In celebration of National Women History Month, we spoke with a fantastic female entrepreneur who has inspired and paved the way for other women to pursue and succeed in their entrepreneurial dreams. Meet Youngsong Martin, the founder of Wildflower Linen.
While planning her niece’s wedding, Youngsong Martin realized that the type of linen she was looking for simply wasn’t available. “If I am looking for something and it’s not there, then someone else is looking for it out there too,” said Martin. In 2001, Wildflower Linen was born. Martin, who says “SCORE changed my life,” initially reached out to her SCORE mentor in 2003. Over ten years later, Wildflower Linen has had much success. The company based out of Southern California has expanded to several showrooms with customer service specialists throughout the U.S. Wildflower’s specialty table linens and chair covers have been featured at film festivals, Vanity Fair after- parties, and even entertained the First Lady of the United States! Martin has received countless awards and recognition for her thriving business and community service projects.
However, no matter the success Martin and her ever growing company have received, Martin has core concepts that have worked for her. Martin shares some of her ideas about: what is an entrepreneur, how to achieve your business dreams, and what giving back to the community means.
When asked who her favorite entrepreneur was, Martin said there were so many people who inspire and influence her; it is hard to pinpoint one. “You look around and there are so many entrepreneurs; my next door neighbor is an entrepreneur and I am learning every day from them.” Martin believes anyone can be an entrepreneur and entrepreneurs don’t necessarily have to be categorized as individuals looking to gain something financially, but individuals looking to make a difference. “I believe politicians can be entrepreneurs,” says Martin.
Making a difference with your business begins with taking the first step. “Follow your dreams, a part of being an entrepreneur is being courageous and having faith. Everyone is afraid. I am afraid but I try not to be. I remind myself fear is not real. If I don’t try, I don’t know if I can do it or not. There is no map or recipe to success, there isn’t one unless you do it. If you think it’s going to work, try your best. It may not, but at least you tried.”
Martin who is involved with nonprofits and charity events says “having a thriving business is great, but community service is what matters. I believe we can all get together to help other people… we need to make sure these people are taken care of. I want Wildflower to be known as a place that is a good role model to a lot of people but more than that, a company committed to community service.”
Recognizing that entrepreneurs surround us in many different fields and that we can learn from them, taking those courageous leaps of faith, and giving back to our communities are great places to begin when starting or reigniting your business passion.
Enjoy hearing stories of female small business owners and the wisdom they have to share? Read more in the SCORE Success Stories. And if you’re a woman interested in starting a business, take the leap and find the guidance you need by connecting with a SCORE mentor.
Starting a small business is hard work, as any entrepreneur knows. There are highs and lows along the way—and there are also plenty of roadblocks. To get to where your business is now, you undoubtedly navigated lots of bumps in the road. But what happens when you hit a hurdle you can’t get over, through or around? What happens when you’re stuck?
Getting stuck happens to the best of us. The true test is what you do next. Yes, it’s hard to get unstuck. That’s why Barry Moltz wrote How to Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again. Moltz has seen business from both sides—he’s worked for corporations and is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and investor. He knows why small business owners get stuck—and knows how to get you moving forward again.
If getting stuck strikes close to home, Moltz, who (full disclosure) is a friend of mine (and I wrote the foreword for the book) offers some insights and solutions:
On why business owners get stuck.
Business owners are constantly searching for new customers and revenue, worrying about cash flow and struggling to maintain their staffs. Sometimes it feels like they’re on a never-ending hamster wheel. As a result, both their energy and interest can wane.
On how entrepreneurs try to fix the situation.
They keep looking for that magic bullet—that tipping point. But they never truly make a commitment to the small changes that will get them unstuck. They keep looking to hit the home run.
On what areas are most problematic for small business owners.
There are six major areas of concern: sales and marketing, management and leadership, money, productivity, social media and customer service. Business owners may have some experience in some of these areas, but they’re ill-equipped to deal with most of them.
On the specific things that “trap” business owners?
They often let today’s emergencies dictate their plans. They start each day by checking Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Their daily plan falls apart 15 minutes after arriving at the office. They are addicted to multitasking and constantly let themselves be interrupted.
Instead, pick two tasks that must get done—and do them before you check your email, voicemail or social networks.
A lot of business owners have a fear of falling behind or missing out on a great opportunity. So they never take a real break or vacation. For them, success is about being busy, not about being productive.
On fear and failure.
Business owners are so afraid of being a failure, so they stop taking risks. And they’re afraid of hearing the word “no.” They take it as a personal rejection when prospects reject their products or services.
On managing employees.
A lot of business owners don’t hire smartly. They’re afraid of hiring people who know more than they do. And they hire in a hurry. They don’t ask job candidates about career goals, and they don’t determine if the prospect would fit with their corporate culture.
Then they make it worse by not firing employees who are doing a bad job.
It’s smarter to hire people who complement your skill set. Together you’ll make a stronger team.
Moltz offers a lot more solutions in the book. Not every one of his solutions will resonate with you, but there’s a lot here that will make you a better, smarter business owner and get you back on the path to prosperity.
Of course, one of the best ways to get unstuck is to get help from someone who’s been there, done that—like your SCORE mentor. If you don’t have a mentor yet, visit www.score.org to get matched with one and get free business advice 24/7.