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2019

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As every small business owner knows, referrals from trusted connections or past customers are one of the best ways to get new business.

 

Building a strong local community network can help. Creating a local network has other business benefits as well. It provides a support system to encourage you and offer advice when you need it and exposes you to new ideas that can help grow your business.photo-of-people-doing-handshakes-3183172.jpg

 

How can you build a stronger business network in your local community? Here are three ideas.

 

1. Join local business organizations: Even if you’re already involved in national organizations such as your industry association, joining local business groups can have additional benefits. It doesn’t have to be an organization for your industry; the local Chamber of Commerce, leads club, Rotary club or other service organization are all great ways to meet other business owners, professionals and community leaders.

 

BNI, a worldwide networking organization, has a unique focus. Each local chapter allows only one member from each industry to join. Members focus on referring business to each other. Since you’re the only representative of your industry in your chapter, you won’t be competing with other members for customers or referrals. Also consider joining local organizations targeted to your own special interests, such as groups for women in business, Hispanic people in business or business owners under 30.

 

Can’t find such a group? Consider starting one. Whether you’re joining an existing group or starting one of your own, taking on a leadership role is the best way to get to know others and the most out of your membership.

 

Read next: Small Business Networking Plays Vital Role in Growth by Joel Comm

 

2. Get involved in a community-based social networking group: Sometimes it’s surprisingly hard to meet other business owners just down the street. After all, you’re both busy running your businesses, and if you’re in different industries, you may not belong to the same organizations.

 

That’s the problem Alignable, an online social network of over 4 million small business owners, was launched to solve. Joining Alignable is free and you can connect with other local business owners to get referrals, build relationships, spread the word about your business and get advice from your peers.

Townsquared is another free site that offers similar features to help small business owners make connections. If you’re already on LinkedIn, use it to search for other business owners in your area and get connected with them.

 

Many small business owners lack the time to physically get out and attend local business events. If that’s you, an online social networking group that’s focused on your local area is a way to accomplish many of the same goals without leaving your office.

 

3. Hold a networking event at your business: Often, the best way to meet other business owners is to make the first move yourself.

 

Get the addresses of local business owners in your area and stop by in-person to introduce yourself and invite them to a special event at your business where they can get to know lots of other local entrepreneurs. Hand out your invitations well in advance so you can plan for the appropriate number of people.

 

At the event, make it easy for people to network by planning some icebreaker activities or playing games. Provide refreshments, music and drinks to make it feel festive. Ask attendees to bring their business cards, share product samples, be ready to do a demonstration or otherwise find a way to bring their businesses alive to the others. Try holding a contest or giving prizes for the newest business, oldest business, most unusual business, etc.

 

If you’re having trouble finding local business owners to invite, you can try using Meetup, a social network that helps people connect for real-world activities.

You’ll never regret forming new relationships, and the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to do so. Start planning your community-building activities now and you can start 2020 off with more support than ever before.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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To celebrate women business owners, Bank of America and ForbesBooks took time to speak with small business experts at their recent panel event. Panelist Cate Luzio, founder and CEO of Luminary, created the female-focused collaboration space for professional women to network, develop, and connect.Tune in to this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street” for Cate Luzio’s entrepreneurial journey.

 

Listen next: Stories from the Spotlight, Part 1: Deepti Sharma & FoodtoEat

 

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“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

Transcript:

Narrator:                   Now, let's hear from Cate Luzio, founder and CEO of Luminary, the venue hosting the 2019 Bank of America Women Business Owners Spotlight.

 

Kate Delaney:           We're at a very cool place, Greg, called Luminary.

 

Gregg Stebben:        That is very cool. Luminary.

 

Cate Luzio:               Yes.

 

Kate Delaney:           Yes.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Luminary. Who's here with us?

 

Kate Delaney:            Cate Luzio's with us. She is the founder of this place.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And CEO. Founder and CEO of Luminary.

 

Kate Delaney:            Yes. And she's a 20-year banker.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Before Luminary.

 

Kate Delaney:            Yeah.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Yes.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yes.

 

Cate Luzio:                 I quit my job to do this.

 

Gregg Stebben:          So, I want to hear the whole story.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Yeah.

