Women business owners ‘still have work to do’

Friday, July 21, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 29
By Joe Morris


Ask Jacqueline Hayes about what it’s like to be a female business owner, much less a minority female business owner, and she doesn’t mince words.

“Conditions are more favorable, but we still have work to do in that we should never be satisfied while disparities exist,” says Hayes, chief marketing strategist and owner of Crayons & Marketers, a full-service marketing company based in Nashville.

She’s had a front-row seat to female empowerment in the business community here in recent years as the city has exploded in terms of business growth, and she says there continue to be peaks and valleys.

“In some areas, there are still issues with access that men do not face,” adds Hayes, who began her company four years ago and is also immediate past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Nashville chapter.

“We are still working daily to get those opportunities that are still a little bit shielded from us, but women are more empowered, and showing that they are good leaders and entrepreneurs. We are showing that we can be wife, boss and mom.”

Organizations like Pathway WBC, which she worked with closely on multiple outreach efforts during her NAWBO tenure, helps women get the education they need about owning and operating a business, as well as providing the networking opportunities they need during those fragile early months and years.

“We need that access and connectivity, because while people point at Silicon Valley startups and say there are no women on those corporate boards, it’s really no different here in the tech area,” she explains.

“If you look at the landscape of tech here, the numbers of women in very prominent roles is still very low. For me, as a woman of color, they are almost nonexistent and that’s an issue for me.

“We have initiatives, such as Black Girls Code, but there’s so much room to grow. We must continue to be intentional about reaching out to our female and minority communities, where there is plenty of room to grow.”

Any and all industry sectors are open to women in Middle Tennessee, she notes, quickly adding that gender doesn’t matter if the basic operational skills aren’t there.

“Even in the 1980s women had to get their husband’s signature to get funding for a business,” she recalls. “The Women’s Business Ownership Act [of 1988] changed that, but it takes more than feeling empowered. We have to make sure that women across the board, of all cultures, understand how to have those financing conversations.

“They need to know how to position themselves in order to make a claim, and be successful in getting funding. But then they need to learn from other women who are in business. That’s why we have mentorship programs at Pathway, and why it’s our responsibility to make sure the next group of women have the same access that those of us already in business did when we were starting.

“The resources, connections and mentoring are there for women in Middle Tennessee. We have to show them that it’s not easy, but they can do it.”