Fewer than 2% of women-owned businesses ever reach the $1 million revenue mark; compared to about 6.2% of their male-run counterparts, according to Inc.. However, female-led enterprises are increasing: in the past decade, the number of women-owned companies increased by 42%.
To address how to break the $1 million revenue milestone, we spoke with three women currently running multi-million dollar companies to give their best advice for entrepreneurs.
Faithe Dillman Parker, Founder of Marbaloo Marketing
Ohio native Faithe Dillman Parker founded Marbaloo Marketing, a Nashville-based creative and marketing agency, in 2010. Seven years later, Marbaloo Marketing has grown to include four companies and 40 employees. They oversee digital marketing for some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Miranda Lambert and Tim McGraw.
SF: Faithe, you’re a fourth-generation entrepreneur. What lessons did you witness growing up that stick with you today?
Faithe: Always do what you say you will do regardless of the consequence, was — and still is for my father — a non-negotiable personal and professional mantra that I have watched him live out since I was playing with highlighters under his desk. If you give someone your word — client, employee, friend — no matter the cost to you financially, physically, emotionally — you follow through.
SF: Crossing the $1 million revenue mark is a milestone. What was one of the earliest obstacles you encountered?
Faithe: As a marketing executive who became an entrepreneur, scaling our operational staff was the biggest challenge I came up against. Finding the right finance staff, recruiting resources, HR softwares, CRM vendors, benefits providers, etc. was difficult because I hadn’t done it before, but also because it wasn’t my passion place.
SF: Now that you’ve got a team of 40 employees, how do you prioritize to make sure your most important tasks get done each day?
Faithe: I touch base with my leadership team daily, but I trust them to prioritize their needs, their staff’s needs, and the client needs. Hiring great people and trusting them to communicate and prioritize appropriately is the only way at our size and with our growth trajectory for us all to keep sane.
Diana Goodwin, Founder of AquaMobile Swim School
Diana Goodwin was just 19 years old when she launched her first swim school business with a $3000 government grant. Goodwin refined her business plan for on-demand swim lessons while finishing her MBA at the Kellogg School of Management. Nearly a decade later, AquaMobile Swim School, “the Uber of swim lessons,” is operating with more than 1,500 instructors across 25 states and Canada.
SF: Diana, what’s the first market you launched AquaMobile in? And how long was it before you expanded into other markets?
Goodwin: We first launched in the Greater Toronto Area in Canada, because that’s where I grew up. In our second year, we launched in Florida as our test market to understand the U.S. market. Once we had a good understanding of what growth methods worked and our tech platform could handle the scale, we then expanded much more quickly and entered 12 states in our third year. Now the U.S. market is over 70% of our annual revenue and we operate across 25 states.
SF: There are some major inherent liabilities in your business, considering you’re dealing with independent contractors and also with swimming. What’s one piece of advice you would offer to someone else who is running a potentially high-liability business?
Goodwin: Take the time to put the proper checks and balances in place to mitigate risk from all angles. Always be asking yourself, “What else can I do to mitigate liability?” It runs well beyond just having a good insurance policy.
SF: What do you wish you’d known earlier that would have helped you grow even faster?
Goodwin: Because I’ve chosen to bootstrap AquaMobile instead of raising funds, I have to be careful with how we spend our money to make sure every dollar is being maximized. Finding good talent on a budget can be hard sometimes. I can’t always afford to bring in super experienced people. I wish I’d followed the quality over quantity principal earlier on when hiring. I’ve come to realize that a smaller team of A players can have higher quality output and be more efficient than a larger team of B players. I’ve found that happy balance today, but wish I’d found it sooner.
Kim Goei, Founder and CEO of Goei Group
Kim Goei spent years as a sales, marketing and operations executive. Tired of encountering what she calls, “both admirable and questionable business practices across all aspects of the industry,” she decided to launch her own company to “revolutionize leadership and provide socially conscious, professional services fueled by mutual integrity and respect,” in 2014. Now, Goei Group is a global consultancy firm that helps businesses grow their sales, marketing and operations with world-class strategy.
SF: Kim, you were a successful employee for a long time, working in the same field you’re working in now. What spurred your decision to ultimately strike out on your own?
Goei: I always knew I was destined for entrepreneurship, and had many business ideas over the years but never acted on them. As an employee,I was always looking for what was next in every initiative. I probably drove my colleagues crazy; we’d accomplish one thing and I was always the first to say “great, so what’s next?” It was actually my former boss and mentor who reminded me that I am an entrepreneur, and to embrace it. It finally clicked, and I took the plunge.
SF: What’s the best piece of advice you would offer to a woman just starting out in her entrepreneurial venture?
Goei: Be bold and never accept anything less than you’re worth. It may sound cliche, but it is essential. If you are venturing into this world, you already have the talents you need to succeed. As my mom always said, “Leap and the net will appear.”