This entrepreneur has built a platform to help women-led small businesses flourish in the digital age - YourStory

This entrepreneur has built a platform to help women-led small businesses flourish in the digital age - YourStory


This entrepreneur has built a platform to help women-led small businesses flourish in the digital age - YourStory

Posted: 03 Jun 2020 07:30 PM PDT

Since childhood, Pooja Goel's father had encouraged her to take up teaching. He would tell her "Even, if you teach someone for free, you enhance your knowledge and experience, and that means a lot". When she was in eighth standard, she used to teach English and Mathematics to students of fifth standard and that continued as she pursued higher education.

Her helping and volunteering nature extended beyond school as she volunteered with various social organisations. Her desire to help others has also led to the formation of a not-for-profit venture, Pink Collar Professionals (PCP).

Pooja Goel, women entrepreneurs, digital marketing

Pooja Goel, founder of the not-for-profit Pink Collar Professionals.



Taking businesses online 

A BTech graduate, it was a natural move to the corporate world for Pooja. She worked with Infosys and Edgeverve Systems for three years before pursuing an MBA in Sales & Marketing in 2018. It was during her time at IMT Ghaziabad when she developed an interest in startups and devoted time to understanding and learning about the processes involved in becoming an entrepreneur. 

Exploring the startup ecosystem and attending multiple women-oriented summits, it became evident to Pooja that women in the startup ecosystem played a very small part. This gap in ideal numbers led her to come with the idea of Pink Collar Professionals - a platform to help women entrepreneurs. 

On March 8, 2020, International Women's Day, Pooja started consolidating her idea into a platform through social media pages. The coronavirus lockdown following closely after her launch, gave her the impetus to push stronger. 

Through PCP, Pooja helps women entrepreneurs chart plans for their success. To start off, she is helping women entrepreneurs go digital and scale their business. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing many activities to go online, she believes that the time is ripe for women-owned small businesses also to take their activities online and increase customer engagement and share. 

"Digital is going to be the next way forward. All the businesses are having a digital transformation at an exponential rate now as compared to the last five years. So, I felt small businesses should not lag behind in this transformation and they should quickly move to digital and connect to their local customers via digital and social media marketing," says Pooja. 

Women entrepreneurs can sign up on PCP's website or simply message her on Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp to be included in her digital and social media marketing consultancy programmes.



Helping women entrepreneurs

In a span of just three months, Pooja has assisted 34 women entrepreneurs to understand their businesses better and has successfully helped 12 women to work on digital transformation. She is currently providing a three-month mentorship to four businesses. She has been working with entrepreneurs from various sectors including edtech, online healthcare, gifting, clothing, and handmade jewellery.

Starting with digital marketing and personal branding for women entrepreneurs and professionals, Pooja helps formulate strategies to build a lasting digital connection with consumers, plans and monitors the ongoing company presence on social media, provides guidance in launching optimised online adverts through to increase company and brand awareness, provide creative ideas for content marketing and organises their distribution through various channels.

She also offers business consultancy, mentoring in personal branding, digital education and sales lead generation. 

The overwhelming response to her mentorship has become Pooja's motivating factor that she says helps her "wake up every day and continue to work late hours at night". She has received requests from various quarters to join her in helping mentor women entrepreneurs. 

"I rarely come across real talents who stand like Pooja. Her genuine expertise is a sure way to ease your social media marketing pain points," says Ruchi Bakhai, founder of EduPsych who received help from Pooja for her startup's digital transformation. 

With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe, Pooja believes the lockdown and pause in business is also an important time for businesses to introspect and plan their next steps. 

"What if customers are not coming to your shop, think of how you can reach them through online channels. We should think of this time as an opportunity for our business to transform, implement, manage and emerge. Digital and social media marketing is going to open a new path for women to take lead and actually create an impact," she adds. 

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How Six Entrepreneurs Unleashed Their Best Business Ideas During Lockdown - Forbes

Posted: 28 May 2020 04:37 AM PDT

Lockdown has created huge challenges for businesses and their founders, with a sudden fall of revenue, and for some, the closure of their premises, and the knowledge that a very uncertain future awaits once the pandemic is over. But rather than dwell on the frustrations, many entrepreneurs have focused on the opportunities and used their enforced time in isolation to make the most of them.

Raising your sustainability profile

The aim of the The Wood Life Project is to replace everyday plastic items with beautifully designed, eco-friendly, British-made wooden products. The business was launched in early 2019 by Hazel and Jimmy Russell. A year on they were supplying to 45 retailers and in talks with some major brands, until COVID-19 and lockdown brought new orders and their discussions with prospective large retailers to a sudden halt.

"We focused our efforts on online sales via our own website and other online marketplaces, where we've worked on blogs and social media platforms to drive sales and grow brand awareness," says Hazel Russell.

Crucially, the husband and wife team have used the downtime to demonstrate their commitment to supporting UK sustainable businesses by becoming Grown in Britain, and Forest Stewardship Council certified, and are in the process of becoming a B-Corp certified company.

"We have found a way to run our business openly, and more socially and environmentally aware, that won't detract from our profitability," adds Russell.

