Sue was honored be featured in the James J. Hill Center blog as part of their celebration of Women’s History Month. We are grateful for the wonderful work the Center does to further women in business and business in our state. Read the full interview below.
How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
My entrepreneurial journey began in 5th My best friend and I wanted to make money to buy Christmas presents for our family, so we sold macramé plant hangers door-to-door. We made over $500 and this experience showed me that if I was willing to work hard, there was no limit to my income or success. I’ve carried that entrepreneurial drive with me from age ten.
What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
My current business goal is to achieve best-seller status for our book, Chasing Perfection- Shatter the Illusion; Minimize Self-Doubt & Maximize Success. Along with that, we’re launching the Chasing Perfection Companion Toolkit, which includes a success journal and workbook to accompany the book. We continue to help entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses with EOS and our other work in communication, leadership development, communication and high performance. Our mission is to help leadership teams create the businesses they’ve always wanted while helping people become the leaders they’ve always wanted to be.
What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea /venture or start up?
Identify your core values, core focus, including what you do better than anyone else. Focus only on that aspect and don’t get distracted by other things, or what we call “shiny objects.” Too often businesses try to be all things to all people in the beginning and that strategy doesn’t work long term, you need to be known for one thing you’re GREAT at.
As a woman in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
I believe women have to work twice as hard in order to be considered equally. We need to be more prepared; more experienced and have better ideas in order to be seated at the table. I won’t give it much energy; I accept it and work hard to be my best. The rest takes care of itself.
What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
The women who have impacted me the most are my mother, Joyce Hawkes, and mentors Rhoda Olsen, rubye Erickson and Bettie Spruill. My mother instilled good values and a strong work ethic, and my other mentors have helped me learn what it takes to be a successful woman in business; including how to dress, how to negotiate and where I’m either hitting or missing the mark. It’s been invaluable to have mentors along the way.
What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
My advice to female entrepreneurs just getting out of the gate is to find a mentor as well as a peer group. Use these networks to learn, bounce off ideas and gain support. It can feel lonely as an entrepreneur just starting out, and a peer group will help you navigate all the situations you encounter from a holistic perspective. A mentor can provide more targeted personal perspectives.
What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
My advice would be to evaluate what worked, leave the rest behind, and above all, to persist. Most great businesses took time and encountered problems, none of which is failure. Build in practices to maintain momentum and positivity, even when faced with challenges. There’s no failure unless you quit. Pressure is the price of being at the leadership table. Pause, don’t quit.
What is different about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
In my experience the Minnesota entrepreneurial ecosystem is a very small world. I consistently uncover mutual connections with people in my network. I believe our community is eager to help each other and make useful connections to forward business with each other. I think we have an incredible business environment for those who are willing to help first and are relationship driven. I take nothing for granted and know my actions always have consequences – good or bad, people in Minnesota will know.
Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
Yes, both directly and indirectly. I admire the work the Hill center does to forward women entrepreneurs, and believe that when individual women achieve success we all benefit and move forward. Additionally, I’ve made useful connections at Hill events and been honored to speak there as well. I’ve used Hill center for some business searches and refer clients to Hill Center for searches and as an invaluable resource in growing our businesses.
What is your “superpower”?
I am truth-teller. I help people gracefully work through the tough stuff. I will say what’s on my mind even if it’s contradictory or makes others uncomfortable. I believe everyone has this superpower, but many choose not to use it (especially in Minnesota!). I believe being honest and upfront about situations stops them from becoming larger problems, and with courageous dialogue you will always find a solution. My ability to have and facilitate tough conversations is a large part of all of my work. We call it “entering the danger” and I work with teams to engage in healthy conflict for the betterment of the team and company.