service areas may be shrinking for many businesses, women entrepreneurs now more than ever need to reassess and rethink their businesses and determine whether to search out new markets.
"Everyone is reinventing themselves in some way with new products, new delivery systems ... this is forcing us to think of doing things in a different way," says NAWBO Greater Miami Chapter President Anne B. Freedman, president and founder of Speak Out Inc. (www.speakoutinc.com), which provides a range of corporate communications and training programs, workshops, courses and private executive coaching.
"More of us are using the Internet in a different way," she says. "More people are listening about the need to blog, or to do more social networking ... Pushing forward is the only way to go."
Uncover New Niches. NAWBO Greater Tucson President Marion Hook urges women business owners to brainstorm to uncover niche markets they might have overlooked in the past.
For example, Hook now markets her Adobe Rose Inn (www.aroseinn.com) as also catering to people with food allergies and has seen business increase. The scone mix she serves customers at the inn is now manufactured locally, and the two businesses cooperate on marketing.
Reduce Overhead. From office space to paperclips, take a hard look at what your business can reasonably do without. Wendy Buller, president of NAWBO Silicon Valley, Calif., suggests going to lease holders and asking for a cost reduction in exchange for a longer lease term.
On the other hand, she says if your business has extra space, consider a sublease to a smaller or "virtual" company looking mainly for a business address to bring in extra cash. Also look more closely at already depreciated assets, such as vehicles, and consider selling them for added cash, as well as savings on annual insurance premiums.
Retool Operations. Retooling and refining your business focus can be financially and personally rewarding, as Judy Hathaway, president of the Central Jersey chapter of NAWBO, discovered when her job as an independent meeting planner with Meeting Professionals Expectations Inc. (www.meetingpro.com) was impacted by the economy.
A slowdown in the travel and meeting industry meant fewer contract negotiations and bookings for her specialty base of clients seeking overnight hotel stays. In response, she launched her own travel Web site (www.ambassadoreventstravel.com) complete with accoutrements such as car rentals, flowers, travel wear and even a wedding registry.
"You need to look at what to change in products or service that makes you different or newer compared to what your competition might be doing," says Hathaway.