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VOL. 127 | NO. 180 | Friday, September 14, 2012

Event Pushes Entrepreneurs to Seek Corporate Dollars

By Sarah Baker

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Only 2 percent of women-owned businesses break the $1 million mark in revenue, and of those that do, 56 percent of their sales come from corporate clients.

The reality is, within just two years of adding the first corporate client, women business owners experienced a 266 percent growth in revenue.

That’s the message Angelique Rewers, founder of The Corporate Agent, gave Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the third annual “When Great Women Gather” event at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave. The event was co-hosted by Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and the Women Business Enterprise Council South (WBEC South).

During her keynote speech, “Shattering the C-Myth,” Rewers tackled why the time is now for women entrepreneurs to play bigger. Because, as her statistics revealed, corporations spend $8.73 trillion every year on goods and services.

“Money isn’t everything, but it touches everything that’s important,” Rewers said. “Work with corporate clients does give us leverage in our business. We should be paid what we’re worth.”

Rewers spent 10 years in the corporate world, and has since started her own marketing and communication business helping women and minority business owners get into corporate America. She said of the 29 million registered companies in the U.S., only 6 million of those are employers with a payroll.

But a mere 18,000 companies (or 0.3 percent) of those have 500 or more employees in their business. Yet they’re responsible for generating 60 percent of all of the nation’s revenue.

“For the first time in the history of the world, more women are starting businesses than men,” Rewers said. “But the fact of the matter is, the bigger companies still hold the majority of the cash.”

For those female business leaders who think big corporations don’t buy from little companies, Rewers was quick to combat the hesitancy. The reality is U.S.-based multi-nationals buy more than $3 billion in goods and services from small business, which accounts for 24 percent of their purchases.

Among the advice Rewers gave the audience of more than 200 women business owners was to bank on relationships, as 97 percent of women CEOs say it is the secret to their success. She also stressed persistence, evidenced by the fact that 80 percent of small businesses make only two points of contact, yet 80 percent of sales come after the fifth interaction.

“The more ships you’re putting into the water, the more ships that come back to you,” Rewers said.

Rewers’ speech culminated a daylong event of networking, brainstorming and panel discussions from three of the area’s most powerful women’s organizations.

In CREW’s workshop, the emphasis was on designing office spaces to be more about collaborative zones.

“We are really seeing a push to optimize office space. The days of the 350-square-foot CEO office are gone,” said Jill Schmitt of Cresa Partners. “Tenants are demanding creative space alternatives that cut costs, improve productivity and increase morale.”

Heather Averwater, interior designer with brg3s architects, said to consider digital document storage and replacing the conference table with a flexible meeting space, huddle rooms and hoteling.

Meanwhile, in the Memphis Area Association of Governments’ session, the focus was on women business owners in rural communities.

Julie Perrine of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce challenged the audience with knowing their target market and the demographics within a business area.

“The one thing I see a lot of people do is they have a passion, rent a building, throw a bunch of stuff in a store and have no idea about taxes, rent, payroll, more taxes, permitting fees, business licenses,” Perrine said. “A lot of these retailers struggle – beauty, gift shops, etc. – because they don’t have the daytime traffic to support it, they’re all working in Memphis. If they’re not buying it here, where are they buying it?”

To that end, Carol Swift of Merle Norman shared her story about why locating in a shopping center next to Kroger off U.S. 51 was a smart decision for her particular retail business.

“Do I pay $400 more a month that’s in a prime location and poised for growth?” Swift said. “I jumped on it. Location is very important. In the past 30 years, Tipton County has grown 118 percent. Check areas like that. Think about what is your niche, what is your desire, and seek it out.”

The Daily News supports the Memphis chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women.

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