woman in a rowboat faces down big obstacle
Photo: Jorm Sangsorn/Getty Images

Make an Announcement
"I sent out an email to everybody I knew, announcing what we were doing. For me, the act of saying 'I'm starting a literary magazine' was as brave as actually doing it. When I said it with confidence, people believed me—and I believed me."
—Maribeth Batcha, Publisher, One Story, a literary magazine

Build Your Own Board
"I had to learn so much. I took classes at the local center for nonprofit management and read everything I could get my hands on. I realized the smartest thing I could do would be to surround myself with an advisory board of people who knew more than I did."
—Meredith Blake, Founder Break the Cycle, a domestic violence prevention program

Take Ownership
"There's no store without the concept, so from the very beginning, we trademarked every single thing involved in the look of the store."
—Ninel Pompushko, Founder, T-Shirt Deli, a custom t-shirt store in Chicago.
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Hone Your Business Skills
"There's a perception out there that you can't be an artist and a businessperson at the same time. Artists are told 'Don't bother with math.' But you have to balance passion and analytical skills. Knowing the business side of my job gives me the ability to take risks in every aspect—from dealing with banks to new designs—and I love that."
—Annie Morhauser, Owner and Creative Director, Annieglass, which produces luxury, handmade glass table art

Do It Yourself
"When we opened, we used our savings and did all the renovation work ourselves—stripping the floors, sanding them, plastering and painting."
—Miko Branch, Co-Founder, Miss Jessie's Salon
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Be Prepared for the Unexpected
"A good thing to remember is that once you open your door to the public, you never know who's going to walk through. I've had people bring in shopping bags of every shape and size imaginable, overflowing with pictures. At first I panicked, but now those are my favorite projects. They let me puzzle the pieces of someone's life together."
—Anne Goldenthal, Owner, Album Arts

Don't Quit Your Day Job
"It was pretty obvious that I would have to find a way to support my music habit. So I went to work as an assistant at a Wall Street investment bank and wound up as a VP and business manager of corporate research. I would do the radio show on Saturdays and tuck whatever gigs I had as a musician into whatever time was left."
—Laura Cantrell, Musician
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Take Rejection in Stride
"I knew how to make up a business plan. Much more daunting was the idea of getting a bank to lend me $1.5 million. I was turned down 32 times by male bankers. My 33rd presentation was to a female banker in New York. She didn't even let me finish my pitch before agreeing to give me the money."
—Catherine Hughes, Founder and Chairperson, Radio One

Next: How to get help

Take Charge
When the 735-room, filthy, decrepit Times Square Hotel (a.k.a. Homeless Hell) went bankrupt in the late 1980s, I wanted someone to turn it into quality supportive housing—with employment services, a clinic, and caseworkers right in the building. Not a shelter but permanent, dignified housing. Because I'd been development coordinator for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn, I knew what questions financiers, tenants, and the city would need answered, and I wrote up a plan. Everyone I talked to was too overcommitted to take it on. They all agreed, though, that someone really ought to do it. Finally, I thought, 'Oh, someone is me.'"
—Rosanne Haggerty, Founder, Breaking Ground, a nonprofit that aims to end homelessness
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Don't Be Afraid to Be Different
"I didn't have a showroom. I was totally freaked out about that: I live above a restaurant, and buyers had to walk through a side door near the dining room to get to my tiny apartment. But people loved coming over. I'd serve cookies and have a fire going. They said it was a relief from the other showings they'd been to. Sometimes when you're forced into doing things in an unexpected way, you make a big impression. And with so many people out there, being yourself is the only way to stand out."
—Lana Bilzerian, Knitwear Designer

Ask for Help
"I couldn't make all the cookies in my own kitchen, and I didn't want to pay for an expensive industrial mixer, so I called a local restaurant that served only lunch and dinner and asked if I could use their mixer in the mornings. They said, 'yes.'"
—Debbie Godowsky, Owner, Cookies Direct, which sells care packages to send to kids in college
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Follow Your Customers
My taste wasn't completely resonating with my suburban customers. My sales weren't as good as they could be, and the people who were buying had come up from the city. Obviously, I needed to move downtown, but rents aren't cheap. Still, in 2005, I did it. My sales went right up."
—Chandra Greer, Owner, Greer, a Chicago stationery store
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Mentor Others
"I didn't have a lot of money to pay assistants, so I called the youth employment service at my son's high school and advertised for art students. They sent me two great girls."
—Pam Older, Founder of the jewelry firm Pam Older Designs"

Toot Your Own Horn
"Women, especially Southern women, are taught to be demure. When I first opened, I didn't want to be a show-off and name my company after myself. Instead I called it WSG (Wilson Services Group) Consulting. Huge mistake. No one could remember it. Plus, my expertise and talent are what clients are buying. We rebranded this year as Robin Wilson Home. Business is booming."
—Robin Wilson, Renovation and Design Manager, Robin Wilson Home
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Have Faith in Yourself
"First, take it easy. Because it's your passion, you can get carried away and burn out. Second, take small steps. I've seen a lot of people with great vision who don't go anywhere because they want the end result immediately. Third, don't try to figure out what sells. You are the one thing other businesses can't duplicate."
—Teresa Chang, Founder, Teresa Chang Ceramics
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Enjoy the Rewards
"Now a business trip is to wine country or a food festival. I love it all. You can't serve ad copy at a dinner party, but a beautiful cheese tray is always a big hit."
—Sara Vivenzio, Founder, Cheese School of San Francisco
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Be Your Own Boss


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