Since the dawn of civilization, women have played a major role in the working world, helping out with farming, toiling away in guild workshops and taking on heavy-duty labor in factories, even as the leading thinkers of the time labeled them as little more than delicate, hysteria-prone housekeepers. In fact, it had only been in the last century, and especially the past few decades, that women have really been able to play an open and independent role in building and leading their own entrepreneurial ventures, with many women today owning, running and establishing major businesses.
While hard work and determination obviously played a major role in getting today's female business leaders to the top, a debt is also owed to the women who pave the way, bravely forging ahead when the odds were stacked heavily against them. Here, we've selected 11 amazing businesswomen who made a living, and in some cases a fortune, through their own ideas and business ventures in times when women were afforded little power, voice or independence of their own.
1. Christine de Pizan: What do you do when you're a medieval woman who's been left widowed and in need of a way to support your three children? If you're Christine de Pizan, you start writing. De Pizan was light-years ahead of her time, both in her chosen profession (she is widely regarded as Europe's first professional woman writer) and in her public repudiation of the domination misogynistic views of the time. Throughout the 1400s, de Pizan would support herself and take a strong stance against prejudiced literacy depictions of women. While she is more of an empowered intellectual than a businesswoman, her ability to make it on her own and establish a career in a time when some women were barely allowed to leave their homes is inspirational in itself, and she may have been history's first recorded working single mother.
2. Mary Katherine Goddard: After moving to Providence, R.I. in 1762, Mary Katherine Goddard would join her mother in working in a printing shop her brother had started. Little did she know, this would spawn a successful career for her, and throughout the 1770s, Goddard would run print shops throughout New England. In 1775, she became the first woman to have a paper published under her name and would serve as the chief editor for the Maryland Journal in the early stages of the American Revolution. Goddard wasn’t just printing papers, however. It was her presses that would produce the first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence. Goddard, ever the savvy businesswoman, would later become the first female postmaster and would continue to operate the bookshop (a spin-off of her printing business) until her death at the age of 78.
3. Lydia Pinkham: Women who needed health advice and home remedies in the late 1800s needed only turn to this businesswoman. Pinkham built her home remedies business into a thriving enterprise, largely through savvy marketing of her products to women. Her most successful product was a menstrual cramp relief tonic called “Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound” which would remain one of the best-known and most widely used patented medicines during the 19th century. It must have been doing something for Pinkham’s devoted customers, as it helped build the fledgling company into a big business. Though the company was purchased by Cooper Laboratories in 1968, a few of Lydia’s products still appear on American shelves today.
4. Sarah E. Goode: While the first woman would patent an invention in 1809, it wasn’t until 1885 that an African-American woman would reach that landmark. Born a slave, Sarah E. Goode moved to Chicago after the Civil War and opened a furniture store with her husband Archibald, a carpenter. Under her management, the store grew to be quite prosperous, but her clients were coming in complaining of a lack of space in their apartments. That led to her invention, a desk that turned into a bed, an ideal innovation for the small-space, tenement living that was a reality for many working-class Chicago residents at the time. This idea would evolve into the Murphy bed that we know today, and while the patent would never make Goode wealthy, it would help keep her and her furniture business quite successful until her death in 1905.
5. Hetty Green: Hetty Green was nicknamed “The Witch of Wall Street,” largely because of her dour taste in fashion but also because she possessed a certain sort of magic when it came to investments. It goes without saying that women weren’t exactly a common sight on Wall Street during the late 19th century, but Green wasn’t shy about making her own investments, following a well thought-out strategy of investment. She would use her inheritance, already a sizable sum, to build a huge fortune, spring-boarded by her early investments in Civil War bonds and later in rail bonds. Of course, her infamous frugality, which some called stinginess, didn’t hurt her in building her fortune, which was estimated at about $200 million ($3.8 billion in today’s dollars) at the time of her death.
6. Maggie L. Walker: African-American teacher and businesswoman Maggie Walker was a pretty amazing woman, both in business and in the community. As early as 14, Walker was already a leading member of the Independent Order of St. Luke, a humanitarian organization. It was there that she would start her career in earnest, establishing a newspaper for the group and chartering a bank, for which she served as the first president (the first woman to hold a charter and run a bank in the U.S.). When the bank merged with two other area banks, becoming The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, she would stay on to serve on the board of directors until her death in 1934.
7. Elizabeth Arden: It was always Elizabeth Arden’s (born Florence Nightingale Graham) dream to build a cosmetics business, and that’s just what she did. Arriving in New York at age 30, the enterprising Arden worked with a chemist to develop a beauty cream, something that surprisingly didn’t exist in the early 1900s and would prove to be quite a success for Arden. The company still sells a wide variety of creams today, though business has expanded to include fragrances and makeup. She was the first to introduce eye makeup and makeovers in her salons and helped to make cosmetics acceptable for all women to wear, not just performers. Arden passed away in 1966, but her business still thrives today, bringing in just over a billion dollars in 2009.
Check out four other businesswomen ahead of their time, check out my source, OnlineMBA.com.
When it comes to marketing, creative Solo Pros tend to get way too complicated. It's easy to become overwhelmed with a lot of fancy ideas and clever strategies. How important are they to your business success?
Take a step back and consider whether you're actually using the marketing basics. Then, I'm going to give you four tips on how to find time to market consistently. Marketing doesn't have to be complicated!
