During a George Talks Business event, two alumnae entrepreneurs discuss what it takes to make the leap from traditional work to being self-starters.
By Briahnna Brown
Jade Root, M.B.A. ’17, was a newly-single mother when she came into her business as a fitness and health coach.
She already had a career in the U.S. Army, but she found that she was investing everything into her career and her children while investing nothing into herself.
"I've always had a passion for health and fitness, but never really had the vision on how to make my worlds fit together being that I was a servicemember but also had this passion," Maj. Root said.
She was inspired to start participating in national-level fitness and body building competitions, which led her to a platform that led her to do more of what she loved. Since her time at George Washington University, Maj. Root has cultivated a community of like-minded people looking to improve their health through fitness, many of whom are mothers such as herself.
Through entrepreneurship, Maj. Root is able to combine her passions in a way that allows her business to flourish through the digital brand that she has established.
Maj. Root shared her perspectives on Monday during a George Talks Business event. The event series, which the School of Business hosts and live-streams, features regularly-scheduled interviews with respected thought leaders in multiple fields. Anna Stewart, M.B.A. ’14, founder of Gaucha Chica, also shared insights during Monday’s event.
The panel was moderated by Kathy Korman Frey, a GWSB entrepreneur in residence who teaches women’s entrepreneurial leadership and developed the Hot Mommas Project, the world's largest women’s case study library featuring a diverse group of women leaders. It was developed with women from 138 countries to increase a critical type of confidence called “self efficacy,” she said. Ms. Frey taught both Maj. Root and Ms. Stewart in the women’s entrepreneurial leadership program. Ms. Frey said that her program attracts people who think entrepreneurially, even if they may not realize it.
"Just because you don't have a business or a side-hustle or dreamed of having a business doesn't mean you're not an entrepreneur," Ms. Frey said. “The entrepreneurial skills that you all use in institutional organizations you're also using in your own businesses."
Most of the challenges that come with being a woman entrepreneur are largely focused on risk aversion, Ms. Frey explained. Women are less likely to apply for opportunities unless they meet a high percentage of requirements, she said, and women tend to wait until later in life to take that leap. Maj. Root said that women have to be extremely efficient in managing their schedules to have everything they want in life, but it is important to be reasonable about what your priorities are.
Ms. Stewart was diagnosed with cancer when she decided to start her business in 2015. She said the diagnosis forced her to look at her priorities and determine what is most important to her. She knew it was time to make a change, she said, and decided it was time to finally take a leap and pursue a long-held dream of hers: to bring the leather craftsmanship from her family’s hometown in Argentina, along with Argentinian culture, to a broader audience.
Now cancer-free, Ms. Stewart said that taking that leap allowed her to better manage her time with her family. Even though taking that chance was scary, she said, the regret that comes with never trying would have been worse for her than trying and failing.
"Don't feel like you just have to go with the norm,” Ms. Stewart said. “Even if it's not in your nature to explore or sort of push boundaries, sometimes people might steer you in that direction, but if you feel in your heart that that's the best thing for your business, I think that you just have to take that risk."