 

Gregg Stebben:          How did you get here? Actually, you know what? Before you tell us that, tell us what Luminary is so people understand. I mean, we are in this  beautiful brick, I guess ... Is it loft-ish or a loft?

 

Cate Luzio:                 Yeah. Well, we're 15,000 square feet, so you guys have only seen one part. We've got a fitness studio, we have a beauty bar-

 

Gregg Stebben:          Oh, my gosh.

 

Cate Luzio:                  ... we have a dozen meeting rooms, we have a dozen phone booths, we're opening up our rooftop. It'll be open all year round.

 

Gregg Stebben:           Now, wait a minute. And I'm not invited. Well, no, I am invited.

 

Cate Luzio:                  No, men are absolutely welcome.

 

Gregg Stebben:           Oh, it is. Okay.

 

Cate Luzio:                  100%.

 

Gregg Stebben:           So, it's not a women-only co-working staff. Okay.

 

Cate Luzio:                 We're not. So, we are a female-focused collaboration space for professional women to network, develop, and connect. We're built on programming and content. So, we think of ourselves as here's a community gathering hub for women and male allies where you can come and learn, develop, and connect with other women, no matter if you're a banker, an entrepreneur, a yoga instructor, a teacher, really breaking down the silos that women face all over, no matter what profession they're in, especially for those that we’re trying to retain in the workforce, and then women entrepreneurs. So, we do workshops and courses, almost 20 a month.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Wow.

 

Cate Luzio:                 So, we've already done 150 this year. We've been open nine months. So that, whether it's professional and career development, small business entrepreneurial, personal wellness, and career changer and pivoters, we're supporting the woman, not a specific woman.

 

Kate Delaney:             Did you decide you were going to do this because you saw the need for women?

 

Cate Luzio:                 Very good question, Kate.

 

Kate Delaney:            Yeah. No man would have figured out that question.

 

Cate Luzio:                 No. You know, actually, I had this amazing career, 20 years. I spent a number of years at BofA, JP Morgan, and HSBC, and what I saw was that there were a lot of focus on the senior women and the junior women as they're coming in and as they have reached the top, but what about the pipeline. So, how do you invest in the pipeline of women in particular? Women are raising their hands all the time saying, "I want more. I want to do more. I want to learn more." So, how do we advance them into leadership roles in whatever they want to do so that we can change those numbers at the top that we keep hearing about? That's the gap. It's the same whether you work for a bank or you're an entrepreneur. How do you get access to the tools to develop yourself, to develop your business, develop your acumen?

 

Gregg Stebben:          It's interesting, Cate. In a way, that's a big focus of what Bank of America-

 

Cate Luzio:                 Yes.

 

Gregg Stebben:          ... is reporting in the 2019 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight, which is why we're here. But I have kind of a two-part question for you based on what you just said.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Sure.

 

Gregg Stebben:          One is I want to know what the ramp up was for you to go from, "I'm committed," to actually opening the door.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Yeah.

 

Gregg Stebben:          But on top of that, I'm just wondering, we're in this place right now, we call it the war for talent, right? Was that one of the factors for you, that companies are struggling so much to get great talent? Was that a piece of your thinking?

 

Cate Luzio:                 Yeah. So, I'll take that question first. I think companies have the talent, they're just not investing in the right way. So, we see so many recruiters out there, they give a woman a call or even a person of color or men, too, and say, "Hey, come to this great company." Well, are you looking in your pipeline? I've been doing this for nine months, right? We're open nine months. I still get calls from recruiters about banking jobs.

 

Gregg Stebben:          For you?

 

Cate Luzio:                 For me.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Hello? LinkedIn.

 

Cate Luzio:                 There's women right-

 

Gregg Stebben:          In your company.

 

Cate Luzio:                 ... in your company.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Which is, really, the bigger point here.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Absolutely. So, they're right there. In banking, if 51% of the workforce is women, how are we still saying there's not a CEO out there that's a woman for any of the big banks, right, the top Wall Street firms. Stop looking outside and look inside, right?

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yes.

 

Cate Luzio:                  Also, give opportunity. But I think-

 

Gregg Stebben:           And groom.

 

Cate Luzio:                  And groom.

