Successful business owners do more than run the daily operations of a company—they see value in differences and seek out diverse resources to make a business grow and prosper. As we celebrate diversity, we asked the following five women business owners and NAWBO leaders to share ways diversity has benefited their own businesses:
Diana Herrera, NAWBO-Miami Chapter Board Member
Littie Brown, NAWBO-Atlanta Chapter President
Speedpro Imaging of Marietta
Sophie Wade, NAWBO-New York City Chapter President
Michele Katz, NAWBO-Chicago Chapter President
Advítam IP, LLC
Emily Wirowek, NAWBO-San Francisco Bay Area Chapter President
The Law Office of Emily A. Wirowek
How have you worked to ensure your business is diverse—from your employees, to your vendors and customers?
“By identifying opportunities and making it a goal to be diverse all around. We value the benefit of diversity when making decisions to help us meet that goal.” —Diana
“As an African American woman-owned business, diversity is important to us. We recognize that we need to have a balance in who represents our company. We only have a couple of employees at this point, and they have been males to ensure we have that balance. We also focus on age as well as gender and ethnicity. Having a young millennial has allowed us to see opportunities we may not have seen on our own. We have embraced the use of technology, social media and the Internet. Having a wide range of suppliers gives us the ability to solve our customer’s needs—and just like our vendors, we look for a diverse group of customers. We focus on gaining customers from a variety of industries that keep us from being too dependent in one or two areas.” —Littie
“My background and philosophy of life are all about diversity. I have lived and worked in five countries across three continents—Europe, Asia and now the Americas—in significantly different cultural and language environments.” —Sophie
“My firm, Advitam IP, LLC, a law firm specializing in intellectual property (patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc.), removed the ‘face time’ requirement from the usual office workplace. We have a hybrid system where our people can work from our downtown office, from their homes, overseas or any combination thereof. Because we encourage our people to work where they’re comfortable and in a way that makes sense for their lives, we attract a broader range of candidates, including working mothers like myself who want to be downtown, but also like the convenience of working from home when a child is sick, there’s a school play in the middle of the day or just because. Likewise, we work when we’re available (not keeping the typical 9-5 hours), which works well for our clients, many of which are overseas.” —Michele
“I believe in finding the best talent, whether employees, independent contractors or vendors. I look for professional, creative and kind individuals. In order to find the right talent, I have been patient to connect with the right men and women. All of my clients come by referral, and the single unifying factor between all of them is that they care about their loved ones and have a purpose in planning. My clients come from all walks of life, ages, ethnicities and faiths. I work with them to get organized and to solidify their family legacy.” —Emily
How do you think diversity of others has benefited you in your business?
“It gives several points of reference from which we can learn and grow our business, as it allows us to be in a better position to respond to a broader range of client needs.” —Diana
“It has had a major impact on our business. We have grown revenue because of the thoughts and ideas from both employees and customers. We have created an environment where new innovative ideas are embraced and rewarded.” —Littie
“My company’s objective is to bring new and innovative approaches and practices to the workplace, including how to attract, engage and manage talent in an evolving work environment. By bringing a range of different perspectives and focusing on thinking as broadly as possible, we can develop the inclusive solutions our clients need for the new workplace demands.” —Sophie
“I work with bright and passionate IP professionals. Without the flexibility of our working environment, we would not have the benefit of their expertise.” —Michele
“Diversity of others influences us in a substantial way. Diversity influences how we think, how we define and solve problems and how we interpret conflicts. Ultimately, inclusion of diverse thought and engaging with a diverse group of individuals helps women business owners enhance their wealth-creating capacity.” —Emily
Please describe an example of how the diverse skills/backgrounds of your employees has led to a successful business outcome.
“A large portion of our work is custom fabricated. The skill and background of our employees comes together to help us find efficient ways of producing our orders and responding to issues our clients haven’t even thought of.” —Diana
“Our marketing manager is a 24-year-old white male. He is aggressive and not afraid to look up information on YouTube or the Internet. He developed and sent out a Mail Chimp campaign that brought several new accounts to the business, helping to grow our revenue.” —Littie
“We work to help companies transform their culture to be more values-based, as well as respect employees as individuals, so they can be more engaged and productive in their work. It is a necessity for our business success for Flexcel to echo the same vision and concepts.” —Sophie
“We have a university professor working with us. While an attorney by training, her world is primarily academic, and therefore, she brings another angle when analyzing our client’s needs. Likewise, my partner was an engineer before becoming a lawyer (and patent attorney). I see how his approach to a challenge, whether internal or for a client, differs from mine and how, together, we develop more creative strategies and solutions than on our own, and we have more fun doing it, too!” —Michele
“The diverse backgrounds of my notaries have led to my clients having a better experience when they work on their estate plans. I work to find professional, kind and organized men and women as notaries. When they provide a great service, my clients feel more at ease and comfortable with planning for the inevitable transitions in life.” —Emily
As your business continues to grow and evolve, how do you hope to improve your business diversity even further?
“We hope to take advantage of our certifications (WBE, MBE) to grow accounts with companies that have diverse supplier programs and continue to look for partnerships with diverse vendors.” —Diana
“As we grow, we will hire based on a diverse slate of candidates. We look for not just a difference in people, but what they ultimately bring to the table. We will also look for industries that will bring in new sources of revenue. We are focusing on complementary business units that are great revenue streams. For example, we are often asked to package and ship some of the products we print. If we had our own packaging and shipping department, we could more aggressively offer the service.” —Littie
“There are many ways to enhance diversity in additional ways. I believe the key is always to have an open mind. One new approach is to give employees a diversity of internal work experience to increase their learning, job interest and career development possibilities.” —Sophie
“I believe we’re on the right track, but as the volume of our work increases, so too should our strategies for improving business diversity. We do this by making business diversity an element in our business decisions. If the topic of business diversity is not a consideration in the business strategy, it can be forgotten.” —Michele
“As I continue to hire employees and work with various vendors, I hope to give men and women opportunities to grow and learn new skills. I hope that all individuals who work with me grow to reach their dreams. As employees move on to create their own businesses, I hope to continue to find diversity of thought and creativity.” —Emily
What advice would you offer other business owners who may be interested in improving diversity in their business?
“I would say it is very much worth the effort to make the sacrifices necessary to get certified. It is a fantastic way to contribute to our local economy and to keep seeing things in new ways, through the eyes of all kinds of different people.” —Diana
“My first advice is to have an open mind and embrace the differences in others. If everyone has to think like you, your business will not grow. Aggressively look for employees who bring a variety of skills, knowledge and backgrounds. Create a list of customers that know other customers that you would normally not solicit on your own, and offer referral incentives to those customers.” —Littie
“Having an inclusive and transparent corporate culture is the key to having a healthy work environment. It allows people to feel comfortable to join a company and be engaged in their work.” —Sophie
“Shed the things that are not helping your business and focus on what’s important. That will be different from business to business. For us, it was getting rid of the notion that face time was important. In its place, we made work convenient as far as place and time.” —Michele
“For others who are looking to improve their diversity of thought, look outside of your normal circles. Look for your local chapter of NAWBO, Minority Business Enterprise or WBEC. Sometimes using a hiring consultant or working with a virtual company, such as Freedom Makers, will help you work with military spouses and veterans.” —Emily