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Women encouraged to think big about business

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 | 7:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:02 a.m. CDT, Thursday, August 19, 2010

COLUMBIA — Journalistic entrepreneur and Small Business Television founder Susan Wilson Solovic encouraged women to think big and think sustainably during remarks at Columbia College Wednesday.

Solovic, whose resume includes successes as Miss Missouri, an adviser to the president as a member of the National Women's Business Council and co-founder of Small Business Television, shared business lessons with alumni and friends during a luncheon on campus Wednesday.

Through the anecdotal history of her own life, Solovic, a 1980 graduate of Columbia College, described how waiting tables in go-go boots and a mini skirt lead her to start her first business at 15. There had to be an easier way to make money, she thought. So she started her first business teaching baton twirling in her school gym.

Solovic now encourages women to adjust their perceptions before they enter the business world. “If you don’t start with the perception of being big, you will always be small.”

Counseling small business owners lead her to ask why women aren’t growing substantial, sustainable businesses. She tried to answer that question in her 2007 book “The Girls’ Guide to Building a Million-Dollar Business.”

Solovic explained that because women traditionally serve as caregivers, they often try to perform all roles in a company themselves, which prohibits the company from growing. She talked about the difficulty she had letting go of creative tasks she enjoyed for the growth of the company.

Solovic explained the quintessential questions that small business owners must ask themselves: Does the business make money while you sleep? Can you teach it? Can you repeat it? She also warned of the uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinners that can come from entering into business with loved ones.

Jane Vanderham of Columbia said she smiled when Solovic warned against hiring friends and family. Vanderham owned her own business, Community Solutions LLC, a Columbia-based consulting business geared toward small business and small- business development programs.

Now director of business intelligence for Columbia College’s marketing department, Vanderham added that the only way to make such personal relationships work in business is to put everything in a legal contract, letting everyone know their purpose and job.

Vanderham echoed Solovic, saying that a small percentage of those who start their own business think about sustainability, and few achieve it.

June Hurdle, local entrepreneur and 1983 Columbia alumni, said Solovic was on target and explained how going big makes sense. “Whether you are running a $1 million business or a much larger business, you are doing the same thing.”

Hurdle and her family returned from Sacramento where she and her husband Robert owned ADCO Construction. Back in Columbia, the Hurdles are setting their sights on another business venture: a resort-style community modeled after those they saw on the west coast.

Solovic received a standing ovation earlier in the day from Columbia College faculty during their fall conference, said Susan Davis, director of alumni relations. Solovic will return to campus Thursday to speak at the annual pinning ceremony for new students.


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