 

Gregg Stebben:           But groom opportunity.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Really invest, right, and developing them. I think, to your point, where did I come from? I had a great conversation with a male mentor of mine in early 2018. I was still in my job. I quit. There's a long story behind that, but I quit. Then, a month later, I wrote a business plan for Luminary. I decided to self-fund it, so no outside investors because I wanted to build a community that was maximizing the value for our members versus an investor, and there's nothing wrong with taking on money. I had made a very good career and wanted to invest and put my money where my mouth is. So, nine months later, we opened. So, it was a pretty fast ramp. We've been open nine months and we've got over 600 individual members and we also do corporate memberships. So, we have JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs and Unilever and others that are corporate members because they're looking at different ways to invest in their own talent, and Luminary's a great space to be able to deliver that.

 

Kate Delaney:             We're speaking with Cate Lucio, and she's the founder and CEO of Luminary. As you just heard the tale, funded it herself. Wow. That's so admirable. When you launched this, did you expect it to take off the way it has so fast? It hasn't even been a year and you've got all these big things happening.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Yeah. You know, actually, I hoped, but what I think is there is a real need for this, back to the earlier question, and I think women are looking for community, they're looking for connection, and they're looking for tools to continue to advance themselves in whatever they do. I think we have to stop siloing them and bucketing them in this one thing. "Kate, you do this. Jane, you do that." Let's bring women together. We can all learn from one another and really propel each other forward. Oh, by the way, let's make sure men are at the table helping us, right? That's one of the reasons we don't exclude men. It's really important in building a really inclusive, diverse space. We don't have an application process. I don't want someone to apply to become part of our community. That's not a community. That's already excluding people. So, we are a “join now” and we have just unbelievable members from all different places.

 

Gregg Stebben:          You mentioned your corporate sponsors.

 

Cate Luzio:                  Yes.

 

Gregg Stebben:           What is it that they're bringing to the table and getting from Luminary that makes it an attractive opportunity for them as well?

 

Cate Luzio:                 So, every company, if they're even at the mid size and large size, has a women's group, right, and it's usually back on those women to deliver the programming and the content and the speakers. We believe that we're an extension of these women's groups. We take the heavy lift off, but then it puts the individual back in the driver's seat around what types of skills they want to focus on versus just what their company is offering. So, that's one way on the employee engagement experience. There's a huge opportunity around brand awareness and engagement for these companies around, again, putting their money where their mouth is to support their women. Then, third, there's a great opportunity for both customer and talent acquisitions. You never know who you're going to see or meet in the space.

 

Kate Delaney:             Yep. Absolutely.

 

Cate Luzio:                 For me, as somebody who worked in corporate America for over 20 years, it's kind of a no-brainer.

 

Kate Delaney:            Last question, and this is a tough one. What keeps you up at night?

 

Cate Luzio:                 Honestly, as a self-funder, founder, and CEO, everything. I want to make sure that we really live and breathe what we're saying in the community and not diluting. How do you keep growing without going too fast?

 

Gregg Stebben:          Want to make one last point before we wrap this up. You talked about self-funding.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Yes.

 

Gregg Stebben:          The point I want to make is that getting funding may not be right for every business. Self-funding may not be right for it.

 

Cate Luzio:                  Oh, exactly.

 

Gregg Stebben:           That's a consideration that every small business should think about, is not just, "I need money," but where's the money coming from?

 

Cate Luzio:                  And why do you need it?

 

Gregg Stebben:           And why do you need it is essential. When it's your money, I bet you treat it a lot differently.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Absolutely. But I think there's a huge opportunity for banks to play in this space versus everyone just looks at, "Oh, I've got to raise a bunch of money."

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yes.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Banks have amazing tools, and we need to educate mainly women business owners on what tools that banks can offer so that you can grow your business.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Beautiful.

 

Kate Delaney:             Yep. Thank you so much. This was terrific.

 

Cate Luzio:                 Thanks for having me.

 

Kate Delaney:             Thanks.

 

Narrator:                     Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

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To celebrate women business owners, Bank of America and Forbesbooks took time to speak with small business experts at their recent panel event. Panelist Deepti Sharma, founder of FoodtoEat, is creating opportunity and increasing the odds of success for caterers and restaurants. Tune in to this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street” for Deepti Sharma’s entrepreneurial journey.

 

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“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

Transcript:

Kate Delaney:             I'm Kate Delaney with Gregg Stebben. We're from “Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks and Bank of America. We're here at the 2019 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight, and we're here with Deepti Sharma. She is the founder and CEO of FoodtoEat. What is FoodtoEat?

