Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge, opens her introduction with a quote by activist Marian Wright Edelman, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Representation matters, and this is the impetus behind the creation of Bonney’s collection of interviews, In the Company of Women. As an entrepreneur herself, Bonney wanted to create a book depicting role models to inspire all women on their own professional journeys. The makers, artists, and entrepreneurs interviewed include women of color, women from the LGBT community, and differently abled women — communities that are often underrepresented — who are running their own businesses.
Each woman’s story is unique, but they are connected in their passion, dedication, and determination. Some of the life and business lessons shared here are similar, but ultimately they demonstrate that there are many paths possible in pursuing your dream as long as you continue to learn and adapt.
In the Company of Women is available from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, and below is a sampling of the interviews.
Danielle Colding: Interior Designer, Brooklyn, NY
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out?
To make sure to hire professionals to do the things you are not good at or knowledgeable about. The key takeaway was that you don’t have to be able to do everything on your own. Look to the experts when you need to.
Amalia Mesa-Bains: Artist, Curator, Author, San Juan Bautista, CA
What does success mean to you?
When I was younger, I thought success was about big, prestigious exhibitions. But as the years have passed, I feel even more successful when my work, both art and writing, is valuable to a younger generation, a legacy of sorts.
Roxanne Gay: Writer, Professor, West Lafayette, Indiana
What characteristic do you most admire in other creative women?
I admire their tenacity, their capacity for creating beauty and the unexpected forms that beauty takes.
Matika Wilbur: Photographer, Seattle, WA
If you were given $100 million, would you run your business any differently? How so?
Yes, I’d hire “superpeople.” We’d work in education, media, and music, and I’d create a fun, get-things-done professional and business network, like a consortium to celebrate Native artistic and intellectual talent. (There’s so much out there!) And I’d support important battles and challenges that my people, especially Native children and women, are up against.
Veronica Corzo-Duchardt: Graphic Designer, Artist, Philadelphia, PA
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
When I’m doubting myself or having a hard time, I turn to my wife and a few close friends. It’s really important to surround yourself with people who are supportive. They usually help me put things into perspective. And at the very least, they’ll make me a strong whiskey cocktail and tell me how awesome I am, which doesn’t hurt.
Natalie Chanin: Fashion Designer, Florence, AL
Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.
Cash flow. Cash flow. Cash flow. It is a good thing that many businesses are started by the young because older, more financially savvy people might never make the leap. I always advise those who want to start their own businesses to learn as much as possible about accounting, saving, and investing. Many families count on me and on the business I created to put food on their tables. That is not a responsibility I take lightly.
Carla Hall: Chef, Television Host, Washington, D.C.
What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?
The lack of an employee annual review. There are times when I would welcome a report card from a third party.
Ayumi Horie: Potter, Portland, ME
Name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business.
The lesson I’ve learned over and over is not to compromise on quality. Even though it might take twice as long to attend to all the tiny details necessary to make something shipshape, it’s worth the effort.
Mary Verdi-Fletcher: Dancer, Choreographer, Cleveland, OH
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be a dancer and follow in my mother’s footsteps for as long as I can remember. I believe I was three years old when I started telling people that I wanted to be a dancer even though I was in a wheelchair.
Written by Anne Nowak