Are you a woman in business? Are you wondering what it would take for you to become visible? Founder and CEO of Women Entrepreneurs Inc. Melissa Barker joins Dolores Hirschmann in today’s episode to talk about the global platform she uses to connect women entrepreneurs to the people, resources, and opportunities they need to build a business that fuels their life. Whether you’re on the verge of starting your business or simply looking to venture into the industry, this conversation with Melissa will give you the knowledge you need to become visible in 2022 onwards. Listen in and learn more as they empower each other and talk about the amazing things that can happen when a woman is seen or heard.
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Woman On A Mission: Fueling Women Entrepreneurs With Melissa Barker
If you’re a woman in business and you’re wondering what it would take for you to become visible, then I wanted to make sure that you read this episode with Melissa Barker. Melissa is an opportunity creator. She creates opportunities for women entrepreneurs and is on a mission to support women on a mission. If you’re a woman on a mission, she’s there to support you. As a Founder and CEO of Women Entrepreneurs Inc., she has created a global platform that connects women entrepreneurs to the people, resources, and opportunities they need to build a business that fuels their lives.
If you’re a women business owner, whether you’re just starting or you haven’t even started yet or you’re along the way with your business, don’t miss this conversation with Melissa. I’m going to ask her what it means to be visible and how women become visible in the 2022 era, the post-COVID or the COVID world, however you want to look at it. Don’t miss this episode with Melissa.
Melissa, thank you so much for saying yes to the show. As we begin, I always ask the standard question to all my guests. Talk to me about your cloudy journey because everyone is like, “I know what to do, so I’ll do it.” Everything is linear and organized but it’s a journey.
I couldn’t agree more. I was thinking about this question before we logged on together. I would say the journey for me was finding the intersection between what I’m great at and what I love to do. You would think that we’re teaching this to kids in school or going to a class in college. For me, I was about 30 when I figured out what those were. Clarity for me was that I had over a decade of experience in marketing, working for some of those valuable brands in the world, but what I love to do is support other women.
It’s funny because that was my journey as well as I was evolving and switching and what I wanted to do. I simply asked myself, “What would I do for free all day long?” It is what I love to do and what I’m good at because you will never do for free something hard to do. Something that comes hard and that flows. I love that we have that in common because that’s where true flow comes. It’s when you can wake up every morning knowing that what you are doing and how you’re supporting your family, because we’re women in business and finances matter, is also what you would do if you didn’t have to support your family.
That’s what fuels the fire and keeps you going when you’re not feeling motivated, you’re tired and you don’t want to log into that next meeting. It’s that passion.
Let’s talk about what it is that you do. What is the thing that you love to do?
My core business is a marketing firm. We’re a content company, so we work a lot with tech companies and I look at us as translators. We take the very complex applications and software that they build. We create powerful visuals so that consumers can understand and buy them. A few years ago, I started to take my expertise in this area of storytelling, branding and marketing. As a business owner myself and as a woman business owner, I became passionate about helping women achieve that same level of marketing but in an affordable way.
Your journey is about finding the intersection between what you’re great at and what you love to do.
Nowadays, you don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to have great marketing. Through the platform that we’ve built, Women Entrepreneurs Inc., I bring all of my expertise to bear to help women become more visible and connect them to opportunities like partnerships, speaking, press, awards, grants. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a business owner myself, it’s that the world can’t buy from you if they don’t know who you are.
You still have the other agency chugging along working with corporate software types of clients, but then here’s Entrepreneurs Inc. Talk to me about the importance of visibility. Why is it so critical? What is possible once a woman is seen and heard? Once we grab the microphone, what is possible?
Anything. I work with a lot of women business owners to launch their business or relaunch their business. Women can spend a lot of time bottling things and getting things right and making sure it’s perfect before they get out there. Sometimes by the time they do that, they’ve missed a window or discovered that the market doesn’t want what they’re selling. I try to help women get visible early so that they can learn.
You got to get your idea out into the wild. You got to get your voice out into the wild and see how people react and resonate or don’t. To be able to pull back and pivot, I think women are good at that once we do it, but you’ve got to take that first step and have a voice and put it out there.
I’m hearing progress over perfection and your voice evolves in the air like in the speaking, in the being out there versus in a vacuum. What is visible? How do you know you have succeeded with one of your clients? Am I visible now? I don’t know. How do we know what’s enough?
Probably the number one way to know is if opportunities are coming to you. When you’re not visible, you’re in the constant mode to find opportunities, break down doors, listen to me, and give me a chance. When you are consistently putting yourself out there in a very clear, concise and compelling way, all of a sudden, the script gets flipped and people start coming to you. Rather than you begging people to come on your podcast, people are begging you to come on theirs. That’s a very powerful thing as a business owner because it allows us to spend all of our time on what we’re great at, and not just be stuck in the constant sales cycle.
Let’s dig into that in that. If the goal is to say, “I’m going to go from invisible to visible,” as you define it, visible means that it’s a dance of seeking new opportunities but being sought out as well. People know you’re there and they’re knocking on your door. Whether it’s opportunities or clients, either way, that’s good or both. Sometimes it’s a mix. What has shifted? What does that look like in 2022? I’m sure if we had done this interview in 2019, it would have been one answer, but 2022 has a different answer. What is working for fast-tracking visibility? What is the fastest path to being visible in 2022?