 

Deepti Sharma:          So, first of all, thank you for having me.

 

Gregg Stebben:          You're welcome.

 

Deepti Sharma:          FoodtoEat is a corporate catering concierge service where we partner with immigrant women and minority-owned restaurants in New York City. Essentially, we help them by taking over their sales and marketing for catering and help them book catering opportunities at large clients. And we're getting these corporations that we feed to do two things. One, we help them consolidate their food and beverage programs, so they don't have to go to 10 different restaurants in order to book catering opportunities, and then two, we're helping them look at diversity and inclusion through the lens of food and beverage, so thinking about how they can invest by using their purchasing power in small businesses in the community and the businesses we represent, as I said, are immigrant- woman- or minority-owned, and two, we're also allowing them to think about inclusion. So, inclusion is not just hiring women and people of color, which is how D&I is usually looked at. So, we say, "How about you do that through your food and beverage programs?"

 

Gregg Stebben:          Culture.

 

Deepti Sharma:          Yes, culture. Exactly. Get the people you've hired to feel as if you're actually trying to think about where they're from and the cuisines that they grew up eating. So, again, it's such a simple thing. Food is sustenance, but it's always put on the back burner. What's the least amount of money I can spend on food? But at any event, good food and good drinks, people remember that.

 

Gregg Stebben:          It also brings the best out of people. So, you're probably going to have some really great gains in productivity and-

 

Deepti Sharma:          Absolutely.

 

Gregg Stebben:          ... and engagement amongst your employees-

 

Deepti Sharma:          Absolutely.

 

Gregg Stebben:          ... that produce results that frankly were unpredictable around a pizza.

 

Deepti Sharma:          Absolutely. As you're talking about that, one of the things we've done to humanize the experience is we started a campaign called I Made Your Food where we photograph all the owners, chefs, and operators holding the sign called “I Made Your Food” because we want those photograph to be in front of the catering and people to look at it before they pick up that free food and say, "Oh, wow. This is the person that has literally had something to do with putting my food together." You see these people standing in line, they're like, "Oh, what is that? I'm so curious and interested." We've even had companies send out the links to the blogs of the interviews that we've done because they want to promote the D&I experience, and they want to promote that they're actually doing this for their team inside.

 

Kate Delaney:             What a brilliant idea and with, of course, the explosion of social media, all different platforms, I would imagine that really took off like wildfire.

 

Deepti Sharma:          Yeah. I mean, a lot of the companies that we're feeding loved it and, essentially, have literally switched over from other organizations that they used to work with to us because they loved that we actually care about the vendors that we represent, that we care about the businesses that we work with, because we don't want to be seen as a third party to them. We want to be able to be seen as an extension of their business.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Talk to us about the kinds of restaurants and food companies you're working with. Would they be in the catering business if they had not created a relationship with FoodtoEat?

 

Deepti Sharma:          Yeah. So, some of them are ... We're in New York City, so we work with some local chains like Dos Toros or fresh&co, which are ... they have above 10 locations in New York City alone.

 

Gregg Stebben:          That's still local or regional companies?

 

Deepti Sharma:           Yeah.

 

Gregg Stebben:           Okay.

 

Deepti Sharma:           They are still local, regional companies.

 

Gregg Stebben:           So, not Taco Bell or-

 

Deepti Sharma:            No. No.

 

Gregg Stebben:            ... Chili's?

 

Deepti Sharma:            No.

 

Gregg Stebben:           Okay.

 

Deepti Sharma:          We try to avoid those. But we do have clients that have requested them sometimes. Again, we don't want to be representing those businesses, but we have mom and pops, organizations like Ja Dijo Dom (Owner/Chef Charles Chipengule). He's an individual that actually used to work for another vendor of ours. He learned everything he could, left, and started his own business. He's from Botswana and wanted to bring the cuisine of not just Botswana, but the continent of Africa and he wanted to educate people because he himself wanted to educate himself about what the cuisine all over Africa is like. So, he started a catering company. So, we have vendors like him, Mamagyro, which is a mother/daughter-owned Greek restaurant and catering business.

