An Interview with Michele DeKinder-Smith: Author & Entrepreneur
Sylvia: Hello Michelle. It is such a pleasure to interview you. I know how busy you are so thank you for your time. Please give our readers a brief introduction of yourself and a little about your book.
Michele: I’m an entrepreneur and I own two businesses, Linkage Research & Consulting and Jane Out of the Box. Linkage was my first business, which I started in 1998. We conduct research for Fortune 500 corporations to help them determine their ideal target market, what products they should develop for that market, and how to market those products. That business has been very successful, starting from a 1-person shop (me!) to now having 5 people on the team and close to $2 million in revenue. Along the way, in growing that business, I learned a lot about what it takes to create success in your own business, and the tradeoffs business owners have to make. I began researching this market, and women business owners, specifically, to understand how we can learn from each other and support each other’s growth. That passion resulted in me starting my second business, Jane Out of the Box, which offers books, education, resources, networking and marketing opportunities for women business owners and the companies that want to serve them.
Sylvia: Michele, I had the pleasure of meeting you at the NAWBO Conference in DC earlier this year. After chatting for a few minutes, you revealed to me that my personality type was ‘Jane Dough.’ I read your book, ‘See Jane Succeed: Five Types of Female Entrepreneurs Reveal What it Takes to Win in Business and in Life, ‘ from cover to cover on my flight back home and took your assessment. You were right in your observation of me. Tell our readers about the 5 types of female entrepreneurs.
Michele: The five types of female entrepreneurs are a direct result of my research with now over 3,500 women business owners. We began to see patterns in the information we were gathering related to women’s goals for owning a business, orientation toward money and time, and the individual challenges they were facing. In a brief nutshell, here are the five types and a little about each:
Accidental Jane: Didn’t mean to start a business, but something happened in her life and now she is a business owner. She might have been laid off or, like me, just got tired of corporate politics and decided to “hang out her shingle. “ Accidental Janes are usually solo-entrepreneurs who want to basically create their own ideal jobs.
Go Jane Go: This is a very service-minded and achievement oriented entrepreneur. Go Jane Go is the type of woman who you think of when you say, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” She’s got a lot on her plate, which may well include volunteer work in addition to running a thriving business. This group has the highest personal income of all 5 – but the least amount of time for herself as she is pulled in many different directions.
Jane Dough: This is YOUR category, Sylvia! Jane Dough’s are visionary business builders who see the long term of their company and who map out a plan to get there. Their plan will include hiring others to do the work and systematizing the work. Often Jane Dough’s love “the business of business” as much as the work themselves. They are driven to create an asset or wealth by growing a larger company and they are five times more likely to have businesses with revenues of $1MM or more.
Merry Jane: This entrepreneur holds time flexibility and freedom as a critical reason for owning a business. She wants to have work that is fulfilling and rewarding, where she can stay connected with others and show her skills and capabilities. At the same time, she has other areas in her life that are as important as her business – which might be a full-time career job, or being a stay-at-home mom, or simply enjoying her retirement. As a result, most of these business owners work part-time and while their businesses tend to be smaller in revenue as a result, the owner loves the freedom, flexibility, and fulfillment business ownership provides.
Tenacity Jane: This is the largest group, comprising about a third of all women business owners. Tenacity Janes believe in their businesses and are working very hard to make the business successful – but at the present time, their businesses simply aren’t generating enough cash flow. This can be very stressful. We see a couple of reasons for businesses being in this state – the most common of which is that they business is relatively new and the owner is still trying to figure it out. I went through this phase myself, a year after starting Linkage. It was a tough time, but it was also a time when I grew a lot because I had to acquire so many new skills in order to make my business succeed.
Sylvia: In your extensive research, what would you say are the top three challenges reported by women?
Michele: Interestingly, this is an area where women differ from men. Each individual “Jane” has a different assortment of challenges, but overall, the three most common challenges women business owners expressed were marketing/acquiring new customers, work/life balance issues, and financial management.
Sylvia: Michele, what inspired you to write your first book?
Michele: I’ve been so blessed to have so many women share their stories with me, and also to have generated some really important research findings that can help women get clear on how they define success, and then how to go about building their businesses to suit the type of lifestyle they really want to live. I know this information changes women’s lives, and that was entirely why I wanted to write the book to share it. My personal mission is to help people really understand and appreciate themselves and other people – and the book is one way of sharing what I’ve learned along the way, from other women and from my own experiences.
Sylvia: Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
Michele: Very much so. I hope the message readers take away is that it is entirely possible to have an amazing life, but in order to do so, we have to get clear on what we truly want, get real with ourselves about how our own actions and decisions are either helping or hurting us, and then move forward with a focused plan. So often, people (and women in particular) judge themselves and hold themselves back because they either don’t want to make waves or they don’t think they deserve to have a wonderful life. I want each of us to accept ourselves for who we are and go about building our lives the way we want them to be – because when we have the courage to pursue our dreams, we become wonderful role models who inspire our children and our communities to do the same.
Sylvia: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Michele: One of the biggest lessons I learned in writing this book is to let go of that self-judgment and to focus on the reader. When I started, it was difficult for me to write about myself and my own experiences. I really wanted just to write about all the other women’s stories that I’d heard. My editor, Azriela Jaffe, really helped me see that I needed to weave my own journey into the book as well – and doing so has forever changed me as a writer. Writing about my own life felt like a risk, but in the end, I know it has helped readers connect with me and the book in a powerful way. So if you’re writing, push past whatever fears you have. Thinking about your reader and what he or she needs, as opposed to focusing on yourself, and you will find your voice comes much more easily.
Sylvia: Where can my readers go to take the FREE “Which Jane Are You” assessment?
Michele: Your readers may go to www.janeoutofthebox.com.
Sylvia: Why should we buy your book?
Michele: Reading See Jane Succeed will really help you gain clarity into where you are today as a business owner and it will help you establish clear steps you need to take to grow exactly the kind of business you want for yourself.
Sylvia: How do my readers contact you as well as buy your book?
Sylvia: Michele, thank you s much for your time. I admire and applaud your work in helping women entrepreneurs.
Michele: You are very welcome.