Women entrepreneurs share their business knowledge at Dalton State College
Oct 23 – âI always wanted a career where I could be the kind of mother I wanted to be, and the way to do that was to be my own boss,â said Rebekah Conner, owner of Wildwood Charm boutique. . “I have built a career to lead the life I want to live.”
Clients have “become almost like family” for Logan Kilgore, owner / operator of Logan Kilgore Photography. “My closest friends now started out as my clients.”
As a makeup artist, âyou’re there for special occasions,â like weddings, as well as âtough times,â like funerals, said Cynthia Evans, owner of CME Beauty Bar and Tasker’s Barber & Salon. “You are like a therapist.”
A “pro” at owning your own business is “the decisions you are allowed to make,” said April Ashley, founder and owner of Freedom from Laundry. “I like having the freedom to call the shots.”
However, owning a business comes with challenges, such as âhaving no one above you, (meaning) you are the ultimate boss,â Conner said. If, for example, “your warehouse is flooded, you go there, no choice.”
âJust because regular office hours are over doesn’t mean (your job) is actually done,â Evans said. She must have set 6pm as the deadline for returning messages, because “it got overwhelming, (because) people were texting me for appointments at 2 am”
âSet boundaries,â she advised others. “You have to have that balance and know when to put the work aside.”
âIt’s hard to set limits when (customers) are used to being able to contact you at all times,â Kilgore said. “I wish I had put a structure in place” earlier.
Being a business owner “also becomes very lonely, (like) friends you had before don’t understand that you are busy” at work and not being available to meet them, she said. “I’ll be riding until 2 or 3 in the morning, and if I go to bed before 1 in the morning, I feel guilty.”
She started setting aside 45 minutes five days a week for the gym, and “this is my ‘time for me’,” she said. “I feel really good about it.”
Ashley’s husband gives her massages at a spa to relax, she said. “It has become my time to relax.”
Surrounding yourself with brilliant minds, and then allowing them to do what they do best, is also important to the success of a business, a lesson Ashley learned from her father, a professional motorcycle racer who possessed more. several bicycle shops later, she said. “I don’t think we can ever stop learning.”
Kilgore agrees, as she spends around $ 10,000 a year on training, workshops and professional development, she said. “I want to do it right, (and) it made a big difference to me.”
Finding mentors is essential, as is mentoring others, Conner said. “Find a mentor and be a mentor, (because) owning a business can be very lonely.”
âYou want to find people who share the same passions as the mentors, make friendships with people from other generations – they have different opinions and knowledge than yours – and don’t try to do it all yourself, because this could be your downfall, âsaid Leeann Hargis, Freedom from Laundry operations manager. “There are so many people out to help you for nothing, so find these resources.”
âIf you find someone genuine who wants to help, keep them with you,â Evans said. “Find (people) that you can grow” from and with.
Ashley, Conner, Evans, Kilgore and Hargis shared their business perspective on the Women’s Entrepreneurship Week panel at the Wright School of Business at Dalton State College, co-sponsored by the Dalton Innovation Accelerator.
“A complete experience”
Kilgore began her career as a photographer eight years ago when her daughter was born, first taking photos of herself, but that quickly turned into photographing other families, the former Northwest student said. Whitfield High School. “I specialize in motherhood (photos), about 70% of my activity”, and this is also due to her experience with her daughter.
“I missed these” photos when she was pregnant, and she didn’t take advantage of many newborn photos either, so “I give women a full experience with memories they will cherish forever , and I make it easy for them, “with a hairstylist and makeup artist on set to” make them feel completely gorgeous that day, “she said.
Some of her clients have done 40 photoshoots with her, from maternity and newborn to vacations and milestones, so âI’m watching their kids grow upâ.
“My personal and professional life merge”
Conner’s business started online, but she opened a physical location on Cleveland Highway in 2019, and she currently ships to all 50 states and multiple countries, she said. “I say that I started a business by accident, because with three young children, we needed some extra income”, because she was a teacher at the time and her husband was in the police force.
“I am very thankful that this has turned into something,” and Conner’s dedication has a lot to do with the prosperity of his business, as “my personal and professional life are intertwined,” she said. . “I’m not good at work-life balance”, and while “there is a lot of personal growth in building something, it’s also hard when you see it falling apart.”
However, one cannot “be afraid of making mistakes,” she said. “It’s part of starting a business.”
“You can control your atmosphere”
Hargis became interested in entrepreneurship at the age of 8 while speaking to small business owners in her hometown of Ringgold.
She “always wanted to be a boss who makes people feel good about their work”, and with a small business “you know everyone”, which is not the case with a “business”, a- she declared. âYou can control your atmosphere and the culture you really wantâ as a small business owner.
“Time is our most precious commodity”
Ashley was a licensed builder in two states and did so for two decades, an experience that taught her “what people want and don’t want,” she said. âTime is our most precious commodity,â and his company gives people more time to pursue their passions by outsourcing laundry.
âPeople are very busy,â and Freedom from Laundry has a service âthat gives people time,â she said. “You can make more money, but you can’t save more time.”
Its clients range from people with parents in senior centers who would rather spend their visiting time interacting with their parents rather than doing their laundry to rescue workers who descended on the Chattanooga area last year as a result of the destructive tornado of this city.
âI am happy to help people and I have never lost the desire to help people,â she said. “People appreciate it when you make their life easier, and it’s nice to be appreciated.”
“I fell in love with the business idea”
Evans “has been doing makeup since high school, and it quickly became a business, (like) I had my first two marriages in 2013,” she said. She started Clean Candle Co., which creates “clean candles” without harmful ingredients, while “staying home” at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and she “got a crazy (good) response.”
Evans was challenged to find a job because she uses a wheelchair, so starting her own job proved to be a productive solution, and “I fell in love with the business idea” early in life. , she said. “I have a good business acumen, and my mind never stops.”
Conner’s shop sells sizes from small to triple extra-large, as well as accessories and gifts, and she has had inventory issues due to supply chain issues plaguing businesses across the country. right now, she said.
Last year the online portion of its operation received “a huge influx of business” because people were shopping more online from their homes, but this has reversed this year, physical location ” doing better ‘as people venture back after quarantining much of the past year due to COVID-19.
The pandemic actually led to an increase in business for Freedom from Laundry, as people who had groceries and meals delivered during quarantine soon thought of having laundry delivered as well, although there were concerns about Ashley at the start of the pandemic because “we did a lot of the Airbnbs, and the ones that just stopped” when travel mostly ceased, Ashley said. As a business owner, “it is good to be afraid, but go on and do not push away those who are ready to help you. “
When “things opened up people were going crazy, booking two or three years” in advance, and “this year is the busiest I’ve been,” Evans said. “I didn’t have a break I don’t know when.”
Kilgore took eight weeks off at the start of the pandemic, but “bookings have been strong” since returning to work, she said. âPhotos have become more important as people dieâ of COVID-19, and she took several photos of people that were used in obituaries.
Hosting Tuesday’s panel was a perfect way to mark the eighth annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Week, as âI care about women entrepreneurs,â and to have a pair of Wright School of Business alumni on the panel. to Evans and Hargis “is heartwarming,” said Marilyn Helms, dean of the Wright School of Business. Entrepreneurship has become an increasingly “popular” avenue within the school.
At Dalton State, Hargis learned “real leadership and the skills to put in place,” she said. “I can’t forget what I learned here.”