Today, for our 4th installment in our series celebrating women entrepreneurs, we would like to introduce you to two thought leaders, Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas. They have just co-authored a book called Power Through Partnership. Betsy and Maggie believe women lead better together, and we couldn’t agree more. December 3rd is the day to pledge to support for women-owned businesses — let’s pledge instead to make everyday a day to support women-owned businesses!
1. What is your business?
The Mulberry Partners, LLC, is a coaching and consulting company that works with leaders and teams in organizations who are ready to get past the blocks that get in the way of people working together, constructively and productively. The support, flexibility, confidence, accountability and plain old happiness we get from working together inspired us to interview other women business partners to find out if they were achieving similar results through their collaborations. They were! The result of these wonderful conversations is our book, Power through Partnership: How Women Lead Better Together, published this fall by Berrett-Koehler.
2. What inspired you to start your business?
Our friendship started in the tenth grade when we did a project together in English class. The great fun we had combining our quirky creativity planted a seed that sprouted many years later. In 2002, after taking different career paths — Maggie is an educator who has taught in and led schools and Betsy is an organization development consultant who has worked with a wide range of public and private sector clients –we found ourselves back in the same area code with new babies and the same question: What’s next? When we heard about a consulting project for a school, we jumped at the chance to combine our professional backgrounds. Though the project never came to be, the process of co-developing a proposal brought our tenth grade dream full circle and we launched our practice within the year.
3. Are your kids involved in the business? How do they feel about having a mompreneur?
Our kids are our inspiration and our biggest supporters. They haven’t played a direct role in our business … yet… but have cheered us on throughout a long and winding writing process. We hope they’ve learned as much from us as we have learned from them!
4. What one piece of advice would you give another mom interested in starting a business?
Consider partnership. It’s a wonderful tool for achieving success in ways that provide support and sanity. Look around at your network and consider teaming up with another woman or women to try out ventures, short and long term. Pay attention to what works (and what doesn’t) between you and if you’re willing and able to talk, listen and figure it out together, you’re on the way to a healthy collaboration.
5. Which mom is your style icon?
Our moms! They’ve modeled finding work they love and have shared some pretty powerful advice that’s illuminated our paths. Betsy’s mom, a teacher, instilled the words of Eleanor Roosevelt. Hearing that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” has certainly boosted our confidence, equipping us to work with leaders at all levels of organizations. When we were first considering whether to jump into partnership, we recalled what Maggie’s mom, a therapist, told her: women often think they need one more thing – -one more degree, one more credential –before they can take a leap. Men, on the other hand, jump in and swim! Per her wisdom, we’re still swimming and enjoying every lap!