9 Lives for Women Blog

A Toast to Entrepreneurs | May 31st, 2012

Thinking about owning a business some day?  That’s what I hear from many women who spend their volunteer years dreaming about an entrepreneurial venture.

After the flexibility women enjoy out of the workforce, an independent venture can seem like a logical transition.  Donna Pace, a three-time entrepreneur, says “it’s certainly logical, but not simple.”

Today Donna is the single mother of two boys (ages 14 and 20) and the owner of Gathering Harvests, the only women-owned wine distributor in Connecticut.  Her days are long and varied:  she also has a small clientele as a Certified Nutritional Therapist.  Just recently she closed the travel company she established and ran for 20 years. All her high energy, ability to multi-task and hard work have generated profits for all three businesses.

Donna says that there is definitely more flexibility with your own venture—but also more work that can’t be confined to a specific title.  “When you’re playing multiple roles, it’s hard to end your work day. If you’re skilled at time management, you’ll have the time to enjoy the flexibility rewards.  If you’re not, flexibility hours are consumed and work can overwhelm even the brightest business owner.”

The open hours you have now as a volunteer can be prime time to  research new business ideas.  Donna says that you can jump out of your comfort zone into a totally new business area if you’ve done your homework, found a niche, learned the market, assessed the competition and considered the pros & cons of your business model.

Research could be step 2 if a new business idea comes out of left field.  Donna’s foray into the wine industry started unexpectedly when she helped a friend pour wine at a charity event.  She enjoyed the experience, learned a lot about wines and also met an experienced wine distributor who got her into the business.  Donna soon learned the retail, wholesale, supplier, distribution and importing aspects of the business, and then researched business ideas after seeing the need for a high end distribution company focused on quality and value.

Part of any budding business owner’s research process is determining start-up costs.  Donna (and Sara Blakeley, the billionaire who started Spanx with an initial $5,000 investment) proves that women can start a business even if they don’t have the safety net of a spouse or big financial backing.  Donna didn’t have either—and she has seen many businesses with big financial backing fail.  “A lot of money does not give you the knowledge of what it takes to own, maintain and grow a business.  Money doesn’t work on its own—you need the wisdom to use it wisely.  Lots of people can find money, but not everyone has the skill set and personality to run a business.”

What is that profile of a successful entrepreneur? Donna advises women to pursue business ownership if they have a very strong work ethic and an ability to keep a careful eye on the business 24/7.  In her opinion, your business has a good chance of succeeding if you are:

  • Confident in yourself and what you’re selling
  • A service-oriented listener who hears what customers need—and delivers
  • Comfortable with technology—which is at the core of any business today
  • Frugal, but you know when the time is right to invest and spend money
  • A planner always ready with plan B
  •  Persistent but not pushy
  •  A networker who can grow a team that complements you and your business
  •  A relationship builder who has a knack for complementary partnerships
  •  Interested in growing—not just owning—a business.

Tenacity is a big factor, too.  Donna credits her work ethic and entrepreneurial zeal to family that never allowed “quit” to exist in its vocabulary.

Gathering Harvests brings award-winning, family-owned and operated wineries to Connecticut—those that have sustainable farming practices and unique varietals.  Donna’s wine tastings and educational presentations complement a wide range of upscale business and in-home events.  Contact:  ghwines@optimum.net  Mention 9 Lives for a special gift.

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