On November 19th 2015 the UN hosted Women’s Entrepreneurship Day in order to celebrate and empower women entrepreneurs worldwide.

We at IBE were proud to support our inspiring colleague and client Dana Donofree, Founder and CEO of AnaOno who spoke on the “Roll of Small Businesses” panel. Dana has taken on the challenge of building a brand of sexy lingerie exclusively for women who’ve had breast cancer and dealt with mastectomy.

Here are the key takeaways from this wonderful panel of talented and inspiring business owners.

Moderator:
Kate Rodgers – CNBC Entrepreneur reporter

Panelists:
Emily Cavness of Sword and Plough
Anna Stork of LuminAID
Christine Souffrant of Vendedy
Dana Donofree of AnaOno

On the confidence gap: “Were you scared to get started and if so how do you overcome that fear?”

Anna Stork of LuminAID:

We were fortunate to have the safety net of business school at first while we were prototyping it and then what really gave us confidence is that the more we shared it the more support we got an the more accountable we felt to actual pursue it.

Christine Souffrant of Vendedy

There wasn’t much fear for me because I’ve traveled to 30 countries and it was something that was deeply rooted in me. I quit what I was doing and moved to Dubai having never been there before. 400 billion people are coming online in the next decade so the need is there and it’s going to happen – I’m just asking people to take the bet on me rather than someone else.

Dana Donofree of AnaOno

The biggest part for me was that women needed to feel beautiful after their surgery. When you lose a piece of your femininity that can be a real struggle. I knew I needed to take that leap of faith and make this my mission. For me the fear wasn’t failure in the sense of women not liking my product, I knew I was going to do it even if it wasn’t going to be a business. Even if it was going to be a hobby it was going to get done. Since my failure line was very low, I was able to encourage myself and build confidence since I knew it may not be the next largest retailer, but it was going to be an important product.

Emily Cavness of Sword and Plough

When I first thought of my company I was a senior in college and I was also an Army ROTC cadet so I was really busy but I thought of this exciting idea so I was nervous and cautious. My sister and co-founder she came up to visit and she was so excited and dove in. We knew this could be an idea that could solve a lot of social problems.

How are you able to do good and make money?

Emily Cavness of Sword and Plough

Sword and Plough focuses on people, the planet, and making a profit. We focus on veteran employment and supporting American jobs in order to bridge the civil/military divide. Additionally we repurpose thousands of pounds of military surplus material, which would otherwise be wasted and give ten percent of our profits back to military organizations. Our goal was to help solve those problems before we even thought about becoming a business. By being a for profit social enterprise we’re really able to scale quickly and support all those bottom lines.

Building a business of any size is a challenge – can you tell us what has been your biggest challenge growing a global business?

Christine Souffrant of Vendedy

The biggest challenge is getting people to understand why it actually matters. It’s very hard to get people to car about something they don’t feel they are connected to. Today I feel we’re more conscientious about what’s happening globally because we’re more interconnected. The concept for Vendedy is that people travel all the time and we’re tired of buying the same manufactured products in those boutique shops. Whereas when you go direct to the vendor, not only do you have a better experience connecting people with the local culture but also that person is entitled to receive payment for what they created. The concept is hard to grasp at first because people have their own world that they live in and secondly scaling this in emerging communities has it’s own set of challenges as well. The challenge comes when trying to sell this to somewhere like Silicon Valley. They want the next airbnb or uber because there have been some patterns. I hope to show them that the opportunity is there but you’re just not looking at it.

What about the vendors?

They’re savvy but the difficulty is that they’ve been given so many promises that they’re tired of hearing another one. No offence to the non-profits and social enterprises in the room but a lot of these people go to a community and do a beta test for two days and disappear. You need to understand that people aren’t experiments. When you’re trying to promise something give the truth. You may not be able to scale this in 6 months to a year but give them the real road map. Being honest really helps.

How did your experiences inform your vision for your company? Taking that great idea and turning into a business are tow very different things.

Dana Donofree of AnaOno

A lot of my challenge has been educating and informing people who have not gone through breast cancer or don’t have reconstructive surgeries post diagnosis. You end up turning a lot of your efforts into educating and explaining why a women’s body is so different. People always need a description and the funding gets hard but I came from a background that gave me a foundation of what not to do which has helped save me money but also know that this is not the best thing to do. To convince people that the sector of women living with these challenges is actually a huge task.

Can you tell us what has been your biggest challenge growing a global business?

Anna Stork of LuminAID

I initially received the feedback that I should take my prototype and take it to the redcross etc and just see if I could sell it. I thought it was too early but we started building those relationships early on which led us to design our products based on that feedback and we’ve continued to develop the product based on their feedback as well. This has really helped us and led them to be a big part of our growth which has really strengthened those relationships.

How have you incorporated feedback into what you’re doing?

Emily Cavness of Sword and Plough

Being an active duty army officer has led to a lot of our customers being in the military and being able to receive and implement feedback is a great thing. I was still running the business while being deployed. The fact that we’re really trying to give back to the military community really means a lot to our customers and I’ll receive mail stating that all the time. He sent playing cards and cookies to share with my fellow soldiers. This has been one of the best parts of running the business.

How did you overcome the funding gap?

