The economic, political, and social environment around us changes and affects our decisions and behavior, but we, in adapting to these changes, in turn create even more changes in the environment. As business owners, how do we navigate the unknown, and succeed and thrive in this rapidly changing environment? WBEC-West’s first event of the year, “Changing the Landscape: The New Rules of Power and Influence,” answers that question. Held on February 2, 2017 at City Club Los Angeles, the WBEC-West Breakfast Panel Discussion provided WBEs with the wonderful opportunity to learn how they can both adapt to and drive change, as well as leverage leadership skills to overcome challenges.
Barbara Oliver, publisher of Minority Business Entrepreneur (MBE) magazine, was also an attendee and spoke about the advertising opportunities that the magazine offers. As an award-winning national, trade publication for and about minority and women business owners, the MBE magazine has been a powerful marketing tool for WBEs. Its annual “WBEs Who Rock” contest, an award program that recognizes WBEs not in the spotlight, has been instrumental in helping WBEs increase visibility.
Organized by the WBEC-West LA Forum Chair Ronda Jackson, Senior Vice Chair Athena Chiera, and Vice Chair Caron Ng, the discussion featured four panel guests, all powerhouse female leaders. They were invited to share the core principles that motivate each of them to do what they do, and how they created changes in their respective industry as successful business owners.
Theresa Armour, Owner of Burke Williams Day Spa
When Theresa and her husband Bill Armour opened the first Burke Williams Day Spa in 1984, the modern day spas as we know it did not exist in the US – they created the infrastructure and laid down the foundations for future day spas to come. Burke Williams – “The Original Modern Day Spa” – was a result of remarkable determination and commitment.
On what inspired and still motivates her today to open the first day spa, Theresa shared: “I want to heal, unify, and transform. I want to create a safe space for people; a space of shelter, grace, and caring.” As the industry flourishes, others are bound to follow suit. After the day spa experience became popularized in California by Burke Williams, numerous other day spa companies opened, which presented a formidable challenge for Theresa on how to react to their competition. She shared, “You have to be adaptable and flexible when navigating the unknown.” To stand out from their competition, Burke Williams defined themselves as a luxury brand, synonymous with “elegance and refinement.” In addition, they created the Burke Williams Academy of Massage to train their own massage therapists, marking themselves as the true innovators and experts in the spa and massage industry.
Barbara Dugas-Patterson, Managing Director, Real Estate Executive – Head of Real Estate Services at JP Morgan Chase
As a banking executive in the banking and real estate industry – a male-dominated environment – Barbara understands and preaches the importance of tenacity and courage. “Some days are just hard,” She said, “We just have to be willing to put work in.” In addition to being a seasoned executive experienced in business development, risk management, leasing, transaction management and all aspects of commercial real estate lending asset and portfolio management, she is a committed public speaker, mentor to many women, and global leader of women’s and diversity initiatives. On what drives her to do what she does, Barbara said she is passionate about helping people become who they are created to be. By challenging others to challenge themselves to be the best they can be, she helps them achieve what they never thought they were capable of.
Lily Otieno-Quiette, CEO of Infinity Business Solutions
The “why we do what we do,” the motivation behind our actions, Lily said, “is always derived from who you are.” The “why” never changes – it is the way we approach it and the steps we take to achieve our goals that do. On how to build a successful business and become a person of influence, Lily gives these words of advice: “Build your brand. You want to make sure your brand is there, that someone is always saying something positive about you.” The focus on the you is what matters – “Be very intentional; know exactly what it is you want to achieve.” Define your metrics based on who YOU are – just because something works for somebody else does not mean it is right for you.
Audrey Bellis, Founder of StartUp DTLA
Audrey Bellis’ company Startup DTLA prides itself as being the epicenter of Downtown LA tech that works in partnership with Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Jose Huizar. As a community resource center, it assists companies and creative entrepreneurs to find office space, host a city central calendar of events and hold the largest index of known tech companies in downtown. “We help people remove barriers to success so that we can create communities that thrive,” Audrey said, “If you are only surviving, it is impossible to thrive.” And to thrive, you need space, access to capital, and community; after all, we only exist in relation to other people.
On how to be a person of influence and build a successful business, she shared, “You need consistency, integrity, and culture. They need to be the essence of everything a business does.” Ask yourself: what makes you a worthy person? What do you feel worthy of? Finally, Audrey reminded us, “You cannot raise your company’s net worth without raising your self worth first.”