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By Molly Klein • August 4, 2017

Expert Interview Series: Dequiana Jackson of About Women Entrepreneurs & Succeeding in Small Business

Dequiana Jackson is the CEO of Inspired Marketing, Inc., where she helps women business owners find their life's purpose and turn it into a profitable business, and the owner of the award-winning blog We had a chance to chat with Dequiana about how she helps women start and grow their businesses.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to focus on women entrepreneurs?

I've loved small business my whole life. As a child, I remember selling friendship bracelets, lemonade, and art to classmates and neighbors. That drive continued as I started my first company, a web design firm, in 2003. Though I had passion, I didn't have the business skills to back it up. It took me six months to land my first client! 

I needed to learn marketing, so I went back to school. I graduated from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in 2007 with an MBA in Marketing Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Organizational Behavior. Directly after school, I worked in brand management for a top consumer packaged goods company. I learned the strategies which are used to make billion-dollar brands successful, and I decided to bring that marketing knowledge back to the small business community. 

I specifically chose to focus on women who own their own businesses  because I want to show them that supporting yourself through small business is possible. So many of us are told to follow a “traditional” path, which usually means punching a clock and putting our dreams on hold to help someone else fulfill theirs. Add on the layers of marriage and motherhood, and many women think it’s nearly impossible. Even for those who have pushed through and been successful in business, there are new hurdles to get over, like maintaining balance, not feeling like a fraud, not being taken seriously, and a lack of support from friends or family. I want to be that voice that urges them to keep going.

For your typical client, how much of your service is marketing assistance and how much of it is simply instilling confidence?

My typical clients come to me seeking marketing assistance, but there is always a component of confidence building included. I specifically incorporate a “One Good Thing” section into every agenda. This is where the client tells me something positive that happened in their business that week. We tend to focus on things going wrong, but this forces them to acknowledge what’s actually going right. There also tends to be some doubt prior to the launch of a new program, a price change, or a new opportunity. Even if the client has done this dozens of times before, there’s still the question of, “Will my clients like this?” 

The best marketing strategy in the world won’t help if the business owner doesn’t have confidence. It feels good to be able to pair these components together for my clients.

What are some of the fastest growing businesses for women entrepreneurs that you're seeing right now?

I’m seeing women go into a lot of service-based businesses that incorporate things they are passionate about, like former accountants becoming financial coaches and those who have lost large amounts of weight sharing their exercise routines for pay. They start with what they are good at and then look for those in the market who need that service most. Now that large brands have realized the power of influencers, women are using platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and their own blogs to gain sponsorships and advertising revenue.

What do you think is the most underutilized marketing channel or tactic by women entrepreneurs these days?

I think the most underutilized marketing tactic by women entrepreneurs is email marketing. There’s so much emphasis on growing a social media following that we sometimes forget to grow our own lists. Your entire business cannot be built around someone else’s platform because if the company changes direction, gets hacked, or closed down, your business will be in jeopardy.

Your list is a group of people who already said, “Yes, I want to hear more from you.” It’s up to you to keep the interest going by offering news that’s relevant to them. By continuing to provide valuable resources for free, those on your list will be more likely to purchase your paid products and services when you launch them.

Tell us about a tool, resource, or software product for small businesses or entrepreneurs that you're really excited about right now.

There are several resources I rely on to help keep my business running smoothly. Here are a few tech tools I use:

  • Acuity Scheduling – When clients want to meet with me, I’m able to send them to my Acuity link to pick a time slot that works for them. I’ve preloaded my availability, so it’s a win-win. I like that the tool also allows me to accept payments for paid sessions and require new clients to fill out an intake questionnaire prior to our first meeting.
  • – I can’t be online all the time, and allows me to schedule my social media posts in batches when I do have the time. This tool also links my blog posts to my social media accounts. Every time I publish a new post, it is automatically sent across social media.
  • – While this isn’t a business tool, it is a tool I use to help keep me grounded. This website features online yoga and meditation classes. The site is mobile friendly, so I can listen to a meditation while taking a walk outside or grab my laptop and take a class in the living room.

What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses without drastically upsetting their work/life balance?

Running a business can be overwhelming. Between finding new clients, creating and executing a marketing plan, and interacting with customers, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day. You have to make your business a priority and realize that some things may need to fall by the wayside. This might mean getting up earlier or staying up later, saying no to a happy hour once in a while, or turning off the television. To be successful, there is no time for procrastination. Things have to get done. 

One thing that helps is writing a “daily three.” This is a short list of the top three most important things you need to do for your business that day. The amount of time it takes to complete each of the “daily three” will vary depending on whether you are working your business part-time or full-time. For these items, you can't say, “I’ll do that tomorrow.” If you stick with it, you will have completed 15 different things for your company during a business week. Commit to just three main priorities and consider whatever else you get done that day a bonus. Work smarter, not harder. If you still find yourself overwhelmed, consider making one of your daily three, “Finding a trusted person to outsource work to.” 

Under what conditions or circumstances should women entrepreneurs turn to their savings or retirement accounts in order to fund their businesses?

I advise  against turning to their retirement accounts to fund their businesses unless they have the proper guidance from a trusted funding expert, such as Benetrends Financial. Download "The Definitive Guide to 401(k)/ROBS Business Funding" for examples on how it can be done.

I encourage women to seek funding in other ways. First, if you’re employed, keep your day job and use it as a way to fund your side business. Some entrepreneurs preach to leave your day job, but quitting isn’t always a viable option for new business owners. Also, tap into your personal connections like friends, family, and social organizations. Search for help on positioning your business in front of angel and venture capital investors (if that fits your business model). Some larger corporations also host business pitch competitions that you can enter. Even if you don’t win, you can get valuable feedback and potentially catch the eye of an investor. Lastly, don’t let the lack of funds keep you from launching. You might be overestimating the cost. Calculate how much you need to start your business, and take into account free or low-cost ways you can market. 

What does the future look like for women entrepreneurs? What sorts of business opportunities will emerge for them over the next decade or so?

I believe the future is bright for women entrepreneurs. According to a study by Womenable and American Express OPEN, between 2007 and 2016 the number of women-owned firms increased by 45%. This is five times the national average. Women are opening businesses, and I believe the trend will continue. The study pointed out that women still launch companies in traditionally-female sections like the beauty services industries and administrative support. The opportunity is ripe to get more into technology as other industries are looking to add things like artificial intelligence and more robust mobile apps to their businesses. 

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