Managing growth is very different for a $500,000 small business and one that has grown past the $1 million mark and is still reaching for the sky. Jeanette Armbrust of Skyline Exhibits of Central Ohio has been in both positions, so she knows them well. It’s the valuable insights she has gained through her own growth and success since starting her business in 2001 that she brings to other members as part of her NAWBO chapter in Columbus and in her role as a NAWBO National board member. In fact, today Skyline Exhibits of Central Ohio is an award-winning $7 million company. Jeanette was also just recognized with a 2017 Enterprising Women of the Year Award for her enterprising entrepreneurial spirit and business success. She was previously named SBA Small Business Woman of the Year.
We recently spoke to Jeanette about this month’s topic of managing growth as well as her passion for helping women entrepreneurs grow through her work with NAWBO:
What drove your decision to become a woman entrepreneur?
I have always had an inner drive and desire to be a leader. I remember when I was in college working for a woman-owned business thinking to myself—someday I’m going to own a business. In 2001, the opportunity presented itself and after spending time researching the opportunity and doing my due diligence, it came down to one question: “What’s the worst thing that can happen? I fail and start over?” After answering that question, I had the courage to not settle for the path of least resistance, to put away the fear. It was then that I jumped in with both feet!
The theme of this issue of NAWBO ONE is “Managing Growth.” What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about taking your business to the next level?
Managing growth is very challenging. We hit a major growth period in 2010 and grew at 80 percent that year. The major challenge for us was adding personnel to accommodate the increase in business, and making sure that our internal processes were in place to streamline the processing of the orders. As a leader, you have to constantly be evaluating and updating your processes. What worked at one level of revenue will not work as you grow. Always look for ways to work smarter, not harder!
What’s the “next level” for your business and how will you get there?
The next level for my business is looking for other products and services that we can offer that will allow us to be a complete marketing resource for our customers. We have taken the first step in adding technology and digital offerings to our portfolio. We are researching other areas and continuing to talk with our customers to see how we can serve them.
Congratulations on being a 2017 Enterprising Woman of the Year Award winner. What does it mean to you to be considered an “enterprising woman?”
I am very honored to be a 2017 Enterprising Woman of the Year! After attending the awards ceremony and hearing everyone’s stories, it was very inspirational and humbling! So many amazing women have taken the leap of faith and followed their passion to start and grow a business! That is what an enterprising woman is to me—someone who has the courage and is willing to take a risk to follow their passions and dreams and start a business! New research shows that there are almost 12 million women-owned businesses in the U.S.—12 million enterprising women!
How long have you been a NAWBO member, and what’s the one greatest benefit you have received from your involvement?
I have been in NAWBO for eight years. I was invited by a business colleague to attend a luncheon. That day, I looked around and saw myself reflected in every person in that room! I found myself surrounded by other women who were in the same situation as me: trying to balance work and life, growing a business, managing a family, feeling overwhelmed, looking for support, etc. It was refreshing and I knew this was the perfect organization for me! Since then, I have gained amazing friendships, grown my business and most of all, grown as a better leader and business owner.
Why did you want to serve on the NAWBO National Board and what do you hope to accomplish?
I was grateful to have served for three years on the local board in Columbus and I loved the opportunity to contribute to the growth and success of a chapter and its members. By serving on the National Board, I wanted to be able to lend my support and service to the entire organization. I am passionate about women in business, the success and growth of women leaders and the continued equality issues that still face women today. NAWBO is the place for me who marries my passions with my service. I am so fortunate to be able to be part of an amazing leadership team on the National Board that shows me every day what it means to be a servant leader. It is inspiring!
What other women’s or community causes are important to you and what are you doing to support them?
I feel it is important to give back and serve the community. In addition to NAWBO, I serve on the local Chamber of Commerce Board and the Small Business Council. Additionally, I am passionate about public policy and making sure that the issues and causes that affect small businesses and women-owned businesses are represented. I want to be an advocate for change!
Why do you think every NAWBO member should consider taking on a leadership role with their chapter or at the national level—whether it’s on a committee or board?
You only get out of your NAWBO membership what you put into it! Everyone should consider serving in some capacity—whatever their schedule will accommodate. And, NAWBO needs leaders and people to step up and serve the organization with their ideas, knowledge and passion. To me, that’s a win-win!
What’s something interesting or surprising about you that most people don’t know?
Before I started my business, I worked for Sesame Street Live—yes, Big Bird was my boss!