small business advice | three women on bench with tablets

Kick Ass Small Business Advice From 15 Women Business Owners

In honor of National Women’s Small Business Month, I reached out to the amazing and talented women in my network who not only own small businesses but are kicking ass and taking names. My ask was simple: “What is your best small business advice?”

The depth and thoughtfulness of their responses blew me away.

Enjoy these hard-earned nuggets of wisdom. May their experiences and small business advice help your own small business grow and thrive!

When we start out in business, a) we’re overwhelmed, and b) we’re scared to death. How will we do it all? Will we “make it”? Everyone else is “so successful,” so what can we do to stop feeling like a mite lurking an inch away from the dog’s rear end?

Been there, done that (still do!). So the best advice I can give you is: focus on today. Never mind your BHAG and your grand schemes – all that’s great. But you will never get to tomorrow, or five years from now, if you don’t get through today.

So decide what you need to do today, and then… do it.

Shonali Burke

President and CEO, Shonali Burke Consulting

Don’t be afraid to own your power. Too many women have developed bad speech or body language habits that devalue what we think and feel.

And if you don’t actually feel powerful. Fake it. No—I’m not saying go through life as a fraud. But many of us women have “imposter syndrome”—the feeling we don’t deserve to be where we are—and to compensate for that, we have to fake it.

There’s also some research that shows putting on appearances can actually change how we feel and think about ourselves. When you look and act confident, it changes how others react to you—and that builds your confidence for real. (Watch Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk on building your confidence through body language to see what I mean.)

Rieva Lesonsky

CEO and President, GrowBiz Media/

Stay away from the 5-word kiss of death that plague most women business owners: “I’ll just do it myself.” Asking for help is key.

Frederique Irwin

Founder and CEO, Her Corner, Inc.

Stop trying to do everything. Stop trying to be everything to everyone; stop trying to offer every service or product you think of; stop working outside your zone of genius and start delegating to others.

Mallie Rydzik

CEO and Chief Business Consultant, Mydzik

Be sure to write a solid business plan. And follow it! It is so easy to get lost in the day-to-day activities of running a business that you forget where you are headed. But, if you have that business plan to keep you going in the right direction (just like a map!), you will get there much more efficiently.

Kate Rabe
Owner, Kate Rabe Consulting

Do the work you want to be doing. In my line of work, the majority of new business comes from referrals and people seeing past work that I’ve done. So it’s important to make every project count and find your niche so that the work you get is the work you want.

Traci Larson
Owner, Visual Issues

The best business advice I ever received came from Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way: “Journal every day.” I started journaling many years ago and have found the 20 to 30 minutes a day that I spend in conversation with my true self on paper allows me to find clarity, peace and wisdom… all essential to business success. It has become like breathing. It aligns the day and my actions. And it allows business to flow instead of struggle.

Lori Koop

Owner, Lori + Koop

Join a networking group or find another way to connect locally with other women who own small businesses, especially those that share a common target client. Meet for coffee and create opportunities to collaborate, hold one another accountable to specific goals and even co-market!

Elizabeth Dranitzke

Owner, Photopia

For all new business owners, the most important thing is to put your business in a limited liability corporation (LLC), get an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS, set up a business bank account, and get a business credit card.

An LLC protects your assets, because you are now operating inside of an entity separate from you. If you get sued, the most you can lose are the LLC’s assets. This of course means you need to act like a business; use your business bank account and business credit card for business transactions only. An LLC also gives you options when it comes to reporting your business income and expenses to the IRS; it can actually reduce your tax burden and audit exposure.

Finally, an EIN reduces the circulation and visibility of your social security number and can help protect you from identify theft.

Robin Gordon, CPA

President, Gordon & Company

Don’t forget the “ask.” We network, build relationships and strategic partnerships but WAIT for people to offer to buy, help or build. Get out there and ASK! Ask for the sale. Ask for help. Ask for guidance. Ask how others who went before you got there.

Talmar Anderson

Founder and CEO, Talmar It Up

Small business is hard. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details and to dos. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, take time to take a step back. Sit in awe of everything you’ve already accomplished. Remember why you started your business in the first place. Embrace the business you love. When you start by reminding yourself of your passion, the ideas, the motivation and the success will come.

Hillary Berman

Founder and CEO, Popcorn & Ice Cream

By far, I believe the best advice is to work on yourself first and then the rest will come. Brian Tracy said, “If you invest in business you will make a living and if you invest in yourself you will make a fortune.”

Joan Fletcher

President, Winning Ways Inc.

Without a marketing plan, you’re just throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something sticks. Don’t leave your marketing to chance! Take a few hours and create a simple marketing plan.

  • Identify and research your target audience so you know who they are and where to reach them.
  • Set some goals so you can create a roadmap to get where you want to be.
  • Determine your budget – and remember that it will need to be spread across multiple channels (traditional and digital media) and used for both new customer acquisition and customer retention.
  • Develop a timeframe, and give your marketing six months to generate success.
  • Define metrics to measure success.

I can’t guarantee these steps will lead to market domination but I can promise they will increase the likelihood that you aren’t wasting money on marketing efforts that don’t work.

Kim Cayce

President, Adzi Agency

Eisenhower once said that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. The best business advice I could offer is to take time to strategize and think about your business, your goals, and what success will look like. If you can envision it, you can create it!

Elizabeth Scott, PhD

President and CEO, Brighter Strategies, LLC

Believe in what you are doing. If you don’t, no one else can!

Katie Nelson

President, Sales UpRising

What is the best small business advice you ever received?

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