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Divas Doing Business: What the Guidebooks Don’t Tell You About Being a Woman Entrepreneur

Monique Hayward

Divas Doing Business came to me in one of those “the-last-straw-is-breaking-the-camel’s-back moments” that every entrepreneur faces. For me, it was early November 2006, when my entire life seemed to be falling apart. My restaurant venture was creating extreme financial problems for me, and at the same time, my executive chef/general manager was in the throes of serious personal and family issues that were affecting his ability to focus on the business. My very patient husband was at his wit’s end and was ordering me to shut my business down, and the demands of my corporate career were mounting. My stress levels were off the chart and there were no solutions in sight.

I sought a higher purpose in going through all the pain and turmoil to chart a path of success for myself and my business. Then after few days of soul searching, praying, deep strategic thinking, and reflecting, it came to me: I know how to write and I know how to talk! Therefore, I dedicated myself to bring others like me the “story behind the story” of being a woman entrepreneur, one of courage, hope, purpose, and undying commitment to success for all women who dare to pursue their dream of entrepreneurship.

With the foreword by Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman and interviews with a diverse lineup of successful women who share their experiences on the front lines, Divas Doing Business “fills the spaces in between” the pages of traditional start-up guides with a fresh, unique angle on entrepreneurship. So many business books focus on “success stories” and conventional wisdom, but I wrote my book to lay out the “real deal.” If you ever launch a business, you learn quickly that you “don’t know what you don’t know,” and current and aspiring entrepreneurs need candor and honesty from daring women already in the trenches. Therefore, Divas Doing Business offers a helping hand to women starting out in business and gives them a boost up the entrepreneurial ladder with how-to advice combined with experience on the ground that can help them avoid the pitfalls, obstacles, and challenges that my contributors and I surmounted. Readers will get the benefit of our hard-won tribal knowledge about what it takes to start and manage a business and to see it thrive and succeed.

One key lesson I’ve learned as a business owner that I share in the book and when I speak before audiences is that you have to be a shameless, fearless self-promoter in order to point the spotlight in your direction, attract people to your concept, and convince them to spend their money with you. You must have a clear, coherent story that differentiates your business from your competitors, and once you’ve developed your story, you need to create channels to get it out. When you don’t have a big budget, you can focus on inexpensive tactics to spread the word – e.g., creating an informative web site, sending email newsletters, starting a blog, tweeting about your business on Twitter, and encouraging customers to follow you on social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Also, many “old school” approaches still yield positive results, like joint-marketing with customers and suppliers, distributing flyers, obtaining press coverage, getting your friends to book business with you, giving your employees discounts to bring in their friends and family, and signing up for free directories.

I recommend that you do whatever it takes to generate the buzz about your business. While some of these tactics might not work as well as others, all you’ll spend is a little time and minimal money as you experiment. Finally, you never stop talking about your business as everyone you meet represents a one-on-one marketing opportunity. When you share your passion, energy, and drive about your business often enough, it will come naturally from your heart and out of your mouth.

And I certainly do my best to “practice what I preach.” I founded my company, Nouveau Connoisseurs Corporation, in April 2004, and ran my first venture, the award-winning Dessert Noir Café & Bar in Beaverton, Oregon, from 2005 to 2009. Over that time period, I generated over 40 press stories in local and national media outlets, including the CNN, Oregonian, Denver Post, Entrepreneur, Black Enterprise, and Restaurant Startup & Growth. In addition, I leverage my experience as an award-winning entrepreneur, author, speaker, and corporate player to be an advocate for small business and share my story with audiences around the country, contribute to media outlets as a spokesperson and writer, and mentor the next generation of women in business.

Richard Branson, British entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Virgin Group chairman, is one of my heroes in business. In his book, Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur,” he says, “The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.” Being an entrepreneur gives you a means of living your life “out loud,” and I embrace that opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge and lessons learned with those who are brave enough to take that chance.

Monique Hayward

Divas Doing Business: What the Guidebooks Don’t Tell You About Being a Woman Entrepreneur

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