Before 1988, women needed a male to co-sign for a bank loan.

Through 2018, women owned 12.3 million businesses, 40 percent of all businesses, according to a study commissioned by American Express. The report estimates women start 1,821 new U.S. businesses per day. 

During the August Fort Worth Chamber E3 Summit for entrepreneurs at Texas A&M University School of Law, three female business owners discussed what drives them, their stumbles and their successes.

Moderator: Melanie McGee, director of Corporate Relations, UTA College of Business

The panelists:

Leah Frazier, Think Three Media

Cynthia Sadler, Signature Cuffs

Marcelle Leblanc, The Velvet Box

Melanie: Briefly describe your work.

Leah: Fashion, media, PR / social media / marketing, Red Carpet and coming soon, TV.

Cynthia: “I was 60, after 30 years in the banking business, and I had an idea for fashionable cuffs for day and night. I was passionate about that idea. Today we have 32 SKUs of corporate, collegiate, Christmas and casual cuffs.”      

Marcelle:  “We sell luxury lingerie and adult toys. I have five stores. I’m an entrepreneur because I’m not terribly employable…I’m always challenging things. I got my idea from a 2008 court decision. (It overturned a Texas law banning the sales of sex toys, deeming such a statute violated the Constitution’s 14th Amendment on the right to privacy.)

Melanie: Passion got you to this point. What keeps you motivated?

Leah: “I love what I do and I want to help everybody. When I learned more about business pricing and value, I realized I couldn’t work with everybody. My ‘It’ is my clients, the people, helping them to reach their dreams.”

Cynthia: “My determination. I’m extremely competitive; I have two older brothers. I not only want to be successful, I want a legacy.”

Marcelle: “I’m the most disciplined person; it drives me. I saw a niche that would pay me and took advantage of it. The last 10 years, my passion has been about leadership, developing leaders in my business, seeing how it changes their lives and in turn, how they change our clients’ lives.”

Melanie: Anything you would do differently up to this point?

Leah: “Having processes and systems in place. Knowing who should get access to me versus my assistants. Not having that direction almost put me out of business.”

Cynthia: “I don’t know that I’d change anything, but there have been a LOT of lessons learned. There are about 4,000 ‘touches’ involved with getting a cuff to market.”

Marcelle: “I would have liked to learn earlier to live my life with more intention. Traveling and learning are my core values, of which every decision is based. I also would like to have started earlier on improving the human condition.”

Melanie: Thoughts about mentoring / coaching?

Leah: “Invest in improving yourself.”

Cynthia: “Advisors, consultants, friends, peers … I talk with them every day, but I also have a strong team in place.”

Marcelle: “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not paying attention. Owning a business is a unique experience and you can’t do it alone.

“I started with a $100 coach and have been all the way up to $2,500 an hour. Employees are not always honest with a boss. A coach will be. One coach told me I was disruptive in the workplace. Employees never would have told me that. That coach changed my life.

“You also should have a peer group to talk with. Mine is Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO).”

Melanie: Unique challenges facing female entrepreneurs?

Leah: “Women of color… I’m the only one in the room in most places. I have more armor on because I’m never thought of as an owner. My advice is to keep showing up. Never stop showing up.”

Cynthia: “I tend to say ‘no difference.’ My business is more female driven, but a man who owned it would do it the same way.”

Marcelle: “We react more and worry more. My biggest challenge is finding more certified educators for our classes.”