West Windsor, N.J. – Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) first celebration of Women Entrepreneurship Week (WEW) went off without a hitch last week, as the college community gathered for a pair of panel presentations from local businesswomen at both the West Windsor and James Kerney Campuses (JKC).
Started at Montclair State University in 2014, WEW is a weeklong, annual event designed to celebrate women in entrepreneurship, share ideas and unite communities around promoting regional success and business opportunities. This year, more than 150 organizations participated globally.
MCCC’s Division of Innovation, Online Education and Student Success (IOESS) hosted the first panel on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Organized by IOESS project manager Jill Marcus and moderated by Communication Professor Kathi Paluscio, the event saw four Mercer-area businesswomen share their experiences, challenges and accomplishments with students, faculty and staff; Brittany Johnson, Owner and Founder of Eyes Ink (Ewing); Chaya Pamula, Co-Founder, President and CEO of PamTen & SHETEK (South Brunswick); Esther Tanz, Founder of ESTIR Inc. Insurance (Princeton); and Denise Taylor, CEO and Founder of Diverse Style (Lawrence).
The second panel, held on Thursday, Oct. 24 at JKC, featured: Danielle Gletow, Founder and Executive Director of One Simple Wish (Trenton); Crystal Feliciano, Teacher Trenton High School and Founder Giayana Monae Genesis Foundation; Teanice Wells-Ernest, Insurance Agent, State Farm; and Dr. Nicole McGrath, Founder and President & CEO of KinderSmile Foundation.
Both sets of panelists spoke on the realities of finding success as mothers, spouses, business owners and women.
“It took me four years to secure my first insurance contract,” Tanz recalled during the panel, adding that she started her business out of the basement of her mother’s home. Her journey to owning her company, like many others, included stretches of unemployment, relying on family support, and plenty of self-doubt.
“There will never be a perfect time to start a business,” Taylor said, adding that she started her salon during the recession of the late 2000s, a time rife with financial uncertainty.
While each of the women agreed upon the inherent risks to starting a self-owned venture regardless of the economy, they offered advice as to how to mitigate potential hazards.
“Do your research,” Johnson said. “You really have to know the field you are entering, and then have to be able to follow through with a plan.”
Johnson added that even the best laid plans have volatility. After setting her sights on opening her business, she was left without transportation for months when her car failed.
Without her car, Johnson made a point of attending networking events in order to build up her potential client base and support system. Tanz echoed the importance of networking, while acknowledging that entrepreneurs need to be willing to serve the communities in which they live and work.
“When people start to see that you really care about your community, that’s when you’ll start to see your business take off,” she said.
But most importantly, the panelists agreed that knowing oneself is key to starting, and maintaining, a successful business.
“Knowing yourself and being able to promote your skills is vital to your growth as an entrepreneur,” Pamula said.
“So put yourself out there, and try to have fun while doing it.”