Dana Donofree of AnaOno

It’s a huge challenge and since I am quite conservative so I really wanted to be sure I had proof of concept. I’ve completely funded this line myself up until this point. I’ve competed in several business competitions over the years – one of them with Intuit and it’s really helped to propel it forward. It’s awesome that there have been platforms out there for us that even if you’re not ready for big capital that you still have an opportunity to get some cash flow into your business.

Christine Souffrant of Vendedy

We started much like Dana and were focusing on proof of concept and competed in lots of other contests as well. I took a chance on MasterCard’s and ended up winning 15k. It was kind of ironic because that’s how much I spent on my credit cards and maxed them out in order to make this business happen a few months before. But it was great timing since we ended up with having proof of concept in several countries and then had a bit of capital to help with app development and pay off some of that debt. This is happening whether or not the investors get it, this is happening. Funding is one thing but you also need partners and this contest helped validate what we’re doing and get our name out there. Our video got 400,000 views and customer feedback says a lot – more than feedback from friends, investors, partners. We got a ton of feedback asking about putting street food on the app which we hadn’t even thought about but it’s something we’re now exploring so that is helping us a lot as well.

Anna Stork of LuminAID

As far as funding goes we did competitions and grants for the first few years and then we each put in our own money in addition to a crowd funding campaign, which gave us enough to get started on selling our product. Then we were on Shark Tank followed by the master card competition, which was actually around the time of Nepal. So we were working around the clock to respond to that emergency and that support really came at a great time.

Emily Cavness of Sword and Plough

The Intuit/QuickBooks competition that we participated in really pushed our whole team to get out of our comfort zone and work hard to win. We didn’t end up being in the top three but I think all the contestants are winners because we ended up growing our community by thousands and received over 90 million impressions which led to our second best sales quarter ever so we’re so grateful.

What’s the one thing that’s holding women entrepreneurs back?

Dana Donofree of AnaOno

I know I talk to a lot of women who have ideas but also have a lot of fear. Maybe the education isn’t there or for example I’m in the weeds with just trying to become women certified and I’m a business founded by women for women and the amount of paperwork I have to go through to prove to the government is really deterring for a business of my size. Not only that but then you have to hire a consultant and then it becomes a massive expense for you. I think there’s a huge door that can be opened by being a women owned business but we’re also shutting it on ourselves so it’s important to figure out better ways to mainstream that.

Christine Souffrant of Vendedy

Women go through the same challenges as men so it’s not really a difference and I think we need to stop telling women before they enter that entrepreneurial path that they’re going to face so many roadblocks. Men don’t face that and aren’t told the statistics that they’re not going to make it . I think we should start highlighting successful women more and just because it isn’t in all the magazines doesn’t mean they’re not there. I wish that I could tell my younger self to stop taking things personally and stop wasting the mental bandwidth on what that person could be thinking because I can’t help someone who has a gender bias. I just need to keep trekking. My mom would say diamonds are made under pressure so just keep going. Unless it’s something that can help me I’m done listening to someone who doesn’t think a women can lead a business. I’m just going to keep on going.

Anna Stork of LuminAID

I think there are so many resources out there for women to leverage and it’s a matter of finding them. One piece of advice is I’d say be light on your feet and don’t be set on your vision. For us it’s been important to diversify our channels and in the end we’re having a greater impact and able to scale.

Emily Cavness of Sword and Plough

So many women have amazing and innovative ideas but talk themselves out of doing it before they even get started. Taking that first step is so crucial but you’ll learn along the way. Our team has learned so much from mentors but if you don’t take that first step that will never happen.

How has being agile and pivoting helped you become successful?

Dana Donofree of AnaOno

No one was doing this yet and we had a massive media wave and I had a total creative meltdown because I felt like I was going up against giants. When that major retiailer turned it down I was able to take a big breath and realize that this needed to be done and it needed to be done by me. Since then the survivor feedback has been intense, uplifting, encouraging, and filled with ideas for new products.

Do you think we’re doing enough to educate women entrepreneurs?

Anna Stork of LuminAID

I think all the STEM programs that are becoming more widespread are really important and I think incorporating entrepreneurship into those is really important but I do think there’s a lot of progress being made in the right direction

Emily Cavness of Sword and Plough

Our biggest challenge was when I deployed to Afghanistan and had to work across 4 different time zones and learn about supply chain management. I had gotten one of the main elements of one of our bags on Ebay and that clearly wasn’t a long term solution so we had to grow and work with different challenges but it was all great lessons.

What’s next for your business?

Emily Cavness of Sword and Plough

We’re focusing on getting into larger stores across the country and working with expanding our impact. We’re just trying to increase our numbers and share our social mission with as many people as possible.

Dana Donofree of AnaOno

We’re launching new products – I’m actually in the midst of a shoot right now and I use all women who have had breast cancer and some type of surgery in all of our photography/marketing/website. I partnered with a radiologist at Kaiser Permanente to make a garment that will help women who are recovering from their radiation treatment. A lot of women lose their jobs to their cancer diagnosis and I have been able to take on some volunteers and hopefully will be able to provide jobs as well.

For more information on IBE client AnaOno check out the website and feel free and request more info via our contact page as well.

Please follow and like us:
error
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial