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12 No-Cost or Low-Cost Marketing Tools

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

We recently received a question from an e-mailer who said, “I’d like to hear about no or low-cost marketing tools and ideas. Promoting a business as an independent woman operating as a team of one has its challenges.”

We agreed and wanted to offer some ideas for getting more bang for your marketing buck.

12 No-Cost or Low-Cost Marketing Tools

Starting and running a successful business takes time and money. In many cases, when you don’t have much time, you can spend money to delegate to other people and services. But when you don’t have much money, you have to invest more time to get things done.

Fortunately, when it comes to marketing, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to capture your audience’s attention, but it may take a little time initially before you see results.

The following are 12 free or low-cost marketing tools you should consider exploring, to raise awareness of your business and attract potential customers:

Free

Believe it or not, marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. In fact, some of the absolute best marketing tools are completely free. Yes, some may have paid versions as an upgrade option, but in most cases, the free account works just fine.

Publicity

The most effective way to attract new business is to get the media saying positive things about you. Whether in a magazine article, newspaper mention, TV show, or website quote, people like to be associated with success. So when they see your business attracting positive attention from established media outlets, you may be surprised by the calls and emails you receive.

There are two ways to land media exposure: 1) Write a press release and send it out in the hopes that a reporter will find it interesting or 2) Find out what reporters are already working on and suggest that you’d be a good source.

That second approach is far more effective and less expensive than the first. The website HelpAReporter.com, nicknamed HARO, sends out three emails a day during the work week announcing the types of sources reporters and editors are looking for. Reading those listings will tell you exactly what articles are planned.

Skim the listings to see which topics you might qualify for, or be qualified to talk about, and then email the writer to explain exactly why you’d be a good person to include.

The basic HARO subscription is free.

The key to succeeding with HARO is to respond quickly and take a couple of minutes to answer the reporter’s question or offer your advice. Yes, it does take time, but giving them what they’re looking for up front will significantly increase the odds that you’ll be quoted.

Social Media

You’re on social media everyday anyway, right? So it shouldn’t take much extra time to do some business.

Three platforms you’ll want to at least have a presence on are Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Believe it or not, Facebook is very active for business and a great way to find and interact with potential clients, at no cost. Set up a free business page (which is different from your personal profile) and start to share information of interest to your target business audience there.

Instagram (IG), which is very visual, is a great place to share news about your products and services and to give your audience a taste of how you do business, through photos. Although IG is free, you may want to invest a little money in some photography training, since snapping quality pics is essential on this site.

Although we don’t hear a lot about Pinterest for business, it’s another great place to share stunning visual imagery with a link to other content. For example, you could share a link to an article you’ve written on your blog with the cover image pinned, or some glamour shots of your products.

Given how easy it is to find and connect with other people using free social media platforms, they should be one of your first resources to leverage.

Groups

Related to sharing updates and news on social media, another great way to attract members of your target audience while positioning yourself as the expert is by setting up a Facebook group. Facebook groups are communities you can establish for free that can bring together groups of like-minded individuals for discussions, information-sharing, and networking.

Some companies create private customer groups and share special deals with members, while other business owners use Facebook groups as a way to encourage conversations that are related to their business.

For example, a veterinary practice could set up a Facebook group for dog lovers. A graphic design firm could set up a group for sharing best practices around logo creation. A grocery store could create a group to talk about recipes that include ingredients that are on sale that week.

To get a sense for what groups already exist, do a search within Facebook on a subject you’re interested in. You may be surprised by the depth and breadth of groups that are out there. See if you can come up with one that doesn’t already exist.

Networking

Another free social media site designed for business professionals is LinkedIn. You certainly want to be sure you have a professional LinkedIn profile created, so that potential customers can check you out. It’s a stealth research tool many businesses use.

Once you have your profile set up, be sure and share links to articles and blog posts you write there, too. And ask to connect with other businesses in your industry and individuals you’d like to have as clients.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

When potential customers go looking for businesses like yours online, you want to be sure that your company shows up on the first page of Google results. If it doesn’t, the odds of your business being found go way, way down. Most people don’t look at the results beyond that first page.

To improve your standing in Google results, register for a free account at SEMrush, to be able to conduct keyword research. With an account, you can perform 10 keyword searches a day at no charge. If you need more than that, you may want to consider paying for a subscription.

Keywords and phrases are the words your target customer uses to look for your products and services. You want to find out what they are so that you can use them on your website and in your blog posts, to help Google see that your business does what your prospects are after. Matching your verbiage to what prospects are searching for is what search engine optimization is all about.

For example, if you own a restaurant in Boston, MA, you may want to see whether more people are searching for “restaurant in Boston” or “restaurant in Back Bay” (a neighborhood in Boston) online. Or maybe “Italian restaurant in New England” or “Boston eatery.” Once you discover what wording most people are using, use the same terminology to describe what you’re offering.

Video

The percentage of information we now get from videos has skyrocketed in recent years. More people are watching TED Talks and instructional content as well as vlogs—video versions of blog posts—than ever before.

YouTube is the main video platform, which is free to post on. You can upload your own videos related to your company, such as product demonstrations, trouble-shooting instructions, or recent presentations made, for example.

You can also create your own YouTube channel and invite your audience to subscribe, so that they never miss future videos you post.

All for free. 

Low-Cost

In addition to the free promotional tools available, there are a few that are extremely useful but that will cost you a few bucks. Nothing crazy, but also not free.

Blogging

One of the best ways to get Google’s attention is to regularly post new content to your website. The easiest way to do that is through blogging, or writing and uploading short articles of interest to your target customers.

To do that, you’ll want to add a “blog” navigation tab to your website that is linked to WordPress.org. WordPress is a fairly easy-to-use blogging platform. While there is a free version you could use (at WordPress.com), don’t. Go with the paid WordPress version that offers the option to add apps that will attract more eyeballs to your blog. You also pay for hosting of your website and for the URL you want to direct people to.

If you need help setting up a website or attaching a blog, SUMY Designs may be able to help. SUMY has low-cost website templates available that will get you up-and-running quickly design-wise. You’ll still have to provide your own copy and images, but they can design the back end.

Newsletter

As you start to build a customer base, it’s a good idea to communicate with your prospects and clientele regularly. Sending informational emails in the form of a newsletter to their inbox is one way to do that, as long as you have their permission.

There are a couple of companies with systems that will help you manage your customer database and format and send newsletters out. One is Constant Contact and the other is MailChimp.

My sense is that Constant Contact may be easier to use, or at least you get more hand-holding, while MailChimp may be less expensive but require more of your time to become familiar with how it works.

Getting Started

Don’t feel like you need to immediately use all of these marketing tools. You don’t.

Start slowly and check out each one to be sure it’s going to help you build your business. Rank in order of priority which tool is going to make the most difference for your company.

For example, if you don’t have a website, put that near the top. You can’t start blogging or directing members of the media to learn more about you if you don’t have a website.

A newsletter, on the other hand, is something you can put off until you have, say, a mailing list of at least 100 customers and prospects.

Video, however, you can create even without a website.

But before you go spending tons of money on paid advertising or pricey promotions, invest your time in exploring these budget-friendly alternatives.

8 Government Resources to Help Women Business Owners

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Believe it or not, the US government wants your small business to be successful. That’s because small businesses are a major growth engine for the US economy, so it’s in the government’s best interest to help new companies get started and to support existing businesses in need of guidance or capital.

As of 2018, 30.2 million small businesses—defined for this report as companies with fewer than 500 employees—comprised 99.9% of all US businesses, according to the “2018 Small Business Profile” published by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

To keep the economy strong, the government recognizes that it needs to help small businesses thrive. It does that in a number of ways, through a variety of organizations. Some are government agencies and others are nonprofits that are partially funded by government agencies. All provide free or low-cost services to help with starting and growing your business. Here are 8 places to check out:

America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)

Funded in part by Congress and supported by US colleges and universities, SBDCs provide small businesses with free counseling and low-cost services. Many businesses use them for problem-solving, help finding resources, and networking. Check to find your local SBDC.

Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC)

For advice and guidance in how to land the US government as a client, make an appointment with your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Get free one-on-one counseling to help set yourself up for success and identify potential government clients through matchmaking events sponsored through your PTAC.

Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC)

Though a non-profit, rather than a government agency, the Association of Women’s Business Centers is recommended by the SBA. The organization manages 100 centers nationwide dedicated to encouraging and supporting female entrepreneurs. The directory at the site of local women’s business centers is a good starting point for consulting and guidance.

Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO)

This agency oversees the US government’s efforts to support women business owners through counseling, mainly. It is an office within the Small Business Administration.

Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)

Sign up for mentoring, locate a consultant who can advise you with a particular business challenge you’re facing, or register for a live or recorded webinar or course through SCORE’s website.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The federal government agency dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start and grow their ventures is the Small Business Administration. Through it many other agencies and programs are funded, so this is a good place to start. At the SBA website you can find resources, take free online courses, and explore the various funding options for which you may qualify.

Women’s Business Centers (WBC)

Run by the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, WBCs nationwide work with women business owners to level the playing field in starting and running their firms. Use the map to locate the WBC nearest you.

Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)

Though not a government agency, WBENC is a powerhouse when it comes to certifying women business owners. It is particularly helpful if your goal is to supply major corporations. Get certified, for a fee, attend a conference, and network with fellow women business owners through WBENC.

These organizations exist, and most are funded, specifically to help women business owners get the information and guidance they need to scale and succeed. While leaders within these organizations may refer you elsewhere, start here to see what you can get for free first.

June Amber Grant Awarded to RoHo

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

On Wednesday, we announced five June Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re thrilled to share the recipient and the qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Caleigh Hernandez, Founder of RoHo. Our in-depth interview includes Caleigh’s motivation behind RoHo, her goals as a social enterprise focused on marginalized women in East Africa, and so much more.

WN: Share the journey and motivation behind RoHo.

CH: I’ve always been committed to making a difference, especially in the lives of marginalized women. Never did I think that would lead to shoes! I have worked for nonprofits across East Africa, and while their missions were noble, I found my true calling in a craft market in Uganda.

I first came across a pair of beautiful beaded leather sandals while in a craft market in East Africa. I was interning for a local nonprofit in rural Uganda and desperate for some fun, so I thought retail therapy was in order. These craft areas aren’t known for being the most glamorous. They’re dark and a little dingy, rarely have electricity, imagine cracked concrete floors… things like that. But I remember looking over my shoulder because something caught my eye, and it was a pair of gorgeous, glittering, unique beaded leather sandals. And at that moment I was hooked. There was incredible potential to share these with Western markets while doing something meaningful. It took me a year to map out the East African sandal industry and find the highest quality sandal manufacturers in areas with high need.

I first came across our primary sandal supplier, Lydia in Kampala, Uganda after weeks of shopkeepers in the city telling me to look for this woman. “Not the skinny Lydia, she’s a big woman, the Kenyan. You’ll know her when you see her”. So after hours of searching, three motorcycle taxis taking me to the wrong part of the city, and several minutes of me cursing my inability to speak Lugandan and Swahili fluently, I finally found her.

I can only imagine the sight I presented upon arrival – a disheveled, sweaty college student, trying desperately to explain to her how much I loved her shoes, wanting to learn more. And yet we clicked right away. My Swahili and Lugandan might not have been up to muster and her English wasn’t perfect, but we made it work. Beautiful shoes are universal.

We sat on tiny wooden stools in one of her pop up craft shops speaking for close to two hours. I explained my idea about importing her shoes to the United States and creating a social enterprise, she told me about coastal Kenya where the shoes are made, her background as a single mother, the artisans she works with and the intricacies of sandal making. And so the business relationship and friendship started, in a slightly unorthodox manner — and yet it’s worked. I stayed in contact with Lydia and started working on developing a sandal line with her that would work for consumers in the US. That was the beginning of RoHo.

RoHo in Swahili means spirit or kindness and that’s our commitment. We are committed to making social change and we do this in three ways:

1. Beautiful products. Each product is handcrafted and hand tooled using the finest materials available in East Africa. The craftsmanship that goes into a pair of these shoes (and other products) is absolutely incredible! We’re committed to ensuring our artisans are making the highest quality products and consumers see them in the same light, as works of art. Through RoHo products, we tell our artisans’ stories and the situation of those born into poverty in East Africa.

2. Ethical work. We’re committed to our artisans and their well-being through consistent and steady employment. We pay our artisans wages far higher than the industry standard and ensure they’re working in a safe environment. So they have more opportunities in their lives and are less vulnerable to household shocks. Additionally, we provide our artisans with education grants to send their children to quality schools in the area. We are proud to state that we are currently sending 16 children to school, and are only getting started.

