This piece was contributed by UR student Jessica Dugan
AnnMarie Grohs, owner of BOHO Cycle Studio, Kelly Kosteck, owner of Om On Yoga, and Erin Powell, founder and CEO of Ginger Juice all had one thing in common when they started their businesses: They noticed gaps in Richmond’s health and wellness market and directed their passions and resources to create something that would fill it.
These three local women business owners joined Professor Maura Alexander from the University of Richmond and a classroom of students on Tuesday, March 26 for an intimate panel discussion about their experiences of starting a small business and tips for students interested in entrepreneurship.
For Powell, her lack of experience and knowledge of the restaurant industry lended to many insecurities when she was starting Ginger Juice. However, passion, determination and a solid network of support were what fueled her to keep going.
“The passion has to fuel you when the lights don’t turn on,” said Powell. “But it can’t be the only reason that you’re doing the business.”
Kosteck and Powell began their professional careers in the corporate world and Grohs spent over a decade in the restaurant industry before starting their own businesses. However, each entered the health and wellness industry after moments of self-discovery later in their lives.
“My passion in college, at 22 years old, was so different,” said Kosteck. “It wasn’t until years later that I realized that this is me so if there isn’t something right now, then that’s ok.”
Being a small business owner doesn’t come without its challenges, and no two days look exactly the same for these women. Apart from the day-to-day business related tasks, being the sole proprietor of a business is a daunting task and can be often feel lonely, Powell said.
For Kosteck, the people she surrounds herself with have been a contributing factor to her business’ success.
“The five people that you spend the most time with are the ones that influence you the most,” said Kosteck. “I made it a point to seek out others that I can spend time with that have similar aspirations and similar struggles. That creative brainstorm has been invaluable for me.”
When asked if there was a space for young entrepreneurs in the industry, Grohs, Kosteck, and Powell offered their advice.
“I would actually recommend going out and working for someone else first,” said Kosteck. “The skill set that I was able to glean and polish from the company I worked at was and continues to be invaluable.”
Grohs said she learned about management styles from her years of experiences in the restaurant industry.
“I learned how not to be a boss from two specific people that I worked for,” said Grohs, “Find what you do and don’t like about how something is run and use that in your business.”
Powell said that she would advise anyone to work for a start-up company if the opportunity was available.
“I’m a big advocate for working for a start-up if you have the opportunity,” said Powell. “Our country is built on start-ups and small business so it’s a noble thing to do and an opportunity to learn so much.”
This panel discussion came at a great time, as Junior Rachael Overland and Senior Camila Cabot have spent the past semester developing a Women in Business Club that they hope will be available to students next Fall, Overland and Cabot said. Open to all students who are interested in joining, the club will reflect the structure of a professional society with the flexibility to engage as much or as little as the student desires.
The organizers of the club plan to address certain topics that current students are interested in including Bloomberg terminal instructions, how to dress in business environments, how to handle potential discrimination in the workplace and alumni and Richmond business women panels, they said.
“I’m not worried about the atmosphere of the business school,” said Overland, “Yes there are aspects to improve, but our focus is on helping women develop networks, relationships, and skills that will translate into successful work place habits.”
There are specific industries that can benefit from increased development for women, Overland said. She said her hope was that the Women in Business Club will allay some of the worries that women have going into those industries and set them up for success.