 

                                   So, those are the stories that I feel like are the fabric of our country. When people think about what's American food, I don't think it's burgers and fries. I think it is the cuisine of the world, right, because that's who we are. We're immigrants. That's why, as a first-generation woman of color, I think it's really essential for me to represent where I come from, which is ... Obviously, I'm In ... not obviously, but I am an Indian American.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Not as obvious to a radio audience.

 

Deepti Sharma:          Yeah. Not as obvious, but I am Indian American, and so I wanted to represent that, but I wanted to represent people from all over the world.

 

Gregg Stebben:          What fascinates me about what you've done is you're actually creating opportunity and increased odds of success for the caterers and the restaurants that you work with and, at the same time, creating this opportunity for inclusion and understanding and opening people's minds about food and culture on the company side, and on top of that, we also have a much more diverse workplace. So, it must be very thrilling for people at a company to have their culture represented from time to time as opposed to the standard stuff you get from a company.

 

Deepti Sharma:          Absolutely. We want them to not only do it when it's Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month. We want them to know that every one of these restaurants or caterers that we work with should be represented throughout the year, right? It's not just these specialty moments or months to celebrate them. So, that's when ERG groups do it. So, we, again, are changing that conversation to say, "You should have cuisine from all over the world all the time."

 

Gregg Stebben:          All the time.

 

Deepti Sharma:          Exactly.

 

Kate Delaney:            I mentioned at the top that, of course, we're here at the 2019 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight event, and Deepti, for you, obviously, there has to be a connection. What would you advise young women who want to be entrepreneurs, who want to be business owners like yourself, what would you advise them to do?

 

Deepti Sharma:          I was talking about this earlier with someone. I always try to tell them to be passionate, but passion isn't enough to run a business. So, what I think is really important is when you're walking into a room, be able to back up anything you do with facts. People will always ask, "Why you? Why now? Why does this business need to be started now?" and, "Why does it have to be you?" So, just make sure you have the facts of why it is you should be this right person and have those facts of what is the problem that you're trying to solve and why is it now that's most important to get it done.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Okay. I'll take the bait. Why you? Why now? What happened in your life to make you see that this was an opportunity?

 

Deepti Sharma:          When I started FoodtoEat, it was a very different business. I started as an online ordering platform for food trucks and carts, like a Seamless for food trucks. Why me? Because I'm a New Yorker, I absolutely love this city, community has always been a big part of whatever I've done, and I wanted to help create opportunities for underrepresented, marginalized communities. I've worked in politics before it. I had seen what it was like to bring people together for one cause. So, why me? Because I've done it in the world of politics, where I've worked on a number of campaigns. Why at that time? Food trucks were booming. It was 2011 and it was an interesting time and I wanted to help grow and scale them, but not the hippy, the hipster type of food trucks. I wanted to help the small business owners that technology was emerging, but they weren't actually using it-

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yes.

 

Deepti Sharma:           ... so I was sending them, through our system, text messages with orders from people that were sitting in their offices. So, why me? Because I've done things before where I've brought people together for a cause and I felt like I could do it for these people to help them grow in scale. At the time, like I said, food trucks were hot. Then, we solely pivoted for a lot of reasons, which we could spend another 30, 40 minutes-

 

Gregg Stebben:          I'm sure we could.

 

Deepti Sharma:          ... but the pivot was great for us because we were able to continue helping the food industry in a different capacity.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I love the fact that in your original model, you were helping the food trucks and hungry people and now you're helping a very specific set, immigrants, women, on one hand grow their business with your help and expertise, but also, there's this whole inspirational, educational, cultural enlightenment part, which, if I had to choose one of those models to motivate me to get out of bed in the morning, I would definitely pick what you pivoted to. I really want to congratulate you for that.

 

Deepti Sharma:          Yeah. Thank you. I mean, we always worked with immigrant women, minority, but the funny thing is it was always something I knew I was doing, but it wasn't a part of my branding.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yes.

 

Deepti Sharma:          It became more a part of our story because we saw that that's what would really push our business and that's what would really get the habits of corporations to change.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Yeah. Because you have two tribes now, and one of them is very big and powerful and well-funded.

 

Deepti Sharma:           Exactly.

 

Gregg Stebben:           That's very exciting.

 

Deepti Sharma:            Corporations needs to spend their dollars in the right places.

