Female Firms, Memphis Market: Where local women-owned businesses see opportunity

As printed in The Memphis Business Journal | Author: Jason Bolton

As part of this week's list of the area's largest women-owned firms, owners and executives of those businesses gave their thoughts on the Memphis market — both positive and negative — and its effect on their companies.

What is the most difficult challenge for women-owned companies to overcome in the Memphis business market?

Christi Kelley, president and CEO, Kelley & Associates Advertising Inc.: Overcoming the boys club mentality. I do see things changing for the better.

Marlene Wright, CEO, Medical Insurance Filing Services Inc.: I think a business can be whatever it wants to be by doing a job that no other woman-owned business in your field does for their customers. By doing this, you should be able to prove your capabilities and have few obstacles.

Deenie Phelan, vice president, HR & operations, Travelennium Inc.: It is difficult to truly level the playing field, i.e. to differentiate between companies that are women-owned in name only and not actually women-operated.

Elizabeth Tate, chairman and CEO, Signet Inc.: The biggest challenge I see is overcoming the perception that some people have of woman-owned companies. They assume that because you are certified as a diverse company, you are small. We are actually ranked in the top 100 in our industry nationwide.

Marcus White, CFO and Karen Pease, CEO, Well Child: We have not experienced any challenges being a women-owned company. It has actually helped us land points within the RPF process a few times and helped us win contracts against national/public organizations in recent years.

Yolanda Rubio, senior accounting manager, A-One Staffing LLC: While the numbers are growing, there are still too few female investors, which can make it more challenging to raise capital.

Do you feel like women-owned companies get their fair share of business in Memphis?

Cindy Brewer, president, LEO Events: If you work hard, work the leads and work to put your foot in the door, network and market — you get invited to participate.

Rubio: Women-owned businesses receive far fewer government contract dollars.

Patricia Sherman, CEO, Unity Hospice Care LLC: In my profession, I feel women-owned companies do get their fair share of business in Memphis. In fact, I think women do very well.

Linda Bourgeois, president and CEO, Travel Leaders/LMR: No, we do not.

Brandy Bonner Aden, president, A&B Construction Co. Inc.: Yes. Memphis has many female business owners who are strong, confident leaders managing growing businesses. Our city has many support and mentoring groups that help to propel female entrepreneurs.

Gassia Gerges, founder, 1Link Technology: Absolutely. Memphis-based businesses want to work with minority and woman-owned firms. However, while our minority or woman-owned status gets us in the door, unless we bring value to our customers, our label won’t mean anything.

Shannon Hunter, CFO, Network Communications Systems LLC: Personally, we have not experienced any problems getting business in the Memphis area.

Nisha Powers, president, Powers Hill Design LLC: In general, it is challenging to convince clients to move away from their comfort zones and relationships they have established over many years to opt to work with a small firm like ours. We try to find small opportunities to show our talents and abilities, and then work our way to the bigger opportunities slowly and purposefully.

What constructive steps could be taken to make the Memphis market more equitable for women-owned companies?

Nancy Brannon, editor, Mid-South Horse Review: Have more women in leadership and decision-making positions — both in government and private business.

Powers: The foot in the door is all I ask for, in any circumstance, with any client. Once that door is open, it is entirely up to me to make it happen. So, more access to opportunities would be key