March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. IWD promotes equality and highlights the importance of creating conditions to eliminate discrimination against women.
For me, creating those conditions was a huge reason why I founded EvolveMKD. I started my agency with the vision to provide high-level jobs and creative working environments where talented, driven women could thrive. When I left a business partnership that wasn’t working, I set out to create a new kind of company. I wanted to build a public relations and digital marketing agency that offered hands-on, personalized attention in healthcare, medical, and beauty spaces that was owned, managed, and staffed by senior-level women.
My own startup pitfalls.
Starting my own business came with surprises and lessons learned. I started the company in my apartment and soon brought on two senior-level employees. However, when we were ready to grow into a rented space, I discovered roadblocks in getting banks to back me without years of being in business. By pointing out the inherent sexism at play, rather than backing down, I was able to navigate the financial and real estate hurdles many women face while building their businesses.
Strong women negotiate.
Show up with your A-game and demand respect. It astonishes me that women are still treated differently than men when it comes to negotiations. It has often been assumed that I wouldn’t negotiate or if I did, would give in quickly. Making decisions that make others uncomfortable is often hard for women. We are trained from early childhood to be nice. But I can be nice, or at least cordial, and still refuse to work with firms that don’t respect my expertise or view me as an equal partner in planning a campaign.
Successful women build each other up.
Women rise when we promote one another’s greatest strengths and build strong partnerships. I encourage professional growth even if it means team members eventually leave for other opportunities––strong, competent women make the entire industry better.
Women help women.
Giving back to create a more level society should be a key element in any successful business model. EvolveMKD has an agency goal of donating 10% of profits. We empower our employees to choose charities for the agency to support that matter to them. So far, the lion’s share of charitable funds (more than $600K) has gone to supporting underserved women and children. Among so many other notable contributions, we are proud to have covered the costs of reconstructive surgery for a woman who was a victim of domestic violence and purchased a van to assist women who have escaped sex trafficking.
My startup advice for future women entrepreneurs:
Save first and raise your credit score as much as possible.
If you want to found a company, ensure you understand the business from the ground up. Because I’ve done many of the jobs within my Industry, I understand the skill sets needed for success at most positions, and that knowledge has been vital as we’ve grown exponentially.
You’ll also need advisors. Financial, legal, and human resources are a good start. Don’t be afraid to hire an expert. Good advice is worth its weight in gold.
Build a network of mentors. I’ve learned from a circle of other women business owners through the Women Presidents’ Organization as well as my own mother who is part of the EvolveMKD team as the office manager.
Continue to challenge yourself personally and professionally.
Today, EvolveMKD is continuing to grow and we’re expanding our client offerings. As a woman-owned, female-powered agency we’re so proud of our achievements and our support of causes that promote making women stronger in our communities.