I would say five things or five levers that you can pull to get more visible. Grants, and believe it or not, more grants are becoming available for women entrepreneurs. It’s not reserved for only nonprofits anymore. A lot of female founders like Sara Blakely and Tory Burch are launching grants because they want to support women and businesses. It’s not just about the money, it’s the PR buzz and the networking that comes along with that. The other thing is you don’t even have to win. Even if you’re a finalist, you’re making some great connections and you’re probably getting a little PR buzz as well, so I love grants.
Awards make me gag. I would never want to go after an award. That is not my love language being recognized, but it is something we should all be doing. There are plenty of organizations out there that want to feature women, especially within your community. They want to tell your stories. A lot of times, it’s done through these award programs. It’s that third-party validation. It helps you get visible by saying, “I’m worth paying attention to.”
Another one is press. Press is not that hard to get. It’s just research. It’s finding the outlets that are already talking about women like you. It’s also finding that contributor. That exact woman or man that’s talking about you, and pitching yourself to get that opportunity. You’ve got to get those logos. In such a crowded and cluttered space, you have to have that third-party validation.
Lastly would be speaking opportunities. I’m not a public speaker. I’m not a business coach. I’m just an entrepreneur, but we talked about using our voice. We can’t just be talking on our own channels all the time and on our own email list. We’ve got to get them on other people’s channels and in front of their audiences so that we can get more visible and grow, and have those opportunities come into us.
You said five, so grant, award, speaking.
Press and I’ll throw it in one more, which is partnerships. At the foundation of Women Entrepreneurs Inc. is I want women to create partnerships with each other. What often happens is as we grow and develop our own following, we’re a leader or maybe a micro-influencer, we’re so focused on our following. I want women leaders to start connecting with other women leaders. It’s what we’re doing here now. You have a brand and a following and I have a brand and a following. By us coming together, we’re better together. That’s partnerships. There’s not a brand out there now that doesn’t want to partner with women entrepreneurs. It is on the top of their list. The opportunities are out there.
Passion is what fuels the fire and keeps you going when you’re not feeling motivated.
I asked you how you will become visible in 2022. What is brilliant about your answer is you didn’t say social media. I want to not make a note because you mentioned five things, grants, awards, press, speaking and partnerships. Those are how you spark visibility. Social media is how you promote the spark. It’s a highway. It’s not where the action happens. You got to have something to say on social media.
People think, “I show up in social media and now I’m visible,” but if you show up with nothing to contribute and nothing to say like, “I am in partnership with this,” or “I’m part of this awardee,” and you attach yourself to a brand. Now, there’s visibility and growth through social media. What I’m trying to say is that social media is a highway, but if you don’t have it attached to initiatives that you have like in these five that you mentioned, you are speaking to your mom and your dad who follows you on Instagram.
You got it. I’ve recorded a Reel about this because isn’t it so funny when you spend all day on these beautiful social media posts and all you get is all your friends saying, “I love your lipstick,” and your mom saying like, “Good job, girl.” You’re like, “Where are the ideal clients pouring in?”
Where’s the growth? Where are the new followers? Where is the expansion of visibility?
I’m so passionate about business owners, in general, getting out from behind their computers. Some of these speaking opportunities, you might have to travel for. This is an important lesson we all have to learn. To get visible can sometimes be uncomfortable and it can be vulnerable. I’m reading Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead now. I’m learning that even now on this show, I feel vulnerable because I don’t like to speak that often. It’s not a weakness. This is leadership. This is what we have to do to get visible. We have to become more comfortable with it.
If we bring this all together, we started this conversation around, “I needed to learn or to understand what I’m good at and what I love to do in order to find my path.” With that clarity comes a commitment of, “I am committed. I don’t only love to support women. I am committed to women.” It’s a very different statement. With that commitment, I said that I’m committed to my visibility. How I feel about it is secondary to my commitment to what I’m called to do in this world. I want to say this because as a woman, you’re not alone in that.
As I was mentioning, I cobbled to the show. I’m in pain. I was like, “Should I cancel the call with Melissa?” I don’t look good. I haven’t slept for a week. I look tired but I’m committed to bringing this show out on a regular basis to people, understanding that the clarity journey, the impact journey or the calling journey is bigger than how we feel about it.
The #WomenSupportingWomen is just a hashtag if there’s no action. It is a daily decision to support one another. It can be as small as following someone on social media or commenting or sharing and liking other posts. It could be co-hosting an event rather than always trying to do it on our own. It can be collaborating or bartering, but it is a daily decision that you are going to be a champion for women, even if it can be uncomfortable or hard or push you out of your comfort zone.
I don’t usually do this in the show, but I want this show to request an action from the people who watch it or see the feed on our social media post. If you are reading this, I want you to comment and tag a businesswoman that you’ve worked with that was great. If you have had the honor to hire a company run by a businesswoman, give a shout-out to that company and say something nice about them. What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that we are changing the narrative when it comes to women-owned businesses. I don’t think we get the credit that we deserve as mothers, wives, community leaders, homeschoolers, and also contributing to our families, our communities, and our economy through these businesses. I want the world to see the value in women-owned businesses. I unapologetically will admit and I believe that women belong at the helm of small businesses because of the way that we think and act. I’m proud that with every event we host, every collaboration we do, every initiative we put out, we’re helping to bring visibility to these women that work so hard. They’re so smart and are great leaders.
What do you have coming in the future?
Over the years, we have built the Women Entrepreneurs Inc. brand. We’ve built a reputation that is built on our values that women are better together. At this point, I am taking our brand, which has become a platform and I’m using it as a conduit to bring opportunities to our members. I am focused on building relationships with the grant, award and press organizers saying, “I’ve got 250 women over here that are very deserving.” Women entrepreneurs are the busiest people on the planet. If we can become that shortcut to get access to those opportunities, I will be so excited to revisit our businesses a year from now and see how much we’ve grown because of the opportunities we can bring to their doorstep.
The world can’t buy from you if they don’t know who you are.
Before we wrap it up, what is your favorite book and why?
Probably the one I’m reading now, Dare to Lead. I am late to the Brené Brown train and shame on me. What I am learning about being vulnerable ties in so well with visibility for many of us. We’re not all natural on stage and we’re not all naturals at being in the spotlight. No one told me that as a business owner, I have to tell my personal story so many times. People want to know your story before they will buy your products and services. I love this book because it is teaching me that a lot of the things I thought were weaknesses in me are a part of my becoming a leader.
There’s a quote that I probably won’t give justice to now. There’s a quote in the book that I have quoted her many times. Dare to Lead has a lot of trust involved in that process. It’s probably the main ingredient but, “The trust is built in the details.” It’s not built in a big action, in a big initiative. It’s built in the consistency of your details with integrity.
That is such an important part to remind women because when it feels like becoming a champion for other women is too hard, you have to remember that it could be as simple as liking her posts or doing a warm introduction. As you said, they’re like the little marbles in the jar that Brené describes. That is how we build trust with one another, in seconds in a day. That is how the #WomenHelpingWomen becomes a movement.
You keep saying women helping women. Do you see that logo on the back? I’ll tell you a quick story because I think you’re going to love it because we are so in sync. Many years ago, that was a company I ran. In 2004, I started it. It was a co-op of low-income women, grandmothers and mothers in Argentina who were doing beautiful hand-knit and handloom clothing that I brought to the US. The name of the company was Wawas, a women helping women initiative. It was all in the marketing.
The product was exceptional, but I took it one step further. For every product that a woman bought, there was a tag that said who made it. You could go to the website and read the story of the artist or the person who crafted that clothing. We grew and I was in Miami Fashion Week. We had boutiques in Madison Avenue buying our stuff. It was a great product with a great story and a very clear goal. By buying this product, you are helping this mom stay home with her child.
By referring to this product, you are adding and contributing to a socially-focused for-profit business. I sometimes love the power of our regular standard business where you exchange value for value. It wasn’t a charity. It wasn’t a nonprofit. I’m going to make something that you value. My role was to make that product visible. The role of the person buying it was to not just wearing it with pride and look beautiful in it, but also to recognize the number of women helping women initiative that was happening in that sweater. Any parting thoughts? We have a task. Maybe you can remind people of the action we want people to take.
Getting reviews of our businesses from third parties is invaluable. It’s our currency for service providers. If you have worked with women in business and you want to thank her in a big way, other than paying her, write a review on the comments of this show or put it on her Facebook Page or LinkedIn. It takes five seconds. Do it now for a woman in business.
Maybe we can create a trend here or a campaign around it. Maybe we should create a company. Any parting thoughts?
Get visible. Grants, awards, press, speaking and partnerships.
You got your marching orders, girls. Go get them. Thank you, Melissa, for showing up.
Melissa and I had an amazing conversation around visibility about women business owners. We also created a quick request that I think you should check out because otherwise, you’re going to miss big time if you don’t read this episode. The other thing that Melissa brought to us in this episode is she broke down visibility into five things you need to do to become visible in 2022. Interestingly enough, social media is not one of those five. What could it be? What could the other five things you could do? We break it down for you in this conversation with Melissa that I would say you cannot miss if you’re serious about growing a business.
- Women Entrepreneurs Inc.
- Dare to Lead
- Women Entrepreneurs Inc. – Facebook
- Women Entrepreneurs Inc. – Instagram
About Melissa Barker
They say, “behind every man is a good woman”… meet the WOMAN behind the WOMEN. Featured in Forbes on the Must-Watch List for her point-of-view on bartering, Melissa Barker is on a mission to support women on a mission. As the Founder & CEO of Women Entrepreneurs Inc. (WE Inc.), she has created a global platform that connects women entrepreneurs to the people, resources, and opportunities they need to build a business that fuels their life. Learn the real ROI of #womenhelpingwomen by becoming a member, speaker, or partner.