June 24, 2024

You’re the Boss Blog: After a Year, Business Group Members Discuss Their Progress

She Owns It

Portraits of women entrepreneurs.

About a year ago, the She Owns It business group began meeting with the goal of exploring the day-to-day challenges faced by four women who own and run companies. Since then, the group, which now has five members, has gathered regularly to discuss topics such as hiring and managing employees, health insurance, manufacturing, growing pains, and customer service.

Over time, the group’s composition has changed. Former member Carissa Reiniger left because lof scheduling conflicts. New members Deirdre Lord and Beth Shaw stepped in, joining veterans Jessica Johnson, Alexandra Mayzler, and Susan Parker.

The women’s businesses have also evolved. This post provides snapshots of three of the original businesses, and the two more recent additions.

Owner: Jessica Johnson.

Company: Johnson Security Bureau provides security services to government and commercial clients.

2011 Sales: $1 million-plus (up from $700,000 in 2010).

Employees: 100-plus (up from 60 in 2010).

The 50-year-old company was founded by Ms. Johnson’s grandparents. Last year, it increased both its annual sales and employee count. Ms. Johnson attributes this success to factors including a focus on customer service, more time spent on the hiring process, and expanding operations into New Jersey.

She recently said job creation had been her most important metric for measuring her company’s success. But looking ahead she said, “I may need to consider different metrics because my focus for 2012 isn’t as much on growth as it has been.” It has shifted to determining which business opportunities make the most sense for the company to pursue. The new metrics Ms. Johnson is considering include rates of employee turnover and sales closed.

Owner: Deirdre Lord.

Company: The Megawatt Hour is an online subscription service that helps commercial and industrial clients manage, track, and forecast their energy use and expenses.

2011 sales: The company, a start-up, began operating in December 2011 and had sales of $2,000 that month.

Employees: five.

For now Ms. Lord, who founded an earlier company and has an extensive background in the energy industry, is focused on building the business and continuing to tweak its products to meet the needs of customers and prospects. For example, after some experimentation, the Megawatt Hour is offering three service models: a transactional model for businesses that want to use the product only when they are about to make an energy-buying decision, and free and premium models that allow customers to monitor their ongoing energy use and costs. The company is also exploring various sales channels and recently started working with energy consultants who will offer the Megawatt Hour’s product to their clients. The product will be marketed with the consultant’s name and the information that it is “powered by the Megawatt Hour.”

Owner: Alexandra Mayzler.

Company: Thinking Caps Tutoring offers study-skills coaching, subject tutoring, and test preparation to middle- and high-school students.

2011 Sales: about $780,000 (up from about $700,000 in 2010).

Employees: five full-time, 45 part-time tutors (up from four full-time and 40 part-time tutors in 2010).

Ms. Mayzler started Thinking Caps from her dorm room at New York University in 2003. To determine how well the company is doing, she said she tracked the hours worked by her tutors, the number of client families, payables and revenue, looking for annual increases in all. By those measures Thinking Caps had a good year in 2011, she said. Additionally, after opening an office in Austin, Tex., last fall, Thinking Caps expanded into Houston in January of this year.

Owner: Susan Parker.

Company: Bari Jay manufactures and sells bridesmaid and prom dresses to retailers.

2011 Sales: $8.3 million (up from $7 million in 2010).

Employees: 17

Ms. Parker and her sister became co-presidents of their father’s business in 2008, following his death. With no garment industry experience, it was rough going initially for the sisters. But they sought guidance from some of their father’s longtime friends in the industry and managed to increase sales by 20 percent from 2009 to 2010. To determine how well Bari Jay is doing, Ms. Parker said she considered revenue, profit margins, and booked orders. Revenue and booked orders rose in 2011, and margins stayed about the same — as planned, she said. Still, there are challenges, most notably finding a way to keep up with orders and addressing production issues that arise partly from the increased cost of manufacturing dresses in China.

Owner: Beth Shaw.

Company: YogaFit trains yoga instructors, entering into exclusive partnerships with yoga studios and health club chains. It also hosts fitness conferences, teacher-training seminars and retreats.

2011 Sales: $4.4 million (up from $4.2 million in 2010).

Employees: 13 at company headquarters and 60 trainers (independent contractors).

Ms. Shaw, a former magazine advertising sales representative, founded the company in 1997, after becoming interested in yoga as a hobby. To measure YogaFit’s success, she said she looks at revenue. “I always want to beat the previous year,” she said. But sales are down since their high of $5 million in 2009, a fact Ms. Shaw attributes to factors including a more crowded market and the company’s unprofitable merchandising division, which is being trimmed. To get back on track, Ms. Shaw said she hired a chief operating officer who has “dramatically cut expenses” and added an experienced fitness industry marketer to her staff.

In future posts, the group will continue to discuss the realities of business ownership. Are there any issues you would like to see raised?

You can follow Adriana Gardella on Twitter.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/after-a-year-business-group-members-discuss-their-progress/?partner=rss&emc=rss

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