3. Economic Empowerment. We’re working to break the cycle of poverty by helping people help themselves. We’re creating opportunities in a place where there are few (unemployment rates can be as high as 30%). By ensuring our artisans are being paid fair wages, we’re breaking the cycle of poverty immediately. By sending our artisans’ children to quality schools, we’re working to break the cycle of poverty in the long term as well. We want to ensure our artisans’ children are able to fulfill their potential.

RoHo’s current line includes: 10 women’s sandals styles and 2 children’s sandal styles handmade by artisans in coastal Kenya, coin purses and reusable bags handmade by a Fair Trade women’s cooperative in Nairobi, traditional beaded jewelry handmade by a Fair Trade women’s cooperative outside of Amboseli National Park, and a line of cowhide totes, clutches & journals handmade by an ethical leather workshop in Nairobi.

We’re frequently updating the line with new designs and styles made by these artisans. We started with 42 artisans and have now partnered with over 400, 95% of which are women.

WN: How do you go about partnering with artisans?

CH: It’s my time working in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania that have really led to my understanding of local contexts, quality products and promising artisan groups that make RoHo possible. We partner with women’s cooperatives, nonprofits, and women-owned artisan groups that have a social mission built in or have a way in which we can collaborate. The products have to be beautiful and unique, but above all else, there has to be good communication and a willingness to grow and adapt together. In this business, relationships are everything. And I see it as my responsibility to listen to the needs of our artisans, often listening for things that go unsaid, and ensuring the impact we’re making is real and continues to expand.

Maimuna, a sandal artisan on the coast of Kenya, is a great example for me for how RoHo can really shape the life of a talented artisan. She is an incredible beader whose designs and quality are always top notch. She always shows up to work and is a consistent and quiet presence in the workshop. The more time I spent with the sandal artisans, the more I came to realize what institutional memory she brings to the workshop and that all our other beaders look to her for reassurance.

Maimuna is also a single mother of three children and has the smallest home of anyone in the workshop. She was struggling financially, especially to send her children to school. Her two eldest children are twins in secondary school, and the school fees were proving prohibitive. She herself only has a primary school education, but she’s committed to sending her children to school. I’m proud to say that we’re now sending all three of her children to school and they are thriving. Because school fees are no longer a burden, Maimuna has more flexibility to spend money on fixing up her home and ensuring there’s quality food on their table. This is why we do what we do! So women like Maimuna have the opportunity to help themselves — and ensure they’re making a better life for their children.

WN: What are your plans for the June Amber Grant?

CH: I recently returned from an exciting trip to Kenya, where we began the process of pursuing a new sandal style, a four strap slide. This trip was largely focused on quality control and production of this new shoe (and a few other meetings and projects). My relationships with our artisans and the quality of our products has never felt stronger. I’m more motivated than ever by the beautiful work that our artisans are creating, and this shoe is the perfect fit and challenge for our artisans’ skills. This four strap style is beautiful, elegant, and matches the simple and clean aesthetic of our ideal clients. It feels like we’re going to knock it out of the park moving in this direction with our sandal style. And the more sandals we sell, the more artisans we can employ and the more consistent work we can provide!

I’m investing $1,500 in finalizing, shipping and photographing this new shoe style. And then spending an additional $500 marketing it through our social media channels, including Facebook and Instagram ads. This is a new direction for our company that’s really going to resonate with a wide audience — we just need to get it out there!

WN: What advice would you give an aspiring female entrepreneur?

CH: Too often I let my perfectionism and fear of failure lead to inaction, and I don’t want others to do the same! Especially for women, we often attribute successes to external factors and failures to internal qualities, which I’ve found prevents us from really going for what we want. The fear of failure in a business is no reason to stop you from taking a leap of faith! I’ve found that reframing “failures” as learning opportunities has made all the difference.

You just have to accept that you’ll never be 100% prepared for everything and that’s okay. Ask for help and surround yourself with supportive, knowledgeable and impressive women.

June 2019 Amber Grant Finalists

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Before the Holiday arrives, we’re delighted to share 5 finalists for the June Amber Grant. The recipient will join 6 businesses currently in the running for our year-end Amber Grant of $25,000.

Expect the recipient to be announced within the next 7 days. Until then, congratulations to:

Momgeni

Website

 

RoHo

Website

 

Squiggle Park

Website

 

Mau Loa Learning

Website

Baubles and Soles

Website

 

Have a happy and safe 4th of July.

