One of first things Stephanie Burns said to me when I interviewed her for a job at Bulldog Drummond a few years ago was that one day she wanted to own her own company. About five years later, she's done just that. Chic CEO is a free web resource for female entrepreneurs that provides all of the foundational and fundamental information women need to start a business, from how to write a business plan to the steps to take if they have invented a product. Finances, funding, and marketing—Chic CEO has got it covered. Together with her business partner Jody Coughlin, Stephanie has created a platform for women to find the answers to help them make their dream a reality.
In grad school Stephanie sat through classes thinking, "I'm in business school, but if someone asked me how to start a business—step 1, step 2, step 3—I would have no idea what to tell them." So she started looking for resources. At the same time, a lot of her girlfriends were starting small businesses and couldn't find resources either. These smart, stylish, savvy women needed not only information, but for that information to be user-friendly. Stephanie got 15 of her friends together, confirmed her intuition, and found her niche. Her goal was to help women start their business in a manner that is easy and seamless.
Fast-forward to today; Stephanie is receiving thank-you emails from women who stumble on her site. A woman in Dubai who researched the steps for starting a business for eight months recently joined the new membership program, and found that she could finally concentrate on her business instead of how to get it started.
Today, women are starting businesses at a 2:1 rate over men, and they need a resource they can trust. It's not surprising that the brand is gaining traction. Chic CEO not only provides the answers women are looking for (for free) but they say it feels like they're talking to a friend. It has a distinct voice for women starting businesses. Stephanie and her partner believe that the line between personal and business has blurred. They're not afraid to tell their users how pretty they are while talking about balance sheets. What I respect about Stephanie is that she doesn't claim to be a business expert, but she prides herself on being tenacious enough to find the necessary answers—and that's the heart of Chic CEO. They won't tell you how to make a million dollars, but they will find the answers so you can!
When building a business, a person learns a lot about themselves and others along the way, and Stephanie is no exception. She learned that she has a tender heart, she hates being told what to do (I could have told her that years ago), and she's learned to ask for help. One of the best tools she has learned is to not be afraid to ask for what she wants; she found out early on that if she just asks, nine times out of 10 the answer is yes. Now, her team asks away and isn’t fazed by a no. "We have mustered up the courage to ask for some of the craziest things, only to find ourselves at a yes," says Stephanie.
Courage plays a major part on the journey of building a business—courage to stand up for what you've created, to believe in its value and to continue moving forward. Stephanie knows failure is certain if she quits, so she keeps going. One day at a time, one decision at a time. Courage doesn't mean always being right. "You have to know that you can't control everything, and some things simply won't work. Courage is when you take what you've learned and try it again. It’s not easy, but can yield amazing results," she says.
If you're thinking about starting a business, whether you're a woman or a man, Stephanie has some good advice: "Just get started, you'll figure out the rest." Like every practical woman, she puts an emphasis on recognizing your low moment: "Understand when you're at a low, when you are out of energy and inspiration, but hopefully not out of money. These moments are certain in a startup—they weed out the weak from the strong. When you're able to recognize it's just part of the process and not a reason to quit, you'll know you're light years ahead of those ready to quit. It's important to surround yourself with people who believe in you and what you are building. Don't be afraid to lean on people during these moments, for brutal honesty, advice, guidance and to remind you what value you're bringing to the world." And as you'd expect, she recommends doing the research, reading everything, and using free resources like Chic CEO. There is a wealth of information available, so there's no need to re-create the wheel.
Today Stephanie has big plans for her female-focused business. She wants to become the number one trusted resource for female entrepreneurs and expand, providing ground-level business information in other categories like investing, PR, non-profit, and networking. In addition she would eventually love to create a venture arm that invests in women-led businesses.
Chic CEO is a free online resource for female entrepreneurs, providing women with the ground-level information they need to start their businesses. Chic CEO launched in December 2010 and motivates women to become interested and involved in entrepreneurship. For information and to learn more about Chic CEO visit chic-ceo.com and sign up for their free communications.
—Shawn Parr is the CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie's Homegrown, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND.
[Image: Flickr user Psiconauta]