Worcester’s women entrepreneurs need to stop sailing solo
When I was about 11 years old, I walked to a local business across the street from my home in Quinsigamond Village and straight into a preview of my future. Just inside the doors, I overheard the owner of that business, Marge, talking about a business support group for the women in our neighborhood. I was so intrigued.
Whatever your gender or background, running a small business is hard work. It’s hard in other ways, too: You have to make sacrifices and choices that people who don’t run their own businesses won’t have to make and can’t understand, including your family and oldest friends. Long hours, strained relationships, missed occasions, and that’s just the start. What they don’t tell you when you start a business as a woman is your most vocal judges and opponents will be women. The trick is to make friends with women starting and already running their own companies. You’re going to need your crew to stay afloat. Trust me.
In my 13th year being self employed, I’m lucky enough to look around me and be surrounded by a group of award-winning, lift-each-other-up lady bosses. These women are at the top of the game in their respected fields, running very successful businesses in various industries. We’re the first ones to cheer each other on, to publicly support each other, and to collaborate. But one of the most dominant and troubling traits I notice in my fellow founders is we don’t own our own accomplishments. Humility is a personality trait I highly admire, but when it comes to owning a business as a woman, it’s clearly one of the things that’s hurting us in our quest to even the playing field.
Crompton Collective opened five years ago, quickly scaling to a substantial, award-winning shopping destination. But I still catch myself saying, “We’re so very lucky to be doing well.” It’s not luck that brings people through our doors every day, it’s 22 years of veteran retail experience. It’s because I bring business books to the beach when everyone else is reading the latest trashy best-seller. It’s the human being I work hard to be, every single day, in business and in life, to earn the support system that stands by me and sends business my way.
After all of that, I should have no trouble owning my success, right? Nope! Why doesn’t pride and selling myself high come as easily for me and my peers as it does for the men who own businesses around us? In our businesses we walk a fine line between not being aggressive enough or being considered pushy, bitchy, brash, insert-Hillary-name-calling-here. I’ve been accused of those things. Why do customers ask me a question, only to turn to one of my male employees to validate the accuracy of my answer.
Are we facing the same challenges those in Marge’s group were facing 20 years ago? I’m sure we are, even though there were more than 9.4 million businesses owned by women across America as of 2015. We still, in 2017, need to band together as women and lift each other up.
Amy Lynn Chase is the owner of Worcester retail boutique Crompton Collective.