Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of time, energy and determination. More women are joining the ranks of business owners, and we are proud to count many among our friends and clients. With Women Entrepreneurship Day approaching on the 19th, we are highlighting some of the talented and successful women business owners in our circle, and sharing their insights with you.
Exclusively for Women Entrepreneurs This Week:
We know you’ve got a lot on your plate. Make some time in your schedule or that of an important family member or client by letting someone else navigate the roads. This week, we’re offering an additional $20 Gift certificate for every $100 certificate purchased with proof of ownership. Keep up the great work!
We’re inspired by the stories of the women entrepreneurs around us, and are highlighting some of the women entrepreneurs in our circle this month.
Kristy Dahlvang, Baker Associates
Kristy’s journey to entrepreneurship began as a young child. Growing up with entrepreneurial spirited parents, she inherited their drive and desire to lead. The passion for interior design and architecture came when an addition was added to her family home and dozens of books with architectural drawings were available to review. Always attracted to drawing and creating, seeing these books inspired Kristy to think about how different designs could be combined and how unique spaces could be created. Kristy started her career as an employee at Baker Associates, and over the years worked her way into partnership, eventually taking full ownership in 2021.
When asked about her personality, the response was an enthusiastic, “I’m a driver!” Kristy is very detail oriented, and demands the highest quality of work from herself and her business. She recognizes that all output is a reflection on her team, her business and ultimately on herself. On being a business owner she said, “It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. You have to be very self-motivated to get through the hard days, and you have to take ownership of what is happening around you.” You’ll find a lot of drivers in the architecture world, but Kristy has built a special philosophy that spurs her team on to success.
Inspiring Her Team
While she is definitely the leader, Kristy has fostered a culture of teamwork where everyone feels supported and are encouraged to take on the challenges and accept the risks that lead to truly inspiring design. The whole team comes together regularly to review projects, and all are encouraged to share their thoughts and opinions for better results. “Since we’ve started this process, it has really built rapport and helped my employees take ownership within the firm,” Kristy reflected. Making sure everyone feels heard and feelings are understood is something that takes work, but it is a critical component to her company culture that she has set as a priority.
Dealing With Doubt
As a result of the team-building work she has put in, she finds herself surrounded by a supportive team in exchange. When asked about dealing with self-doubt or others expressing doubt in her abilities, she noted a few key strategies. It took a couple of years to get comfortable admitting she didn’t always have all the answers. She took a long look at what areas of the business she needed help with and sought out the support she needed to grow. For Kristy, this came in the form of a business strategy consultant. At the end of the day she boils it down to this, “You have to understand what you don’t know, take action to understand it, then make sure you bring in the people who can support you in those areas.”
Following this philosophy, Kristy has found support in a few key resources. CEO Next has been a key program in her success as as the MN Crew (Commercial Real Estate for Women) organization. She recommends creating as large a network as you can. Build strong relationships with this network by asking meaningful questions and offering your help to them. Your efforts will come back to you. On her nightstand right now? Make it Stick – Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. The EOS business system and book Traction have also been great resources.
You can learn more about Kristy, and the projects she and her team work on at bakermn.com
April Davis, LUMA Luxury Matchmaking
There’s no school for matchmaking. It is an art that requires the ability to truly read people’s needs and desires and a passion for connecting with others. Meeting the right one is hard enough for most of us, but even more so for high-end professionals who have little time and the highest of standards. April didn’t set out to become a matchmaker, but discovered she was great at it along the way. Helping others find true connections fueled her own sense of satisfaction, so she switched gears and started her own business with a mission to help us all leave loneliness behind. She calls it, “a simple way to make a huge impact in someone’s life.”
Part of the core services at LUMA is getting to know a client thoroughly. The process includes asking individuals to describe themselves. It can be a tough thing to do – narrowing yourself down to just a few words. People who know her will call April genuine, determined and curious. She has relied on these traits to learn on her own, find resources to grow as a business owner, and build a nationally recognized business from the ground up.
There are only so many matches in a year one individual can make on their own. April described it as hard work – it takes a lot of research to find just the right match who will be supportive, complimentary and have the right chemistry for each client. That has meant that she has needed to seek out a team to help her expand to help more couples. The most important traits her staff have are self-motivation and a passion for the work. They keep each other motivated by sharing success stories of the matches they have made.
On Starting a Business
Starting your own business can be a daunting process, and does not come without doubters or even self-doubt. When asked how she has dealt with doubt in her career, April commented, “Having a good partner is key. My husband is very supportive.” That applies to clients as well. April takes great pride in finding matches who are not “twins” but complimentary and supportive of each other’s goals.
When it comes to having what it takes to be an entrepreneur, April had three key habits to highlight:
- Be Determined! You have to be willing to keep going no matter what. You have to show up every day and work hard. The business won’t build itself – you have to want it and be willing to work for it each and every day.
- Be Responsible. So many businesses are started each year, and many of them have owners who aren’t dependable. Make a plan. Don’t lose focus of the long-term goals. Don’t waste opportunities by not being available to potential clients or by not returning calls.
- Take Care of Yourself While Taking Care of Business. You can be productive in many different ways. As a business owner, making time to think is critical. Take time to go to the gym or another source of revitalization for you. While you’re there, use the time to think through process improvements or other problems you’re facing at work. The exercise or change of scenery can work wonders for unlocking solutions.
Google, YouTube and Audiobooks were instrumental to April as she got the business off the ground. What she didn’t know, she made it her business to learn. Having a SCORE mentor was another critical component. Someone who has run their own business has invaluable insight and can really help you avoid pitfalls and make the most of each opportunity as you get going. April recommends E-Myth – Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. For help with sales, she recommends anything by Brian Tracy.
At the end of the day, to keep a business going strong, you have to have personal fulfillment. For April it all comes back to family. She makes time to spend with her husband and young son, along with the extended family surrounding them. She finds great joy in knowing she is providing so many others with the opportunity to do the same.