Go global, go virtual

Yena, a startup community that provides accelerator-like business benefits via subscription, has been ultra-productive during lockdown, moving its global events program online, launching Intros-as-a-service to enable networking for those who are isolated, and making their product free for two months. Their community has grown by 50% during lockdown.

"Our overarching mission is to democratize entrepreneurial opportunities for all, regardless of circumstances, including location," says founder Ash Phillips. "Since lockdown we're seeing higher engagement due to lack of active physical hubs, and this has highlighted the importance of digitizing high-quality business support for all stages.  As a result this is helping to power conversations with investors."

Improving skills and reputation

As an online business translation business Inbox Translation was in a better position than many others when the impact of COVID-19 struck, but it still took a big hit, as client demand for services dropped sharply.

Managing director Alina Cincan, a Romanian translator and Chartered Linguist, invested her lockdown time and her energy in marketing, including a website redesign, and her own personal development.

She says: "I ran an extensive survey across the translation services industry, and the results will help me better understand the field I am working in and make new connections."

Her research prompted her to begin studying for a PhD in translation. "I discovered that I love doing this sort of research and looking at data from various angles," she says. "I've just been invited to present these results to at least one translation conference."

Exploring new technology

Little Beau Sheep sells a range of handmade laundry and body care products, from signature wool dryer balls to felted wool soaps and laundry fragrance, and was founded in 2015 by Sarah Turner.

She says: "Lockdown has significantly changed our routes to market, so direct sales via our website are now our primary channel, and has provided the stimulus to think about how our business needs to adapt to the post-lockdown world."

Changes include an overhaul of the main retail website and the development of a dedicated website for trade customers for when they are able to re-open.

"We are also exploring the introduction of robotic automation to remove inefficiencies in the manufacturing process, and enable our team to concentrate on higher-value activities," says Turner. "This will provide benefits way beyond lockdown, driving efficiencies and ensuring the business is in the best possible position for the future."

Tapping into your entrepreneurial spirit  

Being furloughed from his full-time job unleashed Paul Hulatt's hidden entrepreneurial ambitions. He used lockdown to develop and launch an app, Supermarket Check-In, that lets people check and share shopping experiences at their local supermarkets and other shops. By helping them to make a more informed choice about when they visit, they can reduce their time outside the house and the risk of exposure.

In the first few weeks after launching in mid-April, the app attracted almost 500,000 users, charting at the top of the App Store and Google Play charts.

Hulatt says: "I don't know where this will take me when lockdown and furloughing comes to an end, but it could be the catalyst I need to go it alone with my own full-time business, or an effective way of building my skills to help me in my regular day job."

Becoming more visible

Author, coach and PR consultant Elaine Harrison helps people to write books, get them published, and get them publicized. She launched the business after a 37-year career in media and her work has grown steadily, mainly by word of mouth.

"I've been getting on with it quietly for the last 14 years," she says. "In lockdown, I started working with a top coach and when he read some of my client testimonials he couldn't understand why he hadn't heard of me before. That had the effect of unleashing my inner-entrepreneur."

During lockdown, Harrison began working with a branding expert and logo designer, started writing a book on how to write a book and get publicity, launched a Facebook group for authors and authors-to-be, and began planning a podcast.

"The podcast is forcing me step outside my comfort zone, but in an exciting way," she says. "Things are already moving and I've taken on two new clients in the past two weeks. I'm ready to let more people know what I can offer, and lockdown has helped me make a great start."

Power of the collective in action: Meet the Advisory Board for the Idaho Women's Business Center - Idaho Business Review

Posted: 04 Jun 2020 04:15 AM PDT

It is hard to believe we are still in our infancy, slated to have our first birthday in July 2020. And by "our," we truly mean it as a WE, on behalf of all women business owners throughout Idaho.

The launch of the Idaho Women's Business Center (IWBC) began with a flurry of excitement inside the bright and beautiful rotunda at the Idaho State Capitol for the ribbon-cutting in July 2019. Among the 150+ attendees were local and state dignitaries, including Gov. Brad Little and Sen. Jim Risch. It was a collaborative and experiential event with several vendors – women-owned businesses – who served guests and supporters delicious cultural cuisine and set the bar for teamwork within the IWBC. We are a vessel for business owners to shine in their genius.

In the short time since it has been up and running, the IWBC has grown to over 425 members in our free statewide directory, representing over 130 business categories, and IdahoWomen.org has received over 45,000 hits in the past six months – and we are just getting started.

How are we accomplishing so much in such a short timeframe? Simple: We have gathered some of the most dedicated, driven and cooperative women across the state to steer the IWBC Advisory Board. They inspire creative problem-solving; instill strong business ethics in our approach to use grant funds to produce unparalleled training, tools and resources for our clients; and they represent the perspective of entrepreneurs throughout urban and rural communities. The vast pool of experience captured within this group of high-caliber businesswomen brings wisdom and energy that permeates every mission within the IWBC.

You will likely recognize a slew of the names below because these are the women who are out walking the walk, building relationships and engaging in events within their communities and way beyond.

