SARAH KAUSS

SARAH KAUSS

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Finding Support To Build Your Business Faster, Smarter

LinkedIn – August 12th, 2015
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In 2010 when I started S’well, my focus was on bringing to market water bottles that had both flair and utility and that would help rid the world of plastic bottles.  My family, friends and mentors provided a certain level of guidance but I didn’t have the professional network I needed for bouncing around ideas and asking pointed, difficult business questions. At the time, my support system wasn’t in the startup trenches and they didn’t understand the path of a founder. I needed a different level of support to grow as an entrepreneur and build a better business.

While many hear of the challenges faced by women in their struggle to find the capital needed to grow their businesses, there’s no denying that we often overlook something equally as important (if not more) – recruiting great mentors.  In a study by Endeavor, a nonprofit that supports high-impact entrepreneurs, research showed that although startup founders spend hundreds of hours on fundraising, they often overlook something just as vital to their success – finding and establishing relationships with mentors.

Fortunately, I found what I needed after another female entrepreneur introduced me to EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women – an executive leadership program that identifies high-potential women entrepreneurs and helps them grow their business quickly. At first I was hesitant to try to become part of it. Stereotypical women’s issues in the workplace are not part of my story, and I had never considered the benefits of joining a women-specific program. Nonetheless, I applied and was accepted.

I’ve since learned that the right community of advisors and supporters can help an entrepreneur grow his or her business faster and smarter in the simplest ways. Through my involvement with the program, I’ve been exposed to new entrepreneurial perspectives, professional connections and amazing growth opportunities that have opened my eyes to new approaches that I may have not considered before launching S’well.

Be bold.
I never imagined I could pitch a Fortune 500 CEO on S’well while he was grabbing coffee. But through EY and my fellow Entrepreneurial Winning Women, I learned to refine and memorize my company pitch so that whenever an opportunity arose, I was prepared to take advantage of it. The right organization can help you gain comfort in speaking about your business. It can also help shape your vision for success in a way that sets you on a greater trajectory – one you might not have imagined alone. Being bold didn’t come naturally to me, it’s a skill I’ve developed and practiced, and it’s given me newfound confidence. 

Communicate Challenges.
I learned a while ago that working on the business, rather than just in the business, is what enables an entrepreneur to scale her company quickly, but you need the right people on your team to make this a reality. In 2014 two of my executives left at the same time, I knew I had to act fast. My new entrepreneurial community not only offered a safe environment to talk through the challenges I was facing, but also referred to me trustworthy, high-quality candidates to potentially fill S’well’s vacant positions.  In the end, this network was both a lifesaver and game-changer for my business.

Find Joy.
One of the most difficult challenges entrepreneurs can face is finding time to have fun. Building and maintaining a business is generally a 24/7 job – but professional groups can help you find balance. Professional associations and networking groups offer organized activities and an escape from the craziness of the day-to-day. They also provide an opportunity to meet others that share similar passions and unique experiences that can inspire and broaden your perspective. Spending time discussing more than just business – from what influences us as leaders to what makes us human – has enabled me to speak more openly and make even more invaluable connections along the way.

Many women entrepreneurs may underestimate the importance of finding a community of women building business. Until I had this group of entrepreneurs around me, I underestimated it as well. Don’t miss out on the value an organization like EY can offer to help you build your business faster, smarter.