For more than 100 years, March 8 has been International Women's Day, a day dedicated to celebrating women's achievements and advocating continued progress toward equality.
Women entrepreneurs are increasingly a force to be reckoned with. The number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. grew by 114 percent from 1997-2017 — well above the average growth rate of 44 percent, according to a report released last year by American Express.
We talked to three successful women entrepreneurs who are leaders and mentors in their fields, who told us their stories and offered up some advice for new entrepreneurs.
1. Colette Phillips, PR Strategist and Networking Maven, Boston
Colette Phillips has worn many professional hats throughout her career. In her native country of Antigua, she worked in television before becoming press secretary to the prime minister. Then she headed to Boston and worked several public relations jobs before launching her own agency, Colette Phillips Communications, which specializes in helping clients reach out to diverse target markets.
Ten years ago, Phillips decided to do yet more and launched Get Konnected!, a series of networking events intended to help break down barriers between people of different genders, races, ages and experience levels. Unsurprisingly, Phillips says cultivating wide-reaching personal connections is the key to business success.
Her advice: "Find mentors and sponsors that don't necessarily look like you — no one person has it all," she says. "You have to surround yourself with eagles, with people who are going to help you fly."
2. Tara Joyce, Small Business Blogger and Marketing Consultant, Toronto
Tara Joyce runs a marketing communications consultancy, Elastic Mind. She's also about to release her first book, a counterintuitive look at pricing strategy called "Pay What It's Worth," and her blog has been named one of Forbes' 100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs.
This success comes from Joyce's unconventional approach, in which the first order of business is being true to yourself rather than tending to the bottom line. Her "innerpreneur" philosophy is about building a business that's financially sustainable but also brings you personal fulfillment and helps create social change.
Her advice: "What I believe is a key to my success," she says, "is deciding for myself what a successful life and business means for me and not holding myself to another's standards of success."
3. Teresa Meares, Serial Entrepreneur, Jacksonville
Teresa Meares left behind a 20-year career in law enforcement to launch a business selling law enforcement gear. Later, she sold that company and started another selling uniforms and work apparel. Next, she plans to finish writing her memoir and help her daughter get a t-shirt business running.
Early in her entrepreneurial adventures, Meares kept hearing comments on how confident she was. She realized her law enforcement career had taught her how to project a sense of authority, and she decided to start advising other women in order to give them the same tools.
She began mentoring locally, then joined the leadership of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Meares eventually chaired the NAWBO Board of Directors and now chairs the group's educational foundation.
Her advice: It's OK to fake confidence until you feel it, but you must be more than just talk. "Make sure you're able to back it up with capabilities and quality," she says.
Women entering the business world still face challenges. But this International Women's Day, look to these three women as examples of both the drive it takes to make a small business work and the vision to help other entrepreneurs succeed.