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

Celebrating Character, Courage and Commitment

“There is no royal flower-strewn path to success.
And if there is, I have not found it f
or if I have accomplished anything in life
it is because I have been willing to work hard.
Perseverance is my motto.”
~ Madame C.J. Walker

Women’s History Month has come to a close, but women continue to make history on a daily basis. At NEW‘s last Meet & Munch women’s historian Barbara Joan Zeitz provided us with a list of inspirational business women. While Barbara generally focuses on unsung heroes in her books, she made an exception for this presentation and mentioned trailblazers who have been recognized in the business world.


Nonetheless, a few of the women mentioned were new to me. Our attendees, ranging from business consultants to communicators to social media specialists were all keen on empowering women. Barbara’s mission is to share women’s history so each woman can learn and own her own history.

“We’re not competitors, we are compatriots.
Read your history.
Know your past, know your present, because it is your future.”
~ Barbara Joan Zeitz


Madame C. J. Walker ‎ was one of the first female millionaires in U.S. History, founding a hair product business in the 1920s after losing her hair and then training other African American women to become ‘franchisees’ before franchising was a concept. She trained agents in South America and focused on teaching black women to be self-sufficient.

Julia Morgan was the first female to graduate Berkeley with a civil engineering degree  and the first female licensed architect in California. She rebuilt the Fairmont Hotel in 1906 and designed 700 buildings in her life time, including Hearst Castle. In spite of her status as one of the most distinguished women architects in America who pioneered the use of steel- reinforced concrete, Julia Morgan was listed as Hearst’s secretary, rather than the designer of his castle and the surrounding 127 acres.


Muriel Siebert moved to New York in a used car with $500 in her pocket. She changed jobs three times because men earned more than her. When she applied with her initials rather than her full name she had more employment success. Upon applying for the New York Stock Exchange she was turned down by 9 sponsors, which put her in a  catch-22 because the bank insisted she have a sponsor and the sponsors insisted she have a loan. She became the first woman on the New York Stock Exchange and subsequently the first female Superintendent of Banks in New York (an SOB, as she called it). She started a personal finance program for High School Students in New York, which became a model for nationwide programs.

“If you find that you don’t like what you’re doing you can change it.
There’s no law that says
you have to continue to do the same job if you’re not feeling satisfied.
Your mind is capable of doing a lot of things.”
~ Muriel Siebert

Lena Himmelstein-Bryant ‎ was widowed with a young child after 16 months of marriage to David Bryant. She designed maternity wear at a time when women were placed in seclusion. She sold out the day her ad was published. The letters in her name were transposed at a bank, and she didn’t correct it, thus becoming Lane Bryant. She moved on to full-figured women’s wear and was the first to offer employee benefits.

Coco Chanel was placed in an orphanage at a young age who became a store clerk when she grew up. She built a fashion and perfume empire, took women out of corsets, and made slacks acceptable high fashion for women. She was fiercely independent and moved in elite circles where she networked very well. Barbara said she exemplifies the value of women and how to embrace your gender.


Elizabeth Arden ‎ started her career as a nurse. She learned of a cream that treated burns and combined science and technology for beauty. Her first salon was opened in 1910 which expanded to a $20 million empire. She marched for women’s rights with 15,000 Suffragettes and was the first woman to be featured on the cover of time in 1946.

Meg Whitman joined eBay reluctantly in 1998 when it had 30 employees. Her restructuring and management grew it to 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue by 2008. She was noted for redefining business principles by implementing procedures that steer and influence rather than control, focusing on conversing rather than commanding, and asking questions instead of giving answers. She was noted for saying that bottom line success comes from experimenting and failing rather than doing nothing when bold action is needed.

“My rules in life are to believe in myself,
keep a positive attitude and
hold on to my integrity.”
~ Maria de Lourdes Sobrino

Carrie Marcus Neiman was a fashion buyer with her brother for the Neiman Marcus store her husband owned. She brought ready to wear to the Dallas market and transformed it into a fashion capital.

Maggie Lena Walker dreamed of owning a bank at a time when women couldn’t own property. She founded the first women-owned bank, St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, which after merging with two other banks in the 1930s continues to be the oldest continuously operated African American owned bank.


Maria de Lourdes Sobrino came from a family of lawyers but had no interest in law school. She instead became a serial entrepreneur by starting a flower shop, which failed, a travel business that tanked during an economic downturn, imported crafts that didn’t prove lucrative, and opened a sandwich shop. In 1982 she put her savings into 300 cups of Gelatina, which became the multimillion dollar Lulu’s Desserts. As the owner of the fastest-growing Hispanic-owned business in the U.S., she served on the board of NAWBO-LA, Latina Style Magazine, D.C., Working Families for Wal-Mart.


We chatted more about these women of Character, Courage, and Commitment and left encouraged and enlightened. A Thesaurus of Women: From Cherry Blossoms to Cell Phones, is available on Amazon, via Barbara herself (who is working on her second book), and at our event host, Town House Books.


Join us for Meet & Munch among Beads at A Bella Bead next Wednesday, April 9 from 2 to 4 p.m. in Glen Ellyn. Open since October 2013, the store offers beading supplies for jewelry making, including loose beads, strand beads, clasps, findings, Swarovski crystals and lamp beads. Owner Sharon Dotson will demonstrate crystal clay, and we can peruse all her sparklies while we network. A Bella Bead Boutique is located at 485 Main Street, Banyan Tree Mall Unit D in Glen Ellyn, Il  60137.


“My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”
Coco Chanel

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.


Networking photos courtesy, with the historic women’s headshots pulled from Google.

Bookish fun

Remember those booklists from last week? Well, we had a lively discussion about those and other fabulous titles at the NEW Wine Women and Wellness in Hyde Park.


57th Street Bookstore is such a gem. Just looking at books is so much fun.


We had the honor of talking directly to the author of A Thesaurus of Women, Barbara Joan Zeitz.


An anthology of her online columns (CountHerhistory), the book celebrates women, most unknown, and their accomplishments, all well known. The women Barbara has researched invented/discovered or created the APGAR score, Brooklyn Bridge, brown paper bag, cell phone, District of Columbia’s Cherry Blossoms, Computer language, DNA, egg carton and refrigeration, environmental movement, NAACP, OSHA, relativity, social security, star distances, and more.


The day of our event happened to be Rosalind Franklin’s birthday, honored with a Google doodle, who is featured in Barbara’s book.


With snacks and delicious wine spritzers we discussed equality on all levels, ranging from current to historic events (it’s mostly economically motivated, as much of history is).


We talked about our inspirational books and inspirational women, and I learned more about my fellow business ladies as they mark their place in Herstory.


New books we added to our to-read list are: The World is Flat, Freakonomics, Gangleader for a Day and The Black Count.


Then we had fun posing with books (book quartet photos by NetworkHoncho).


Barbara learned that Roget’s Thesaurus is based on Dr. Peter Mark Roget’s love of words. So she decided that since she loved women so much, she would create a thesaurus of women.


I picked up my copy, and look forward to reading it soon. A Thesaurus of Women From Cherry Blossoms to Cell Phones is available here.


Our August NEW events will be in Evanston, with the Meet & Munch at Stella Boutique and our Wine Women and Wellness at Symphony’s Cafe.