February 28, 2024

You’re the Boss Blog: Going Behind the Scenes With Four Owners

She Owns It

Portraits of women entrepreneurs.

What happens when women who own businesses get together to talk openly about their challenges, strategies and goals? Beginning next week, we’ll find out when I start to meet regularly with the owners of four businesses. Our continuing conversation will become an important feature of She Owns It. This post introduces the women and the companies we will get to know.

Owner: Jessica Johnson.
Company: Johnson Security Bureau provides security services to government and commercial clients.
Annual Sales: $700,000.
Employees: 60.

In 2009, Ms. Johnson left her career as a pharmaceutical sales representative to take control of Johnson Security Bureau, a business her grandparents founded in 1962 in the South Bronx. She stepped in to fill her father’s shoes after he died and discovered that the business was not in good shape. Ms. Johnson, 37, said she used her inheritance to help turn things around, tripling the number of contracts, taking the company from 16 to 60 employees and doubling its annual revenue in 2010. She credits much of her success to her participation in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.

Today, her biggest challenges include managing cash flow and maintaining an effective workforce in an industry with high turnover. Ms. Johnson is often forced to fire security guards. “Employees let their guard down with us because we’re a minority-owned, family business,” she said. “They think they can get away with things that wouldn’t be tolerated at, for example, AlliedBarton.”

Owner: Alexandra Mayzler.
Company: Thinking Caps Tutoring offers study-skills coaching, subject tutoring, and test preparation to middle- and high-school students.
Annual Sales: between $700,000 and $750,000.
Employees: four full-time, 40 part-time tutors.

A past subject of She Owns It, Ms. Mayzler founded Thinking Caps Tutoring from her New York University dorm room in 2003. When we first met, Ms. Mayzler had been struggling to decide whether to expand into other cities from her base in Manhattan. She eventually chose to enter Austin, Tex., where Thinking Caps began tutoring students this month.

Ms. Mayzler, who said she has “big expectations” for herself and her company, continues to struggle. She would like to find a way to stop working 15-hour days. She wonders whether to pursue a more aggressive expansion plan within New York City. Most of all, she knows that Thinking Caps’ somewhat haphazard approach to growth isn’t sustainable and vows to begin planning in earnest.

Owners: Susan Parker and Erica Rosenfeld, sisters (Ms. Parker will meet with the group).
Company: Bari Jay manufactures and sells bridesmaid and prom dresses to retailers.
Annual Sales: $7 million.
Employees: 17.

Ms. Parker and Ms. Rosenfeld became co-presidents of their father’s business in 2008, following his death. Initially, a Bari Jay employee challenged the sisters for ownership of the business, locking them out of the computer system. Following a short-lived civil lawsuit, Ms. Parker said, she and her sister took over, as their father’s will had dictated. They found the company’s books in disarray.

With no garment industry experience — Ms. Parker, 37, has an M.B.A. and most recently worked in private wealth management for Merrill Lynch — the sisters sought help from their father’s longtime friends in the industry, opening Bari Jay’s books to competitors who “felt sorry for us,” said Ms. Parker. This year, sales are up 20 percent.

Today, Bari Jay’s biggest challenges include dealing with decreased production capacity in China, where the company manufactures most of its dresses, and keeping up with demand — particularly on the prom side of the business, which is growing faster than Ms. Parker would like. Unlike the bridal side, the prom business requires Bari Jay to maintain inventory. While brides order dresses and expect to wait three months for them, prom dress shoppers want their dresses immediately. Because most of Bari Jay’s small retail clients can’t afford to invest in numerous styles and instead buy just one prom dress style each season, Ms. Parker must anticipate which designs will sell best. She recently chose the 18 prom dresses Bari Jay will produce and hopes she made the right decisions.

Owner: Carissa Reiniger.
Company: Silver Lining Limited offers an online tool that helps small businesses set and reach financial goals.
Annual Sales: about $1.2 million.
Employees: six.

Ms. Reiniger founded Silver Lining Limited in 2005 in Toronto (she has since moved company headquarters to New York). Silver Lining began as a software-as-a-service business that helped small businesses set and reach financial goals. The service-based model required staffers who taught the method to business owners. Ms. Reiniger, who is 29 and has a marketing background, later developed an online tool that transformed her business model from service to tech. The tool enables Silver Lining clients to enter information like expenses and revenues and, with the help of algorithms, determine a one-year financial goal for their businesses. They then begin a process that helps them define their ideal customers and create a plan to connect with them. The tool offers additional support such as educational videos, opportunities to network with other Silver Lining customers, and features that foster accountability.

The transition to a tech model has required Ms. Reiniger to confront new challenges, including different growth metrics and software development challenges. On top of those issues, she is trying to exit the company. “I’m a creator and starter, not a manager,” she said. She hired a president and chief operating officer so she could begin easing away from daily operations. But it didn’t work out, and he left the company in March. Ms. Reiniger, who is seeking to raise capital, must now formulate a new exit strategy.

In future posts, I’ll explore these and other issues that arise as the owners pursue their goals. Feel free to suggest topics and questions.

You can follow Adriana Gardella on Twitter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=96d92b35b0c3ef45e54a06635734bd80

Speak Your Mind