Basic Marketing Strategy #1: Master the Basic Tools First
Invest in learning these three basic marketing strategies and get them consistently into play. Save the more complex campaigns for special offers. You'll find they're much easier to launch when the basics are on line and doing their job. Consistency is key. *Conversations - Are you confident in talking with your potential clients about what you do? Out of every five conversations, do at least three turn into paying clients? If not, then it's time to master this crucial skill. The faster you get it under your belt now, the easier growing your business will be. * Email - As your list grows, you need to connect regularly with your current and potential clients. Let them know what you're up to, share your expertise, and -- most importantly -- make offers. Make it a habit to consistently communicate with your list. Just sending a simple newsletter with a few tips, client success stories and more info on who you are and what you do will build trust and keep you on top of their minds. Be sure to include an offer in each of your newsletter broadcasts. * Networking - Attending a niche-targeted networking event is a great way to meet potential clients, practice your "basic message," and connect with referral partners. Solo Pro business is a relationship-based experience. Developing your face-to-face marketing skills has benefits beyond bringing in new clients.
Basic Marketing Strategy #2: Consistency is Key
No marketing strategy is effective if it's not regular and consistent. Develop a habit of sending your newsletter on a schedule. Promote your programs and services regularly. Always offer clients the option to move to the next level as their projects with you near completion. You'll become more comfortable with marketing, and your clients and potential customers will have more opportunities to respond to your offers.
Basic Marketing Strategy #3: Take Small Steps Every Day
"Done is better than none." Continually tweaking and fiddling with your marketing pieces to make it perfect results in slow or no sales. Use one of the basic marketing tips every day to develop your skills and you'll have a solid marketing system in place quickly.
Don't let yourself be overwhelmed by the latest marketing techniques. You can build a successful business by focusing first on these basic marketing tools. You'll have more time to enjoy creating and working with clients. Those advanced techniques will still be there when you're ready!
Four Simple Tips for Consistent Marketing
Tip #1 Stop Second Guessing Yourself
Instead of constantly swirling around in self-doubt, develop the habit of 'Decisive Action.' Focus on the end result that you would like and create the plan to achieve it. Then confidently put it into action. So many Solo Pros 'vibrate' back and forth instead of picking a direction and going. The roadblock is in the indecision and vacillating -- not in the actual choice. Don't worry so much about what others are doing. Chart your course and set sail. It's the forward action that creates the desired results. Tip #2 Use Your Calendar Like a Six and Seven Figure Entrepreneur
How much time you spend isn't as critical as how you INVEST that time. Millionaire entrepreneurs use a simple technique called Time Blocking to make sure they have regular, consistent time built into their day for marketing and business-building activities.
Schedule a "marketing appointment" in your daily planner. Even if it's 15 minutes, you'll be surprised at what you can get done, especially if you invest this time BEFORE answering email, tweeting or posting on Facebook. Stop focusing on everyone else for just 15 minutes, and start focusing on your marketing, and you'll see immediate results. Tip #3 Set Small Goals For Success
Break marketing tasks down into small, specific activities and always assign a number to each activity.
For example: On Monday, your goal is to write five follow up thank you cards and mail them out. Tuesday's goal is to call three potential clients. On Wednesday, your goal may be to attend one networking meeting, then follow up with each prospective client you meet with a thank you card, mailed that same day. Be sure to celebrate every action you take so you feel energized to do more. Tip #4 Calculate The Pay Off
Take a moment to calculate how much money is at stake. The result is instant clarity about what is -- and what isn't -- a priority. Here's a simple formula:
* Estimate how many clients you want over the next 12 months
* Then multiply the average amount of income each client brings to you
What's your total? More importantly, what would having that amount of money mean for you?
Final Thought: Think of Marketing As Connecting To And Serving
Solo Pros love to help, to serve and to make a difference for their clients. If you approach marketing as a way of doing that, you'll find that marketing isn't something you avoid.
In the world of marketing, or anytime you need people to read what you are writing, your first impression is your headline. A catchy one will draw people in to learn more -- and a so-so one can make you easily forgettable.
Headlines are meant to grab people's attention. They should make it EASY for people to make a decision about you. Can you solve their problems? Does your tone fit your style? Are they enticed to read on? It is possible to communicate all this in ONE simple sentence. And you don't have to be a pro copywriter to master this skill.
Read on for FIVE proven headline formulas that consistently grab people's attention.
The Question: "Are You Worried About Your Financial Future?" A question headline automatically gets your readers involved in your message because they answer it in their minds. Many people will read further into your letter, ad or website copy just to find out what answer or solution you provide. Just make sure the question focuses on the reader's interest, not yours. A bad example would be: "Do You Know What New Product We've Created This Year?" (No one cares but you!)
The How-to: "How to Get Thinner Thighs in 30 Days." How-to headlines work very well because people love information that shows them how to do something. (Thousands of book titles begin with "How to..."). Think of the benefits your product/service offers and then try creating some "how to" headlines.
The Testimonial: "Jane Smith's Consulting Is Pure Magic -- Our Sales Have Increased by 30%!" Why not let your clients do the selling for you? Their recommendations can go a long way in convincing others to use your services. Tip: To appear credible, always include your clients' full names, the cities they live in, a photo, and any other relevant information.
The Command: "Boost Your Business Today!" Turn your most important benefit into a commanding headline, such as "Make More Time for Your Family," "Look Younger Instantly!" and "Get 7 New Clients This Month." (By the way, throwing a number into your headline is another good tactic. And readers seem to like odd numbers as opposed to even).
The News: "Introducing Our New 'Rest-Assured' Tax Service!" Caution: This only works if you truly have something big to announce that is of interest to the reader. (Something that will make her life or business better). Don't try to make news out of something that's not.
Once your readers know you have something they're interested in, they'll take the time to read your entire article, web page, blog post, brochure, letter, ad or e-zine. So put some TLC into creating headlines that entice!
Entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow a profitable business that make a positive impact. Get her FREE CD "Top 10 Secrets for Entrepreneurial Women" at www.AliBrown.com.