Growing a business is all about building relationships — with investors, with customers and with other business owners.
That was one takeaway from the morning sessions of the first Own It Omaha, an entrepreneurial conference for women held at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Mammel Hall on Friday. About 70 people attended the event and heard from several speakers in breakout sessions on sales, email and social media marketing, funding and intellectual property as well as success stories from Omaha business owners who are women.
Afternoon sessions included panels on how to pitch your business to media, investors and product distributors.
UNO professor Pamela Peterson and UNO alumnus Keith Fix, who is now the CEO of digital signage company Blabfeed, stressed the importance of sales and customer service in order to gain customers’ trust. Small things like a professional answering service and email response times matter, Fix said. “If you did it right, price doesn’t matter.”
Peterson also said the best person to sell a product or a service is its founder. “If you have passion, people will follow you,” she said.
Fix’s personal anecdotes about starting Blabfeed were appreciated by Lisa Tonjes Moritz, who owns professional organizing business HOPE Organizing as well as a photobooth rental company Come Together Photo. “I liked hearing real-life stories,” she said.
Ty Delley and Cathy Hobbs launched their business, Back2Family, which provides after-school care for kids, this year in Lincoln. The pair, who happen to be mother and daughter, were especially looking forward to the sessions on funding that focused on applying for state loans and grants as well as a session on email and social media marketing.
“Any time you can get women entrepreneurs together to network ... that’s a good thing,” Delley said.
Omaha business owners Abby Jordan of eCreamery; Stephanie Healy, who founded data marketing firm Vente; and Sara Hanlon of Blogglebeans, an animated website for grandkids and grandparents, also shared their success stories. The company founders were asked about investors and funding, how to handle growth and how a business may evolve over time.
“Be honest with yourself,” Jordan advised the audience of entrepreneurs. Listen to others about what they think of your idea, and if it needs to change, change it.
“You have to be willing to change,” Healy said. “You have to be hungry. You have to be willing to listen to what people want.”
At the same time, Hanlon said, you also must stay focused on your goal. Don’t let really high or low days bring you up too high or drag you down. “You have to stay even keel,” she said.