Women Entrepreneurs Symposium Lights Way For Entrepreneurs

By Mitra Malek
Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

Two nuggets of advice for women wanting to start their own businesses.

Don’t give up. That’s according to Cory Allison, a general partner at Jump Fund, a Chattanooga-based venture capital fund.

Also: an idea is only an idea, which can float around forever, unless you get some skin in the game. That’s according to Cherita Adams, owner of Blue Orleans Seafood Restaurant in Chattanooga.

“No investor will ever take you seriously” unless you put pen to paper and figure out a business plan, Adams told about 250 women who packed tables at Stratton Hall on Tuesday morning to get solid advice for breaking out on their own.

Those plum prospecting points could help men, too, but in this case were aimed specifically at the fairer gender, during the Women Entrepreneurs symposium, or WE.

The event had far more attendance than last year, when it welcomed 169 women and was known as W.A.T.T.S., or Women At The Top Symposium.

Another point made by the female entrepreneurs, which could sound unsettling: work-life balance for working moms isn’t always achievable.

“You might be on a conference call while in a car-pool lane,” said Alicia Brown-Oliver, a lawyer with the Chambliss law firm. “I wouldn’t say there’s much off time.”

A lack of resources is also common for women entrepreneurs, according to a 2012 report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an ongoing worldwide study of entrepreneurial dynamics.

It’s also a big reason why the Tennessee Small Business Development Center and a dozen or so sponsors were behind Tuesday’s free event.

The day not only offered in-person advice and networking, it also included print information on everything from government agency help to local business boosters such as Co.Lab.

One theme that rose several times for the panelists who picked through their hard-learned lessons in business is that women should support each other, whether with resources, using each other’s services, or simply by behaving like the client they’d most want to deal with themselves.

“The conversation is very rich with comments about supporting each other,” said Lulu Copeland, Chattanooga State Community College’s manager of technical training. “That’s a great reminder.”

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