Achieving Growth in Unexpected Places
Aquila Leon-Soon, WE NYC Mentor
Aquila Leon-Soon - Advance Talent Solutions Inc.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were close to 10 million women-owned business in 2012, of which 89.5% had only one employee: the owner. From industries such as education services to healthcare, women entrepreneurs have found success without hiring employees. However, I wanted to take the road less traveled and grow the size of my firm.

When we wrote our initial business plan, we envisioned that our then-IT company would achieve rapid success by contracting with schools and government agencies. The IT services market was filled with both opportunities and competitors. Our employee and revenue growth strategies were well-thought-out and we were ready to take on the market. We wanted to grow the company as fast as possible because we felt we could make a great impact providing a necessary service to organizations delivering a public good.

Like other entrepreneurs, I had big dreams for our company. I read every industry newsletter and met with successful entrepreneurs to gauge the success of my own growth.

Aquila Leon-soon

Like other entrepreneurs, I had big dreams for our company. I read every industry newsletter and met with successful entrepreneurs to gauge the success of my own growth. My key questions included: Was I on target? Could I do more? Could I become a multimillionaire in five years by selling off the business? Though it helped to hear and feel motivated by others’ stories, I learned that their approaches did not necessarily match my risk tolerance or my appetite for thinking outside the box. 

Then my business partner/husband decided to change directions. He opted out of the company during our first year in business. Without his IT expertise and now as a solopreneur, I needed to pivot our service offerings and rethink our growth plan. After some soul-searching, I decided it was time to revamp my business growth plan and align it with goals that truly reflected my entrepreneur type and vision for the company.

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In less than a year, our newly revamped business providing organizational development services achieved double-digit revenue growth. With a staff of five employees, we still haven’t achieved our full potential, but are well on our way. 

After trying various growth strategies, we found the most success with these tactics: 

  1. MWBE & WBE Certifications: Government agencies and corporations are expanding contract opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses (MWBEs). There has been a significant push to increase opportunities given to small firms certified as MBWEs. The process can be lengthy but the certification can help a firm that has been in business for at least one year increase its opportunities for growth. Our firm currently possesses public and private MWBE certifications at the local, state and federal levels. These certifications have helped our firm to gain entry into exclusive events and secure government contracts.
  2. Joint Ventures and Partnerships: Think about partnering with a business that offers similar or complementary products and services. Recently, we won three six-figure contracts by partnering with firms seeking subcontractors or partners so they could expand their ability to service clients. Some government contracts require prime contractors to subcontract a portion of the work with small businesses and/or minority or women-owned businesses. Start finding potential partners by sending an InMail through LinkedIn to a potential partner or by attending industry conferences.
  3. Temporary Staff: Startup companies often do not have the funding to hire full-time employees. Though we place temporary staff at other companies, we also use temporary staff, freelancers and consultants to support our work during the peak seasons. Contact a staffing agency to determine how you can use temporary staff as needed to grow your business.

Remember, there is no guidebook or roadmap for building and expanding your business; it’s not an exact science. Your journey to achieving growth for your business might not take the same route as the one followed by your competitor or your fellow business owners. Whether you’re a one-person shop or the leader of a 100+ staff firm, you will have to try—and sometimes fail at—multiple growth strategies that will help achieve your desired growth.