 

Kate Delaney:              Yeah. Yeah.

 

Gregg Stebben:           So, let's help them.

 

Deepti Sharma:           The challenge is always with Fortune 500 companies. There's always a lot of red tape. How do we break that? How do we get them to change the habits of conforming to what they're used to, which is working with companies like Aramark and Sedexo?

 

Gregg Stebben:          The thing I love about, I think you said, the hashtag or that what you put in the photo is I Made This.

 

Deepti Sharma:           I Made your Food.

 

Gregg Stebben:           I Made your Food. What I love about that is so often, the food we eat, nobody made it.

 

Deepti Sharma:           Yeah.

 

Gregg Stebben:           A machine made it. A robot made it. It's not even really food.

 

Deepti Sharma:           It's processed. Yeah.

 

Gregg Stebben:           It's processed. You're delivering real food made by real people-

 

Deepti Sharma:           Exactly.

 

Gregg Stebben:           ... that provides real jobs and real opportunity. That is very exciting.

 

Deepti Sharma:          So, for us, that's what I'm thinking about, is that how do we change the conversation, and that's why we really started investing our time in D&I because we realized that people ... It's a hot topic. Everyone wants to be a part of it and everybody wants to be doing something new and different. So, it's still tough, right? Corporations don't change with the snap of a finger, even though I wish they did.

 

Gregg Stebben:          Not even when Deepti snaps her fingers.

 

Kate Delaney:             That's right.

 

Deepti Sharma:           Yes.

 

Kate Delaney:             Thank you very much. It was lovely meeting you. I love your mission. I can't wait to see where it all ends up.

 

Gregg Stebben:          I want lunch.

 

Deepti Sharma:           Thank you.

 

Kate Delaney:             Yeah, so do I.

 

Deepti Sharma:           I'm always hungry.

 

Narrator:                     For more great small business tips check out Bank of America’s online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/sbc. Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.

 

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

10 million people. 35,000 different events. More than 165 countries. 1 week.

 

person-tossing-globe-1275393.jpg

Yes, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is coming to a city near you the week of November 18 and there is a ton of information and events to help you grow your business.

 

We are living in an amazing moment in which the world is changing before our very eyes. Countries and leaders rise and fall. Whole continents are melting, oceans rising, and coasts receding. Yesterday’s third- world economies become today’s global economic powers. It is a time of tremendous, momentous, global, transformational change.

 

We also live in a time of tremendous opportunity: Modern medicine and travel are a marvel. The Internet has allowed us to learn almost anything and connect with almost anyone, anywhere. Many people the world over are living longer, healthier, and more productive lives.

 

And that is what Global Entrepreneurship Week is all about.  According to the GEW website,

 

Global Entrepreneurship Week is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.

 

During one week each November, GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them take the next step in their entrepreneurial journey.

These activities, from large-scale competitions and events to intimate networking gatherings, connect participants to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors — introducing them to new possibilities and exciting opportunities.

 

So, how can you get involved, learn more, or give something back? There are four ways:

 

1. Register: Go to the Global Entrepreneurship Network and create a profile. “The more information you provide, the more you will be able to engage with the community and stay up-to-date on the GEW activities happening simultaneously around the world.”

 

2. Organize an event or activity: By organizing an event, you can inspire your local entrepreneurial community while also connecting them to potential collaborators, mentors and possible investors. You would also be strengthening your local startup ecosystem while being part of a global movement.

 

       What sort of event could you host? Almost anything:

    • Create a pitch competition
    • Have an entrepreneurship film festival
    • Organize a hack-a-thon
    • Create a speaker series
    • Have a policy roundtable
    • Offer a workshop

 

3. Find an event or activity: Thousands of events, activities, and competitions will be taking place during Global Entrepreneurship Week. Look for the ‘Find an Event’ button on the gew.co homepage.

 

4. Connect: In addition to connecting face-to-face during GEW events and activities, you can also connect using the GEW social media channels:

 

 

Go ahead and jump in, have some fun, get inspired, meet a new friend, and grow your business. And who knows, you just might change the world.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

So just what is a man who was the captain of an Indian naval warship of 85 men and officers, doing running a women’s healthcare company in Boston

Changing the world, and changing his world, that’s what.Prakash.jpg

I’m not sure which part of his story is more interesting –

 

  • That Prakash Veenam went to India’s equivalent of West Point
  • Or that he captained that naval warship
  • Or that he left his military career to move to America to start over as an entrepreneur by getting his MBA (at the prestigious Babson College)
  • Or that, one year out of school, he was chosen to become the CEO of a high-tech Boston-based women’s healthcare product business

 

The fact is, it’s all damn interesting.

