Patricia Robertson was in a panic. She was a third year law student and one of her professors was an elderly, mean woman, who always looked and acted like a professional in class. One day her professor pulled her aside and gave her ominous news. The teacher had reviewed Robertson’s semester project, and it wasn’t good enough.
“This is terrible. … You’re not going to graduate,” she told her.
Panicked, she doubled her efforts. It was compounded by the fact she was the only female in the class. Weeks later the teacher had a party at her house for the students, and more than 30-years later, Robertson still remembers what she told her.
“As a woman in a professional man’s world, you’ll have to work twice as hard,” Robertson said.
Those words still ring true to a certain extent in the modern world, Robertson told the audience Thursday (March 8) at the accelHERate event hosted by the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center on the Arkansas State University campus.
Robertson, who spent 20 years in private law practice, is an ASU professor and the coordinator of the university’s Women’s Business Leadership Center. She was joined by three other women: Dr. Elizabeth Hood, CEO of Infinite Enzymes; Dr. Giuliana Medrano, co-founder of GeneCoMe Biotech; and Dr. Hilary Schloemer, ASU assistant professor of management. The women discussed strategies to empower women entrepreneurs.
An array of of skills are needed to start a successful business, Hood said. Understanding customers, the market, and networking are vital tools, she said. Finding the right advisers and partners is also critical, she said. Her company harvests enzymes from corn to help create bio fuels and other functions such as cleaning tainted water, she said.
A new business owner has to ask themselves one fundamental question, she said: “What pain are you going to solve for your customer?”
There is a misconception among the general population that business owners “know something” the average person doesn’t, Schloemer said. There are many businesses that make a lot of money despite the fact their businesses underperform because of poor practices. A new entrepreneur needs to put a lot of thought into the venture and find the best practices to optimize profit margins, she said. The average millionaire has six streams of income, so such efforts will go far beyond one business if you want to be a high income earner, she added.
Medrano decided in 2012 she had a viable idea for a company. Poultry is the top consumed meat in the country and Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods is the top producer in the country. A bio scientist, she wanted to create vaccines to help keep chicken healthier. One vaccine she has worked on would help boost a chicken’s immune system to help stop salmonella poisoning, a serious problem for the industry. It has the added benefit of reducing the amount of antibiotics used to treat chickens.
Tyson has shown interest in her ideas, and has provided support, she said. Grants have funded research, but building a business model and applying for grants was a daunting task, she said. ASBTDC helped in both regards, she said.