-The WomensNet Team

Tips from Fundera for Creating a Strong Video for its Zach Grant Program

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Fundera’s Nicolas Straut was happy to answer questions about the company’s $2,500 Zach Grant program for small businesses.

But before we get there, let’s look at their process, per Fundera’s website:

How to Apply:

1. Like and follow Fundera on Facebook.

2. Record a 3 minute video responding to the question: “Why did you start your own business?”

3. Publish the video to your YouTube channel with the following title: “Fundera Zach Grant — Your Business Name.”

4. Email your video to content@fundera.com from your business email.

5. Post the video to your social networks.

Note that the deadline to apply is January 1, 2020. The winner will be announced on February 1, 2020.

Best of luck to those of you who apply.

WN: Would you give us some history on Fundera’s Zach grant program? Why was it created? 

NS: The Zach Grant is named after Zach Weprin, the cousin of Fundera CEO Jared Hecht, who inspired Jared to start Fundera to help small business owners access the right financial solution for their business when Zach had difficulty accessing traditional financing for his business, Fusian. The Zach Grant was created to offer additional funds to small businesses to help them succeed.

The competition also offers an opportunity for the public to learn more about the interesting stories of small business’s origins.

WN: Are there particular types of businesses that Fundera is looking to support, or that have a better chance of winning? 

NS: All small businesses that apply are considered equally!

WN: How important is the quality of the video entry in moving on within the competition? 

NS: Quality is one of three main judging criteria. Once we’ve determined that an entry has followed other criteria like answering the question, we will judge the video by its quality, originality, and creativity.

WN: Is quality worth 33% of the scoring – or more? 

NS: Yes, each is valued as 33% of the total.

WN: What advice would you offer applicants to help them submit the best video application possible? 

NS: I would recommend that applicants review entries from previous years by Googling or YouTube-searching “Fundera Zach Grant” and considering what unique qualities the best videos possess.

I would also recommend practicing the script for your video in advance and attempting to make your video as high quality as possible (good lighting, editing).

WN: What does “originality” mean? Are you looking for a creative approach to how the video is shot, or something else? 

NS: Originality is distinct from creativity in that the video is something different from what we’ve seen in the past. Presenting the origins of your business in a unique inventive way will score you originality points.

WN: And does “creativity” refer to the business idea or to the filming of the video? 

NS: Creativity refers to the video itself and delivery of your answer to the competition question. Any business can win the competition regardless of what they sell or offer if they abide by the competition rules and create a high-quality, inventive video.

WN: Thinking about past winners, what would you say they have in common as entrepreneurs? 

NS: I think the commonality between entrepreneurs that have won in the past is that they were able to concisely describe why they started their own business and where it’s headed in a high-quality format while abiding by the rules of the competition. To win the grant, make sure to follow the rules, answer the question comprehensively, and be inventive and professional in your delivery.

 

May Amber Grant Awarded to Synaptek

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Last week, we announced five May Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re delighted to share the recipient and the qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Kate Van Pelt, Co-Founder of Synaptek. In our interview below, Kate reveals how and why she’s entering the concussion care space, shares excellent advice for female entrepreneurs and more.

WN: What led you to create Synaptek?

KVP: Synaptek is a culmination of my personal experience playing ice hockey and studying concussions for my PhD. I grew up playing ice hockey and saw first-hand the negative impact of concussions during those years, which motivated me to become a scientist studying concussions.

During my PhD, I studied why certain people were more at risk for a concussion and what factors influence someone’s recovery after a concussion. During this study I was fortunate to work with many colleges and U.S. military service academies. I was surprised to see how much clinicians struggled with concussion data management. In a time when most healthcare is being digitized, much of concussion-related care is still completed with pen and paper. This is a problem because concussion management is complicated, requiring multiple tests per athlete per year. Without a digital system, all this concussion data becomes a large burden for clinicians to manage and interpret.

