Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Tracey Grace on How to Beat the Odds as a Woman Entrepreneur in Tech - Thrive Global

Tracey Grace on How to Beat the Odds as a Woman Entrepreneur in Tech - Thrive Global


Tracey Grace on How to Beat the Odds as a Woman Entrepreneur in Tech - Thrive Global

Posted: 10 Sep 2019 11:00 AM PDT

Work with women entrepreneurs, and you hear the same stories: roundtables where women couldn't get a word in, investor meetings that became all about appearance, developer calls that left the women in the room feeling like ghosts.

Situations like these led me to found Her Big Idea Fund, in partnership with Brown University's Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, to fund women's business ideas and to combat the funding gap. Through the female entrepreneurs I've counseled over the years, I saw just how hard women in tech have to work. But after talking with Tracey Grace, Founder and CEO of IBEX IT Business Experts, I realized I'd only scratched the surface of the struggles women entrepreneurs in the industry face. 

The women I worked with were just starting their careers. Grace has spent decades leading a tech company. Although she learned entrepreneurial skills earlier than most, she's still had to claw her way to places many of her male counterparts waltzed into. 


It's not merely a matter of standing taller, becoming a subject matter expert, or investing in overtime networking. To succeed, particularly in tech, women entrepreneurs need all those things and more. Grace showed me that, and I want other women — and men, frankly — to see it, too.

Haley Hoffman Smith: Were you raised around entrepreneurs, or did you always know you wanted to be a businesswoman?

Tracey Grace: My father was an entrepreneur. He owned the largest minority-owned carpet store in the state of New Jersey. He got me involved very early in life, answering phones and helping to tabulate quotes. I worked with him when I was off school for summer. By age 12, I was helping to install carpet in the small closets on job sites. As a reward, he'd let me drive his car around the neighborhood during lunchtime. He knew how to get me to the job site!

My husband is also an entrepreneur of 30 years. He'd encouraged me for years to start my own company. It wasn't until the stars aligned and I'd had enough of "climbing the corporate ladder" that I knew the time was right.

HHS: How did you find yourself working in the male-dominated tech industry, and what kept you there?

TG: The majority of my corporate experience is in information technology, particularly in training and consulting. I started from the bottom, just doing sales, but I learned quickly how to close deals with tech leaders. I'd ask open-ended questions to understand their problems, propose the appropriate training solutions, and consult on how to improve their operations.

Eventually, my success got me promoted to management. My responsibilities kept growing until I was facing C-level leaders — who were mostly men, of course. I had to adapt. I love sports, and I learned how to play golf. Once I figured out how to have fun with them, I realized we had a lot in common. My drive to succeed helped me relate as well.

HHS: Many women report feeling they have to "prove themselves" or work harder than their male counterparts to get ahead. What approach did you take?

TG: That is absolutely true. Without the support of my husband when our children were young, it would have been tough to dedicate the time needed to get ahead. I was always one of the first to arrive in the office and one of the last to leave. I volunteered for every new assignment. Any time a manager went on vacation, I agreed to be their backup. My goal was to learn every function of the company. I wanted to know what made the organization tick. My sense of curiosity has served me well. The more I learn, the more I want to know.

HHS: How have relationships played a part in your success as a businesswoman?

TG: Relationships are essential for entrepreneurs. Networking has helped me build so many partnerships and close millions of dollars in business deals. It may feel awkward at first, but keep with it.

When I decided to start IBEX, I committed to spending my first year going to networking and industry events. I tried different industries and different verticals. I went to different meetings each month and finally narrowed it down to three. With those three, I decided to go deep.

Today, I continue to network with and learn from those groups. Being an entrepreneur is a way of life. You have to find ways of doing business that you enjoy. That's why so many businesspeople close business deals on the golf course. Learn how to incorporate what you enjoy doing into your business life, and it will no longer feel like work. Later this month, for instance, I'll attend a chamber event on a tennis course.  

HHS: What do you advise women to do when they constantly feel undermined or in the shadow of their male counterparts in the business world?