 

To start, let’s dip into the company he leads.

 

Maternova was founded in 2009 by two women and it does two things exceptionally well.

 

  • It manufactures and sells an array of innovative women’s health and medical products, like a combined Hep B and C and HIV tester, or an armband that detects childhood pneumonia.
  • It consults with medical caregivers around the world, like midwives in South America and Africa, on health and product issues.

 

So just how did Mr. Veenam end up as the CEO of this fascinating company, especially when his background did not lend itself to women’s health issues?

 

Upon concluding his naval career, Prakash decided he wanted to become an entrepreneur. This makes a whole lot of sense of course. Veterans are known to be excellent entrepreneurs as they have a certain set of skills that dovetail nicely with business life – they can create a plan and follow it, they know how to build and lead a team, they know how to analyze and accomplish projects and missions, and so forth.

 

While he was at Babson as a business development “fellow,” the founders of Maternova were hunting for a CEO. This makes a lot of sense because  often the skills a founder has that are well suited to starting a company are not the same as those needed to run a growing business.

 

A CEO with that second set of skills if often sought out and hired.

 

The two Maternova founders went to Babson, first looking for someone to help them with some special projects. Babson specifically sought out Prakash, as they thought his background gave him the leadership skills needed for the assignment.

 

The two Maternova founders agreed and after only a few months doing the special projects assignments, he was asked to interview for the job of CEO. The founders loved him, loved his naval background, loved his management style, and loved working with him.

 

He has been the CEO for over a year now. As he told me, “Although Maternova is not a startup, it is like a startup. It is an innovative, forward-looking company. And it is a very good fit.”

 

Prakash explained to me that his naval background made him uniquely prepared for this job. “As with a business, when I was out at sea, I needed to plan, yes, but I also needed to be creative and have a willingness to think on my feet, and pivot to solve problems. I also had to learn how to give orders, get people to carry out those orders, and work as a team.”

 

Sounds like business to me.

 

 

As for what’s next, he points to his vision for his company. “We are looking to grow, to find investors, and great partners, and to create new products.” Indeed, they now have 60 products in the pipeline.

 

“It’s all part of the challenge that is entrepreneurship,” Prakash says.

 

Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs

 

What with their ability to follow a mission, their commitment to teamwork, and mastery of follow-through, veterans make great entrepreneurs. Here then are some of the best small business resources available to them:

 

Bank of America:

Bank of America has special benefits for U.S. veterans, including new discounts on select loan products.  To learn more, visit us online or reach out to a Small Business Specialist.

 

SBA Veteran Programs:

Not surprisingly, that best friend to small business, the Small Business Administration, has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. For example, Operation Boots to Business is a program for military service personnel transitioning to civilian life.

 

The Veterans Administration:

Similarly, the VA has a great small business resource center, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal. Offering help for everything from starting, to financing, to growing a business, this is a great place for the fresh and seasoned veteran entrepreneur alike.

 

Veteran Entrepreneurship Courses:

According to Bunker in a Box CEO Todd Conner, “Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.” Using videos, online tutorials, and articles, veterans can embark on 14 “missions” that teach entrepreneurship. Along the same lines, but in person, Patriot Boot Camp offers entrepreneurship training programs in various cities nationwide.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Kara Goldin was on a personal quest. She left her job at AOL in 2001 to start a family. And she “wanted to make a difference in the world.”

 

The family part came first. Then Goldin “found herself overweight, low energy and suffering from adult acne.” The culprit, she decided was diet soda—so she quit cold turkey.

She also was worried about the sugar-laden beverages her kids were drinking. The solution to the beverage problems was water, but water is bland, and Goldin didn’t think it would be a long-term fix. So she started “cutting up fruit and throwing it into pitchers of water.”

