Advice for women running a business: 'think, eat and breathe your company'


Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 2:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 2:43 p.m.

What makes a successful entrepreneur?

The Reitz Union Grand Ballroom fell silent.

The panelists’ answer: passion.

An estimated 100 people gathered Tuesday night for the “Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Challenging Barriers While Changing the World” panel discussion, at which students picked the brains of four female entrepreneurs.

The discussion brought together representatives of local women-run enterprises to discuss the challenges associated with running a business as a woman.

The University of Florida Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the UF Common Reading Program and UF’s Women Student Association sponsored the panel.

Tuesday’s panel discussion was an offshoot from the UF 2012 Common Reading Program book, “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana,” which is about a young woman in Afghanistan who launches a textile business under Taliban rule.

Jamie Kraft, 40, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said the event-planning committee for the Common Reading Program — which has all UF freshmen reading and discussing the same book — wanted to do a panel discussion of local women debating the challenges of running a business.

“We want to introduce them to local resources, successful women-run enterprises and give them an opportunity to network with each other,” Kraft said.

The panel included Nicole Irving, founder of Giggle Magazine; Rebecca Barborak, founder of Corks & Colors Studio; and Karen Zaderej, CEO of AxoGen.

Jane Muir, director of UF’s Innovation Hub, moderated the panel. Muir kicked off the discussion with a list of three components necessary for start-up companies: a source of innovation, entrepreneurs and a source of funding.

“The percentage of Fortune 500 companies with women CEOs is less than 15 percent,” Muir said. The panel focused on women because women have unique attributes and provide a “competitive advantage,” Muir said.

Each panelist shared nuggets of wisdom and their personal obstacles to the audience, many of whom were UF Innovation Academy students.

Zaderej, owner of the Alachua-based biotech company AxoGen, emphasized that vision and perseverance are critical for all entrepreneurs.

“You need to know where you want to go and then you to have the passion to prove it,” she said. “You will, as an entrepreneur, be told ‘no’ 1,000 times before you’re told ‘yes.’ ”

Irving, founder of the family-oriented magazine Giggle, had her own piece of advice for future entrepreneurs scattered across the ballroom.

“You have to love what you do,” Irving said. “You think, eat and breathe your company.”

One key question the panel discussed was the difference between men and women entrepreneurs.

Barborak, who started her own canvas and pottery business, Corks & Colors Studio, so she could have more time to spend with her daughters, said women tend to be more empathetic than men.

Women understand the “spending habits of the family,” Barborak said.

Barborak said her ability to think within a family concept helps her relate to her customers and understand their spending habits.

Muir expanded on Barborak’s purchasing-power comment.

“Anywhere from two-thirds to almost 90 percent of the purchasing decisions in this country are now made by women,” Muir said.

Corks & Colors Studio, located at 5200 Newberry Road, won the 2012 Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award.

The panel discussion ended with a question-and-answer session.

Muir asked the upbeat panelists how they approach life-balance issues.

The panelists concluded that an entrepreneur needs a good team, passion, perseverance, humility and dedication.

“Do the best you can,” Barborak said. “Expect to sacrifice and have very little balance when you first start the business. It’s part of the deal.”

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top