Adaptability, a key trait of entrepreneurial women

“All women adapted to what they were dealt and made it work.”
~ Barbara Joan Zeitz

In early October the Network of Entrepreneurial Women celebrated Crain’s Small Business Week with a lovely gathering of small business owners in Glen Ellyn.


As we perused the menu and got to know each other, Rebecca Sturgeon (LMT, CMLDT) gave us chair massages to relax our muscles and our spirits.


We ordered delicious sandwiches from Shannon’s Irish Pub’s special menu, which nourished us sufficiently to take in all the information disseminated that day.


During lunch, Barbara Joan Zeitz presented several historic women who ‘leaned in’ before Sheryl (Sandberg). Relaying the stories of Rose Knox, Helena Rubinstein, Ida Rosenthal, and Olive Ann Beech, we discovered that women can start careers at any age, against all odds, and thrive.


Rose Knox started a Gelatin business with her husband Charles. The couple refined the time consuming recipe of boiling, straining and clarifying the ingredients for gelatin, and Rose gave away recipes with each purchase. When she was 50, her husband died and Rose took over the business, causing the departure of a male manager. Rose supported work equality by closing the back door so women and men would both enter and exit via the front door of the manufacturing plant. She was  a pioneer in nutrition, test kitchens, labor relations and creating the gel tab.


Helena Rubinstein brought 12 jars of face cream to Australia from Poland at age 24. She settled in a small sheep grazing village but set about selling style and fashion to the local population. Her cream incorporated lanolin that had an awful aroma for which Helena experimented with scents. 6 years later she had a viable business in Melbourne. Helena pioneered the concept that beauty was a new power. She also established professional standards for beauticians, developed luxurious packaging, garnered celebrity endorsements. After the stock market crash she refocused on establishing salons and developed a financial empire that made her one of the richest women in the world.


Ida Rosenthal did not buy into the flapper look, which failed to address more buxom women. Her husband, a sculptor, helped her design a bandeau that would offer support within a dress. When the dresses with these built-in bandeaus became popular, the Rosenthal’s developed the first brassiere by joining the two cups together with elastic. Ida’s husband died in 1966, and Ida ran the multimillion dollar company herself until her death in 1973. Maidenform continues to be a popular brand.


Olive Ann Beech partnered with her husband to establish Beech Aircraft during the era of cross-country air races. World War II called for an expansion to support wartime production, and Beechcrafts became the standard training vehicle for military aviators. In 1950, her husband died. She secured a $16 million loan during the Korean war and expanded her employee base from 2800 to 13,000 that year.  Post-war, Olive Ann focused on space age production in partnership with NASA.


Barbara recounts the stories of numerous other real life heroines in A Thesaurus of Women and her online column: “CountHerhistory”. Her second book should be coming out by the holidays, and will be a perfect gift for your leading ladies.

“Love is what is selling business”
~ Larvetta Loftin

Janice M Faris, Accountant and Principal/Owner of Janice M Faris, EA, helped us to think about how we pay ourselves as entrepreneurs. It shouldn’t just be about covering costs, but also about the lifestyle we want to establish for ourselves and support in perpetuity. She pointed out that even a not-for-profit pays their employees (and some very well), so that being a non-profit has nothing to do with giving yourself a salary.


Jan pointed out that it is very important to make retirement part of that income equation, and to take inflation into account as well. Jan can help solopreneurs determine whether to set up as a a sole proprietorship, whether to incorporate or whether to establish an S-Corp and what the tax implications of each are. She and her partner Peggy Goddeau also take a comprehensive look at all your financial inflows, outflows and help project what you will need in the future to sustain your lifestyle.

“We tend to flock.
We have to make our own path and learn from other women.
Just because there is a path doesn’t mean we all fit onto it.”
~ Jan Faris

We discussed how we can improve our brands with marketing strategist Larvetta Loftin. Larvetta’s L3 Eventeurs provides lifestyle marketing, advertising, public relations, and live engagement events to a broad array of clients. Larvetta had us identify our favorite brands, and made the profound statement that the brands we admire share our customers and clients.


She said that brands that stick to their passion and purpose do better than those who change their business model. It is easy to leave loyalists and brand influencers behind if you do not keep reinforcing your promise to them. Larvetta also emphasized that collaboration is key. Partnering with businesses who share your vision can strengthen both brands. Key questions to ask when developing your brand are:

1. What is our promise?
2. What is our why?
3. What is our influence?

She also stated that branding is not just a logo, and social media is not a strategy, it is a tactic. Branding is a part of marketing and establishes your perceived value. Larvetta enjoys working one-on-one with small business owners to determine their brand and create a strategy with them.

“You can be a small business but a big brand.”
~ Larvetta Loftin

Karen McCormack covered the new guidelines and brackets for health care.  One key change Karen noted is that being a woman is no longer considered a “pre-existing condition”—when previously there was a large discrepancy between health care costs based on sex. Reproductive and preventive care should be free under the new insurance plans. Ageism has also been addressed with Obamacare, no longer penalizing older people for their age.


Health insurance is now standardized into tiered plans: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum that vary by the ratio of payments to benefits. This standardization does impact some of the networks insurance providers recognize, so it is important to check with your doctor on what network they are in when making decisions. Penalties for not having health insurance are going up, so it is important to take advantage of the current open enrollment period through Januray 31. As an independent insurance broker, Karen can assist anyone with navigating Obamacare 3.0, whether switching from group insurance to personal insurance, setting seniors up with medicaid and assisting small business owners with group plans. Karen is licensed in 13 states.


All attendees went home with goodie bags. NEW will be on hiatus through the holidays, but stay tuned for our charity fundraiser in February 2016.

NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup, or like us on Facebook and check up on the calendar there.

Some photos courtesy

Charmed by books

Last week we celebrated Women’s History Month at the quaint Town House Books in St. Charles.


It was a sunny day and we enjoyed a healthy lunch at the Town House Books Cafe, which was merged (from Al’s Cafe and Creamery) and attached to the building in 1996.


The menu is in chapter format.

menu copy

Owner David frequented this book store during his teens. Formerly the home of St. Charles’ second mayor, the Greek Revival style building was built in 1853. It became an antique shop and then a beauty shop, whose proprietors gave the upstairs its 70’s era decor.


In 1974 Mary Lou Kelly opened the book store, which became David’s dream. He asked “Mrs. Kelly” if she would consider letting him take over the store if she was ever interested in retiring, and the answer was no.


After some time, however, Mary reconsidered and in 1992 David took on full ownership while Mary planned to stay on for one year. David learned everything about the book business, and over time modernized from the pain-staking paper-based inventory tracking to computerized equipment, while maintaining the traditional book store charm.

 TownHouseBookstore copy

Mary retired in 2013, after having reduced her hours over time. The book store was awarded 1999 “Best of the Best” by the Sunday Post Magazine.


After our delicious lunch Barbara Joan Zeitz presented a fabulous program which warrants another post. Her books are located in the Women’s section at Town House Books.


On Thursday we raise pints to St. Patrick and our latest accomplishments at Shannon’s Irish Pub in Glen Ellyn. Join us from 6 to 8 at 428 N Main St, Glen Ellyn and enjoy some speed networking.


NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup or Facebook.