 

Hint-051320190577_PInk.jpg

When a friend noticed Goldin’s water with fresh cucumbers in it, she said, “Someone should bottle that.” That’s all the motivation the former tech exec needed. While pregnant with her 4th child, Goldin traveled halfway across the country to find a bottler who would make her calorie-free flavored water with no sweeteners or preservatives.

 

In 2005 she launched hint water—water with a “hint of fruit.” When I first met her in 2013, she admitted she was a little naïve. She had to battle the big guys (Coke and Pepsi) for shelf space, particularly in the big grocery chains. One of her first big breaks came when she landed a deal with Whole Foods. Today, her lines of hint waters (still, sparkling, kick and kids) is on the shelves of grocery stores nationwide.

 

In 2017 Goldin had some pre-cancerous cells on her nose. She didn’t like the sunscreens on the market and, once again, motivated by a personal quest—she created hint sunscreen.

 

What drives Goldin? I caught up with her a few weeks ago to find out.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: When I first interviewed you in 2013, you were well on your way to success. Since then Hint has experienced explosive growth.

 

Kara Goldin: We are [now] a thriving and expanding company with 200 employees. Today we’re the largest independent non-alcoholic beverage company in the country that doesn’t have a relationship with Coke, Pepsi or Keurig Dr Pepper.

 

Lesonsky: When you launched you didn’t “know anything about beverages.” What gave you the courage to keep going?

 

Goldin: I thought if Hint could make me drink more water and get healthier, then it would help others too. All along we had to educate the consumer. I figured out that “diet” wasn’t necessarily healthier. So we focused on having a great-tasting product with no sugar or sweeteners of any kind. If you have a great product, the consumer will tell you whether or not it’s good. We even created a new category called “unsweetened flavored water.”

 

Today, more than ever, people actively choose a healthy option if they don’t have to compromise on enjoyment, or, in this case, taste. Hint has always been ahead of the market and Hint’s mantra “Drink Water, Not Sugar” has caught on. We led the way and continue to innovate by offering more options to more people, reaching every generation, every demographic, every ethnicity, everybody.

 

Lesonsky: Now the company is branching beyond water, introducing kids water and sunscreen. Why these products?

 

Goldin: It’s always about solving a problem that’s personal. I had a bout with skin cancer, I couldn’t find a product that didn’t contain ingredients dermatologists told me to avoid including oxybenzone and parabens. So it always starts like that.

 

Lesonsky: Do you plan to introduce other products at a future date?

 

Goldin: Yes, deodorant is on the way very soon and we are always thinking about innovations to make it easier for people to be healthier. There is definitely more to come.

Lesonsky: Seems to me you take the ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary. How do you look at it?

 

Goldin: I try to remember what really matters, why we started Hint and what keeps us inspired—helping people lead healthier lives without compromising on enjoyment.

Lesonsky: Business history is full of examples of entrepreneurs with great ideas who were able to start and grow but weren’t capable of scaling their businesses. You’re an exception. How have you avoided the problems so many others experience?

 

Goldin: Passion trumps experience. Trust your gut. Develop a network of people who can help you figure stuff out.

 

Lesonsky: Back in 2013, you told me your philosophy was being “scrappy” is what it takes to be an entrepreneur. How would you describe your philosophy today?

 

Goldin: I’m still scrappy. I tell entrepreneurs all the time that I never said to myself, “I want to be an entrepreneur” or “I want to be a beverage entrepreneur.” I never take “no’s” as an answer, I solve problems and give people irresistible solutions.

 

Lesonsky: You wanted to “make a difference” in the world. You obviously have. What drives you to keep going?

 

Goldin: I just thought if I could actually get people to enjoy water again, instead of drinking all those other things that not only have sugar, but also diet sweeteners, then we could actually change health. I ultimately want to help make everyone healthy.

 

Lesonsky: What has been your greatest challenge and how did you solve it?

 

Goldin: My main challenge was mass producing our flavored water without adding perservatives or sweeteners. Everyone said it couldn’t be done. Frankly we had no idea, because the industry experts didn’t have any idea how to develop a product without using preservatives. But we researched how fruit juice is pasteurized to extend its shelf life and went on to devise a similar technique for our waters and the rest is history, as they say.

 

Lesonsky: Any advice for startup women entrepreneurs?

 

Goldin: Find a problem that needs to be solved and go do it. If you can solve the problem, like I’ve done with drinking water, you can help millions of people.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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