TG: A situation early in my career taught me just how important it is for women to fight for themselves. I'd been promoted to senior sales manager, which put me in a position overseeing two male counterparts. Both vice presidents, both male, came in from corporate during a week when I was on vacation.

After I returned from vacation, they called me into a meeting. They told me that they'd decided the company would no longer use senior titles for sales managers, which would put us all on equal ground. I later found out that this decision was made following an evening out at a bar.

I was young, and I didn't know how to fight back. I hung in there, though, and resisted the change. I took my case to the highest level of the company, and I was eventually allowed to keep my title. It was a battle, and it really shouldn't have been. Be true to yourself, and know your value. When it comes time to negotiate, do your homework and be prepared. Be able to back up your request for more money with facts about your job performance and your impact on the company. Don't assume anything, ask questions, and find a mentor, as well as a sponsor. Know the difference. A sponsor is an active player on your path to success, and that's essential in corporate America.

Most importantly, always have a side hustle. Start a small business doing something you enjoy. Always have something to fall back on. That way, if everything goes wrong in your day job, you never feel hung out to dry. And you never know — one day, your side hustle may very well become your million-dollar main hustle.

Employment Outlook: Amazon Has 30,000 Job Openings, Latino Impact Surges, Double-Digit Growth For Small Business - Forbes

Posted: 10 Sep 2019 06:50 AM PDT

According to the New York Times, Amazon has 30,000 current openings across the United States. The online retailer is looking to expand its workforce of 653,000 employees nationwide. From warehouses to white-collar workers, Amazon is on a hunt for a wide variety of employees, and has announced career fairs in six major cities: Arlington, Boston, Chicago, Nashville, Dallas and Seattle.

The job outlook remains particularly strong for women of color, according to the Washington Post. Minority hires outpaced white hires for the first time last year. Women, especially Latino women, are the primary driving force behind this trend.

Consider this statistic: since 2016, there are 5.2 million more people with jobs in the U.S. 4.5 million (86%) of them are minorities. There are multiple reasons for the expansion: a high demand in a tight labor market has created opportunities for women, particularly Latino women, where cultural ideas around working outside of the home have been changing. Job postings that request Spanish fluency have almost doubled in the last two years. Nineteen states and 21 cities have raised the minimum wage, according to CNBC - and higher wages are drawing new workers to the market. The other factor? Over 90% of immigration and deportation arrests are men.

"We see women entering the workforce because their husbands may no longer be in the country," said Samantha Sherman, chief program officer at Wesley Community Center in Houston.

Latino Impact

Other factors driving the career surge for the Latino community: 72 percent of Hispanic Americans (aged 25 and older) now have high school diplomas - a 22% increase since 2006. College enrollment among Hispanics has grown by 300% since the mid-90s. Government policy is trying to adapt, so that this trend can continue. "Our challenge now is to do what monetary policy can do to sustain the expansion so that the benefits of the strong jobs market extend to more of those still left behind," according to Federal Reserve Chaiman Jerome H. Powell.

Small Business Shows Strong Growth

According to a recently released report from Kabbage, The Small Business Revenue Index, small business revenue grew nearly 20% from January 2018 to January 2019. Leading the growth in small business is the country's least-populated state, Vermont - where revenues grew 118% since 2017. Based on revenue trend tracking that drew from over 200,000 small businesses, the survey results point to ongoing strength in what might be called America's micro-jobs center. Kabbage head of Data Analytics and Strategy, David Snitkof, points to these micro-job makers as a powerful economic engine in an already-thriving economy. "This is the only tool available with an ongoing pulse on the financial health of local American small businesses, such as restaurants, hair salons, dentists, lawn care providers, boutique shops and more." The businesses represented in the index have average revenues of less than $300,000 per year.

Opportunities for job seekers are prevalent in the current economy. Explosive growth for women of color has been driven by desire, skill and necessity. From hair salons to Amazon, companies are trying to fill the need for additional people, more resources and increased revenues. The one remaining question: how long will the trend continue?