Therefore, I came up with the idea for Synaptek, a concussion data management system. Synaptek will address the issues clinicians have with concussion testing and data management by digitizing the currently recommended concussion tests. By putting the concussion tests onto a tablet system we solve three problems: 1) We can ensure proper administration of tests, 2) Clinicians will directly enter data into an electronic system, 3) Data will be accessible to clinicians anywhere and anytime they need access. We believe this core feature of Synaptek will reduce clinician burden, saving them time and money. Most importantly, we believe Synaptek with further improve athlete safety. However, my vision for Synaptek is not just to digitize the status quo. We will leverage my scientific and statistical background to drive new innovations related to concussion care and recovery. We will use the data collected via Synaptek to better understand concussions and how we can improve an athlete’s recovery. Synaptek will drive innovation and hopefully guide the future of concussion care and management.

Luckily, Synaptek is not just my vision. My co-founders are my husband, Doug Van Pelt and our friend James McCollum. Doug and James have been invaluable assets to the Synaptek team. Doug brings his expertise in exercise science and also has his PhD. We will be working together to apply for SBIR grants and other funding mechanisms. Additionally, he will help develop Synaptek’s system to track recovery after a concussion. James is an award winning product manager who has extensive experience with user experience within healthcare, athletic, and government industries. James has thrown himself into developing our Synaptek prototypes and our marketing strategy. We are excited to be working together to get Synaptek into the hands of clinicians.

WN: Are there certain partnerships you’re pursuing? More broadly, how are you marketing Synaptek?

KVP: We are currently working with local athletic trainers, organizations, and physicians to test out Synaptek prototypes. Recently, we demonstrated Synaptek to members of the Kentucky Athletic Trainers’ Society. The athletic trainers and physicians at this meeting discussed with us their difficulties with concussion management. These discussions highlight the problems we want Synaptek to solve. We are still seeking out any clinicians that deal with concussion management to hear and learn from their experiences. This process will ensure we build Synaptek as a tool that addresses the needs of our clinicians. While Synaptek is research-based, it is clinician-driven.

This process has resonated with the clinicians we have met. They appreciate the time and thought we are putting into building Synaptek. The time we take to discuss Synaptek with clinicians will be a part of our marketing strategy because we feel that this process is one aspect that makes us unique.

WN: How are you monetizing the platform?

KVP: Synaptek will charge institutions like colleges, high schools, or professional team for Synaptek. Synaptek will be a subscription-based service, which will ensure that Synaptek can be scaled for athletic programs of all sizes.

WN: What are your plans for the grant funds?

KVP: First, we are grateful and honored to the Amber Award recipient for May 2019. We are inspired by the work of current and previous Amber grant winners and are excited to share Synaptek with the WomensNet community.

The monthly and annual Amber grant awards would help Synaptek meet our upcoming milestones. The monthly $2,000 grant is going to support beta testing of Synaptek with a local university and possibly local high schools. More specifically, these funds will enable us to purchase server space to host the data we collect, purchase software for the development of the Synaptek platform, and hire developer time to build a beta version of Synaptek for testing. Additionally, a portion will be used for networking with potential customers, investors, and advisors.

The annual $25,000 grant would enable us to further develop the digital Synaptek platform and obtain our first customers. In addition to further software development fees and networking, the $25,000 award will fund travel to the 2020 National Athletic Trainer’s convention. Attending the 2020 National Athletic Trainer’s convention will allow us to have a vendor booth at the largest athletic trainers conference. This exposure will demonstrate to a massive set of potential customers the Synaptek platform and how Synaptek will address their concussion care needs.

WN: What advice would you give an aspiring female entrepreneur?

KVP: My biggest piece of advice would be to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being an entrepreneur forces you to wear a lot of hats and learn a lot of new skills. These roles and duties can be out of your comfort zone but you are absolutely capable to taking on these challenges and succeeding. Pushing yourself to be okay with doing things that make you uncomfortable will open more doors and possibilities you could ever imagine. To help you push open these doors, build a community of fellow entrepreneurs and mentors that you can learn from, lean on, and support. Knowing you are not the only one experiencing a problem can empower you to tackle whatever challenge is in front of you.

I had to learn to be comfortable with testing out my idea for Synaptek. For a while I was afraid to let anyone know about my idea because I was worried they would think it wasn’t viable. However, I learned and realized I had to think more like the scientist I am. I had to be okay with making a hypothesis about my company, testing this hypothesis, and evaluating whether I was on the right track. I quickly saw how valuable this process was. My perspective quickly changed, and fear turned into passion. Instead of being afraid of criticism, I welcomed it. Because understanding someone’s criticism is just a tool to make Synaptek even better.