We proudly introduce to you the IWBC Advisory Board, in no particular order:

Lupe Castaneda, Advisor – Magic Valley, Loan Officer at Guild Mortgage
Tina Wilson, Advisor – Gem & Canyon Counties, Economic Development Officer
Sheli Gartman, Advisor – Meridian, CEO of Women Ignite International
Jana Jones, Advisor – Statewide, Director of Business Development Services at Norwest Lineman College
Shari Baber, Advisor – Statewide, Owner of Cut-n-Up & Co. LLC Salon,
Martha Lopez, Advisor – Nampa, Board Member of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Idaho Hispanic Foundation
Michelle Campbell, Advisor – Magic Valley, Regional Events and Marketing Manager for Idaho State Journal and Post Register
Amy Lientz, Advisor – Idaho Falls, Idaho National Laboratory
Connie Miller, Advisor, President/CEO of Icon Credit Union
Ilona Mitchell, Advisor, Sr. Business Relationship Manager & VP at Wells Fargo Bank
Melonie Ziegler, Advisor – Statewide, Owner of Idaho Gifts to Go
Lisa Holland, Advisor – Kuna, Economic Development Officer
Connie Stopher, Advisor – Southern Idaho, Economic Development Officer
Jessi Roberts, Advisor – Rural Advocate, CEO of Cheeky's
Liliana Olivas, Advisor – Idaho Falls, Community Council of Idaho
Dr. Mindi Anderson, Advisor – Statewide Veteran Connections, Owner of Maximize Solutions
Christy Anna Gerber, Business Advisor – Hayley/Ketchum

It's not uncommon for us to need to shift gears and move quickly on ideas as we determine the most effective ways to take our initiatives state-wide to serve as many women-owned small businesses as we can. (Yes, we VERY much welcome our male partners and ALL small business owners are encouraged to attend our training events, too!)

We recognize that we will find more success with huge efforts in teamwork, cross-industry collaborations and steady innovation as the world continues to throw unparalleled challenges into the faces of small business owners. When those moments arise, we can call on our Advisory Board to rally, brainstorm and troubleshoot with little notice, and their enthusiastic engagement keeps the IWBC nimble and flexible in our journey.

Particularly in these trying times of a global pandemic, we've found strength in numbers for our ability to field calls from hundreds of small businesses in Idaho and assist them in navigating through the process of receiving support through the SBA loans via the CARES Act.

We are committed to providing the most up-to-date information at IdahoWomen.org, and we are passionate about delivering the most critical business training possible.

In just a couple of short months from now, we will roll out a new small business training series, specifically designed to address the effects of COVID-19 on small businesses.

Our initiative to reach all 44 Idaho counties by 2022 was already underway and is now stepping into its next phase: IWBC's Connect the Dots Academy #CommunityOverCovid, which began with the launch at our Connect the Dots Business Experience on Feb. 22 at JUMP in downtown Boise. And, while we are at it, we will address the basic yet robust curriculum that will help new businesses launch more successfully and assist existing small businesses in the rebound/rebuild process.

We have hosted a series of focus groups to ensure we take the topics right from the mouths, minds and hearts of Idaho business owners. We collected data from three groups of business owners, including one comprised of our Latina clientele, who offer the valuable perspective of our often underserved communities.

Turns out, there weren't a lot of brain-busters but really a hunger to first get all the way back to the basic building blocks of business, then enhance the well-roundedness of the scope delivered. Finances (including paying yourself as a small business owner), setting up the correct legal entity, use and efficiency with telework and online aspects of business, and easy-to-apply tips and tools about preventing the spread of COVID19 and other communicable diseases will be among the topics covered in our modules that will be available for on-demand training. And we will be delivering it all in both English and Spanish. Plus, this entire arsenal of education provided on the after-effects of COVID-19 will be available at NO COST for small business owners statewide.

"Our women entrepreneurs need to be more intentional about their business," said IWBC Executive Director Diane Bevan. "Intention takes discipline, and we're here to help women to be actively engaged in how they run their businesses."

The IWBC will relentlessly guide business owners to step up to the plate in their strengths and knock their business goals out of the park. If you want to be part of the action of small business development in Idaho, as a partner, as a business owner, as a mentor or in another capacity that you'd like to bring to the table, connect with us at IdahoWomen.org.

Together, we can revive businesses who've met massive upset and launch new ideas into fruition. Together, we can have an even stronger business community than ever before.

Megan Bryant is director of the Idaho Women's Business Center, which serves entrepreneurs by providing training, tools and connections to resources for small businesses to thrive throughout the state of Idaho.  

She is an Improv Trainer in the corporate arena, teaching principles derived from the art form of improvisation, to enhance communication, unlock creativity, and champion a respectful and inclusive company culture. She's an award-winning author of her autobiography, "Not My Plan – Sucking it in Until I had to Push it Out." Megan was named 2019's Best Local Comedian by the Boise Weekly and hosts the podcast, "I Hardly Know Her!"

Bryant has been the recipient of such honors as Idaho Business Review's Accomplished Under 40 and Women of the Year awards. 

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