I recently had the pleasure of gathering with over 250 fellow women entrepreneurs for the “2013, Savor the Success” Conference at The Altman Building in the heart of New York City. The two day conference included a networking village, tradeshow, numerous panels and great cuisine, all provided by women entrepreneurs from around the country. It was my first time both hearing about and attending the conference, so I was anxious to be amongst the company of other women who took leaps of faith to make their entrepreneurial visions come true.
The women in attendance represented many industries and genres of business ventures, including, but not limited to: shapewear, food and beverage, apparel, legal services, beauty products and services and also social media services. As I did not know any of the women prior to attending, there was a permeating spirit of networking and bonding in the air. As we all sat for the opening remarks, it was hard, if not impossible, to ignore the other women sitting as the same table.
Following a formal introduction were the inevitable questions, “And what is it that you do? Do you have a business card?” and it was actually extremely refreshing to be amongst the company of so many women of different races and ages coming together for the benefit of support and building their business. There were also women there who had just quit their jobs and were in a place of exploration, attempting to get that boost of encouragement to start that business that has been building itself in their minds for years. These ladies, who were in the period of exploration, were interestingly enough the most encouraging of them all.
I also found the heart to heart/informal moderated conversations with both Heather Thomson, CEO of Yummie Tummie and cast member of “Real Housewives of New York” and the founding partners of Malia Mills, a clothing apparel company based in New York to be the most fulfilling. There was a dichotomy in their approach to starting and maintaining their businesses. One company started literally from nothing, making and taking phone calls on public pay phones (this was in the pre-cell phone days) to now owning several stores throughout the nation as the other decided to utilize her resources from a previous career to solidify financing of over $1 million dollars to keep up with demand for a product she designed and made for herself. Overall, the greatest lesson from these two stories was consistent and that was COURAGE.
Women serve in so many capacities in the workplace. Whether you are a Senior Vice President of a Fortune 500 company, an educator or an entrepreneur, one thing is for certain and that is encouragement and support is necessary. Hearing the stories, especially those stories of struggle, tenacity, courage, determination and support from women of like mind can be one of the most rewarding additions to your arsenal to fight for success. We are not alone in our career pursuits, and as most entrepreneurs start off small and with a small support system, it would behoove us all to continue to meet and network with others to assist in our push for ultimate success.
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Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.