No one can be a success without getting help along the way. A well-connected network will help you get there faster.
Ali Brown built a coaching and consulting business under her name ranked in the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies. As an EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women, she benefited from the program, which provides ambitious women entrepreneurs with the advice, resources, and access they need to unlock their full potential.
Brown’s original mission—helping women scale their businesses—remains the same, but she’s added a new tool to her toolbox—peer advisory groups. It’s called The Trust. It’s the group’s power, the advisors, and Brown that’s helping high-growth, high-revenue women entrepreneurs grow their businesses bigger and faster.
“According to the 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Business,* the two fastest-growing segments of women-owned businesses were those under $25,000 and over $1 million,” Brown noticed. Many events cater to women at the early stages, but few for established, multi-million dollar businesses. The momentum at the high-end of the spectrum is where Brown decided to focus.
Brown’s been privy to and has benefited from some exclusive circles of the most successful women entrepreneurs. She noticed that their conversations have been changing. No longer do they want to fit into the way men do business. They want to do business in a way that is a reflection of who they are.
“There’s not just a gap in revenue between women- and men-owned businesses, but their networks,” said Brown. “Once you hit seven figures, you need to be part of a different circle.” “The challenges you face are different. For the most part, the networks that serve these million-dollar-plus businesses are male-dominated.”
“Originally, women had to fit into the men’s model of doing things,” said Brown. Now, women want to do things their way. “They are not interested in building a business at the sacrifice of everything else in their life.” They want growth for their business while staying involved with their families. Women-owned businesses are more likely to be mission-driven. Their “why” or purpose acts as their North Star, lighting the path to success. It helps their business be more resilient during turbulent times.
Her coaching clients were asking Brown, “where should I go to network?” Even after her recommendations, they would inevitably come back and tell Brown to put together a group because she attracted a different breed of women entrepreneurs.
“I’m about to turn 50,” she said. “What could I create that will be around long after I’m gone?” she wondered. Brown still works privately with clients. The Trust is a different format. It’s not coaching or training. It’s about the power of networks to provide answers to questions and connections to resources. Casting a wide networking net is the most significant source of new ideas, information, and opportunities.
Being part of the Winning Women program was transformational for Brown. She was surrounded by women who were as ambitious as she was. The women in her cohort shared and bonded. The women that came before her and after her became a resource to each other. To this day, Brown relies on this network. It wasn’t just the relationships with peers that benefited her. It was advisors who suggested to her to think outside the box. One advisor challenged her to think about buying companies and licensing her technology.
Brown is no stranger to pivoting to match not just her vision but how she would implement it based on changing market conditions and her personal needs. She pioneered the coaching of women entrepreneurs. Over time the space became very crowded. She also had twins and didn’t want to do as much traveling as she had been doing.
Changing the company’s business model, she moved away from events and large group coaching to working one-on-one with clients. “They have ongoing access to me, or we work together for a single day,” she said. She also launched Glambition Radio, featuring prominent female founders and leaders.
Women in The Trust expressed to Brown how tired they were of being the only women in the room. They wanted high-level discussions in which they felt comfortable asking questions. They also wanted to discuss unique challenges: being the breadwinner in their families, having their husbands work for them, and managing child- and elder-care—especially during the pandemic.
Since starting The Trust in 2020, Brown has been excited by the advisory function members play for each other. At a recent Zoom meeting, one member mentioned that she wanted to start investing in real estate. Another member offered a suggestion about how to do it. If the expertise isn’t in the room, referrals to resources are made.
The Trust is new and a work in progress. Brown is using her listening skills to shape how it will evolve. “I’m good at listening,” she emphasized. “I’m good at sensing things that are unsaid. I get to the real issues leaving space for magic to happen.”
The format right now is monthly zoom meetings, with guest advisors every quarter, and a private app that the women use to keep in touch. The app has been a great tool to stay in touch in between meetings. In addition, two retreats are held each year. At retreats, a successful entrepreneur, such as Kara Goldin—founder and CEO at Hint, who is also Winning Women—addresses the group.
How will you expand your network?