Every year, we celebrate International Women's Day to recognize and applaud women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements worldwide. Today, we take time to honor how women all around the world have bridged gender gaps in their own way—while sincerely acknowledging there’s still work to be done before we’re through.
As we mark this day dedicated to women, we want to shine a light on the brave, resourceful women who’re blazing a trail as local business owners in their communities.
In this blog post, we spoke to female entrepreneurs who’ve turned their passions into successful businesses. Keep reading to discover the challenges they’ve faced on their individual paths and how they’ve overcome them using their unique strengths as women in the world of business.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a business owner, and how have they shaped your approach to business?
Ke'Nyzjah, Kayke!: Some of the most significant things that I have learned as a business owner [are] patience, confidence, the ability to take risks, and problem-solving skills.
As a young entrepreneur, I took a huge risk jumping into the business world, and most of the traits that I listed above, I did not have before or did not understand their significance. I have changed both as a young woman and as a business owner in just a matter of two years, and these lessons have allowed me to make better business decisions.
Angeline, Kuuru Cookie House: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is definitely time management. I did not realize that being a business owner means you are [the] employee, cleaner, accountant, baker—[doing everything] from the cleaning to your desk job.
This has greatly taught me to value my time and others’ time wisely. I [learned to] show up on time for a meeting,...[and] make sure things get delivered on time.
Banhsvi, Bánh's Vi The Bakery: Some of the biggest lessons I have learned as a business owner are that my customers’ needs come first. Set a straight boundary of what you can offer to your customer. Don't promise anything to your customers. At the beginning of my baking journey, I always tried to learn and do everything my customers requested. Some requests were doable [while] some weren’t, which stressed me out so much that I started losing my passion for baking.
It's normal to [have to] turn requests away or recommend [alternatives to] customers. Believe me, your customer will trust your skills most of the time. If you have their trust, everything else is easy. Just don't over-promise then under-deliver.
Liz, Ma Baker: The biggest lesson I have learnt is that you can't do it on your own. Even as a sole trader, I couldn't do this without the support of my friends and family. Nor could I have done it without the advice I have received from so many people along the way.
Asking questions and listening is key. This means that I'm constantly striving to get better at what I do as I am always learning.
Kathleen, Kath’s Bakeshop: Work smarter not harder. You have to think of ways to save time and be more efficient. You need strategies to save time [yet] make sure the quality does not suffer. You can also say no when necessary, especially [if you’re] taking more orders you know time will not allow.
Vanessa, Miss Van Dough: Throughout our 6 year journey, I’ve learned that taking calculated risks is crucial. I rarely joined food fairs and food events as I wasn't confident of attracting customers while being at a venue with lots of big fnb players. We focused mainly on corporate orders and weekend bake sales but have decided to take the step out to join more events so more people can taste our bakes & hear about us.
We started out with a smaller events and yet had such an overwhelming response, we met new people who were impressed with our bakes and started following us online for future bake sales! That made us incredibly happy & super motivated to join more events, and so we did! We had the opportunity to take up a booth at Artbox with 300+ other vendors all in one hall for 2 weekends! This made me super nervous because first, there were tons of amazing businesses that sold great fair-food & I wasn’t sure if our bakes were “fair-appropriate” and second, i didn’t know what to expect. A cloud of uncertainty hung over my head if we should have even joined in the first place and if people would actually bother to buy our bakes, but i continue to bake as much as I could. We managed to sell out. So now we have another upcoming event in April and are already planning more after that!
So, it’s important to take such risks! The main point is the lessons we learned from this, and there were plenty! So just take that step and don’t be afraid to fail because you will only be able to gain more knowledge and experience from taking risk!
In your entrepreneurial journey, were there any uncomfortable conversations or decisions you had to make, and how were you able to rise above it?
Banhsvi, Bánh's Vi The Bakery: One time I felt that I had to make a hard decision was when I moved to a different city. I started my baking journey in New Orleans and always got generous support from the people [there]. It was a hard goodbye to my [usual] customers. I had to build things from scratch in a new city by promoting my baking business and building new relationships.
But I still keep good relationships with customers in New Orleans by offering pre-order products whenever I come back to visit. I believe quality delivers quantity. I'm grateful to have loyal customers who always look forward to ordering my products.
Liz, Ma Baker: I don't think I have had any uncomfortable conversations or decisions. I ensure that I am very organised so that I don't make any mistakes because I can't bear the feeling of being out of control. But even the best laid plans (especially with bread) can sometimes go awry. Being honest with myself and others makes difficult moments much easier to handle.
Ke'Nyzjah, Kayke!: There were a ton of tough conversations and decisions that I had to overcome. One would be the simple fact that I am a minority—a young woman of color—navigating through the business world. Many would let this discourage them, but instead, I allowed it to motivate me to keep going and be stronger.
Angeline, Kuuru Cookie House: Back in mid-2021, we had a collaboration with a very famous café in Sydney. We were excited and definitely [went] all out for it.
Long story short, the invoices were never paid till almost 6 months due. After some ignored emails and text messages and missed calls, I went to their office and had to have the “debt collector” conversation while keeping it respectful.
Vanessa, Miss Van Dough: Yes definitely! Deciding to do this full time instead of a looking for a stable 9-5 job with a stable pay was one of the tougher decisions i had to make. However, my family & partner were all extremely supportive with my decision and encouraged me in every step - helping out whenever they can. Knowing that i have their full support, and willingness to help out with anything gave me extra motivation to start this business. Having a strong support system is really important and helped bring Miss Van Dough to the next level from being just a hobby.
What advice would you give to other women who are looking to start their own business?
Banhsvi, Bánh's Vi The Bakery: My advice to all women is to start doing what you love and ask for support from family and friends at the beginning. If you fail at some point, they will be your support system to give you advice.
You don't have to start a business with multiple products; focus on one thing and stay consistent with the quality. Eventually, your business will grow and have many products due to customer requests. Your customers will feel heard when you release a new product to meet their needs. Don't overthink about the profit and do it with passion.
Liz, Ma Baker: If you really love what you do, have a go. You will probably need to work harder, but hopefully, you’ll be happier. Be the best you can be, and make friends with an accountant. :)
Ke'Nyzjah, Kayke!: Advice for a young woman looking to start a business: beat the odds, have faith in yourself, even if others don’t. Stay confident, and never give up!
Angeline, Kuuru Cookie House: Find your self support system that believes in your ability. Success is a broad term, and you decide your own success. And no idea is a stupid idea! Don’t waste your time dwelling on your ideas. If you’re passionate about it, you go for it.
Kathleen, Kath’s Bakeshop: Believe it’s possible, and don’t let fear control you. Unknown is always scary, but there are always unbelievable opportunities and greatness on the other side of fear. You just have to do it. Just start, and everything will work out.
Vanessa, Miss Van Dough: Oftentimes, i would feel shy & embarrassed to ask for help and try to do everything myself which led to exhaustion & stress. Which is why I find that it is important to ask and reach out to experts in the field to ask for help if needed! It may sound intimidating asking more skilled and experienced bakers regarding issues that may seem small to them, but they too start from somewhere and will definitely be more than happy to give advice & help!
Blaze a trail like these local women-led businesses
Today, we join everyone in celebrating women making strides in their own fields, and we honor them by learning from their experiences. From time management to prioritizing customers to having valuable support systems, these female entrepreneurs offer invaluable insights for anyone looking to start their own local business.
And when you’re ready to turn your passion into a profitable business—with the right support system, of course—sign up and create your store on Cococart, the platform that champions local businesses just like yours.