West Sea Otter Water Taxi: A Family-Run Small Business With a Big Community Impact - Coast Funds

Posted: 05 Sep 2019 12:00 AM PDT

Launching a Community-Focused Business

In 2017, Danielle Shaw and Archie Corbett officially launched their new business. West Sea Otter water taxi is a comfortable 12-passenger vessel, providing regular service between Rivers Inlet and Port Hardy, as well as charters within the surrounding area.

As Shaw and Corbett had predicted, the business was just what the community needed. Cerelina Willie is a Wuikinuxv member who was living in Rivers Inlet when West Sea Otter launched. "Everyone was so super excited about having access to a water taxi," she remembers. "Especially a water taxi that was based out of the village."

Everyone was so super excited about having access to a water taxi. Especially a water taxi that was based out of the village.

Willie explains that although there are other water taxis along the coast, the cost to charter their services rises significantly when a customer has to pay for the cost of getting the taxi to Rivers Inlet—before even factoring in the rest of the journey.

Shaw says one of their key goals in starting the business was to provide affordable options for travel and freight for people who live in Wuikinuxv, and they have been successful at that. "Our rates are competitive, but they're also

West Sea Otter has made a big difference in the affordability of travel for community members. Photo courtesy West Sea Otter.

affordable," she says, noting that they charge less than half what the airline charges for cargo.

By offering a reduced rate for children, Shaw and Corbett hoped to make it easier for families like Willie's to travel from Rivers Inlet. Willie confirms the business has made a big impact for her family: "Myself, my husband, our two younger boys (and one adult son), all prefer to use the water taxi over the plane. I mean the plane is so expensive and the luggage allowance is half of what the water taxi's is," she exclaims. "But I also just enjoy being on the water."

She's not alone notes Shaw: "Being coastal people, a lot of the people feel more comfortable in the water than in the air." Taking the water taxi is a great way for Wuikinuxv members to see more of their territory, Shaw and Corbett's family included. "It has afforded us so many different opportunities to visit places along the coast that we haven't been to before. It gets our kids out on the water and seeing different parts of the territory."

It has afforded us so many different opportunities to visit places along the coast that we haven't been to before. It gets our kids out on the water and seeing different parts of the territory.

Corbett and Shaw's 12-year-old son Lincoln spends summers and weekends working as a deckhand for his parents' business. Photo courtesy West Sea Otter

In fact, her favourite part of running the business is extending that same opportunity to Wuikinuxv youth. In recent years, the community lacked a boat with the required insurance to carry a large group of school-age children. With the launch of West Sea Otter, that has changed.

"Now there's an option that can be supported, and is insured, legal, and available." The school, youth programs, and the band often charter West Sea Otter to take local youth out fishing, to visit local lodges, or to go camping at significant cultural sites, like Clam Beach.  "So just seeing the kids and people who don't necessarily get on the territory lots be able to get [out there] and see different places is probably my favourite part of it," says Shaw.

Willie says it's clear that Shaw and Corbett operate their business in service of the community. As part of their freight service, Corbett will often pick up grocery orders for customers in Port Hardy—saving them a round trip journey, or the cost of paying the grocery store for delivery.

Corbett is well known for his friendly, easy-going manner, setting passengers at ease and doing what he can to make each trip an enjoyable journey. "If they're travelling along and there are killer whales or humpback whales around, Archie will always stop and let us get pictures and enjoy the company," says Willie.

One of the perks of travelling with Corbett as skipper: impromptu whale watching sessions. Corbett frequently interrupts the journey so customers can watch as whales pass by. Photo courtesy West Sea Otter.

A less tangible benefit of operating the business is providing inspiration to others. Shaw hopes that by launching her business in the small community, she has encouraged others to pursue similar endeavours. "I think that there's a lot of people along the coast, and in small communities, and in Wuikinuxv who have really great ideas, it's just crossing that hurdle to actually doing it can be the most daunting part of it," she says. "I think [West Sea Otter] helped open up people's eyes to possibilities, that people can grow, can make their own business, and their own livelihood."

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