The OneKC for Women "Entrepreneurs Grow Here" Campaign
OneKC for Women is celebrating the power and influence of women throughout the Kansas City Metro area. Our campaign, is designed to build awareness of the importance of women in business — for the entrepreneurs, their employees and our community — and to bring attention to the resources OneKC for Women offers to women at all stages of their professional life.
Below are the women business owners featured in our campaign. Please take a moment to read about their perspectives on OneKC for Women and entrepreneurship.
The Simmons sisters, Casey and Sloane, are the owners of STUFF, an award-winning Kansas City small business and one of the country’s top-sellers of handmade arts. Casey and Sloane are both passionate entrepreneurs and recognized community advocates. OneKC for Women is proud of their support and participation in our women entrepreneur campaign. We visited with Casey and Sloane about entrepreneurship.
Why do women make good entrepreneurs?
Sloane — “Women can juggle many things at one time. We are far better at doing everything at once and keeping a lot going. In business, we put out fires faster and can forecast things in advance.”
Casey — “Women are very adaptable, smart, passionate and compassionate. These are all qualities you need to run a business. It’s not all profit and loss and balance sheets. It’s also about making decisions from a gut instinct. Women are uniquely equipped for working from their heart.”
What challenges do women face in owning a business?
Sloane — “Financing, and being taken seriously when acquiring a loan. Some lenders (not ours!) have listened politely, then asked, ‘Now, what does your husband do?’”
How and why did you become an entrepreneur?
Casey — “We grew up in a family of small business owners and visionaries. They saw ways to build their own careers. It simply never occurred to me that I couldn’t start a business. You just go for it. The key is the ability to see something whole and complete — a three-dimensional view. I think you know it’s something worth doing because you’re passionate enough about it that it won’t go away. If you have the willingness to work and believe deeply in something, you can do it.”
Why do you support the OneKC Alliance for Women?
Casey — “I’ve been involved in, and deeply care for, the work of the Women’s Employment Network [a member of the OneKC Alliance]. I believe OneKC is becoming one of the most remarkable resources for women in Kansas City. The ultimate vision is to help a woman be re-integrated into the workforce, be successful, become a small business owner, and then help other women.”
Sloane — “It’s extremely important that women learn from other women. I believe it’s crucial to empower women to take advice, and to become comfortable in all settings, in all arenas, in every business environment. It’s tremendously satisfying to work for yourself and make a life for yourself and your family.”
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Casey Simmons began volunteer work in her 20s and eventually served on boards of local women's shelters. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Textile & Apparel Program at Metropolitan Community College. Everyday she focuses on raising funds and awareness for the AIDS Service Foundation, Susan Henke Miller Cancer Research Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and her daughter’s school, St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School.
Sloane Simmons served for eight years on the board of the AIDS Service Foundation of Greater Kansas City, including her two terms as president of the board. She now serves on the board of directors of the Kansas City CARE Clinic, the Chancellor’s Advisory Board to the Women’s Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and on the executive committee of the Friends of Art Council at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Visit pursuegoodstuff.com and STUFF’s retail location at 316 W. 63rd St., Kansas City, Missouri.
Angela Hurt, founder and CEO of Veracity Solutions, Inc.
Angela created a dynamic information technology firm widely recognized as a thought leader in IT consulting services. She was most recently awarded the Women’s Professional Firm of the Year by the Kansas Department of Commerce. For Angela the word “veracity” — honesty, integrity and truthfulness — is an apt description of the firm’s commitment to individual solutions for each client. OneKC for Women is pleased to count Angela among our most valued supporters.
How did you become a business owner and entrepreneur?
First, it’s in my blood. My father worked for himself, so I grew up watching and learning from him. When I entered the workforce, I discovered that I was much happier as an employee of a small firm, wearing many hats, than working for a large company. I get bored very easily, so I knew starting a business was what I wanted to do.
Do you think women make good entrepreneurs? Why?
I do. I’ve met many great women business owners. All women are different, of course, but I find we are all heartfelt in our styles of leadership. Women seem to have an innate need to put their inner sense of purpose to work to help others. Nurturing a business is just like nurturing anything else. I know I’m only as good as my people. I simply want to treat others the way I want to be treated.
What unique challenges do owning a business present?
I’m not a finance person, so – particularly in the beginning – overcoming the fears associated with risk management and cash flow were significant. And as a relationship person, it’s been tough to make difficult personnel decisions.
How did you become a supporter of the OneKC for Women Alliance?
I came to the alliance through the Women’s Business Center. I had incorporated Veracity and was in the process of launching the business. At WBC I learned I was farther along [with the business] than I thought, and was matched with a strategic planner to address my questions. The business was going well, and soon after that I was invited to join a CEO roundtable through Women’s Capital Connection.
How have you remained involved with OneKC for Women?
I support the Women’s Employment Network – it’s just a fantastic organization. And I’ve conducted mock interviews for women. [Through WBC], I’ve been paired as a mentor for other businesswomen, and Veracity is a host fundraiser and participant of the Reach for the Stars event. If there is a way we can help, we’re there.
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Angela Hurt started her career in the IT consulting field in 1999 learning all aspects of the business. She worked for national firms and made her way into solutions based selling, learning how to solve business problems for her client partners, before starting Veracity Consulting, Inc. When she’s not working she is often golfing, playing rugby, tennis, or running marathons. As a single mom, she’s rarely without her son by her side and enjoys cheering him on in his own athletic pursuits.
Lenora Payne, Founder & President of Technology Group Solutions, LLC (TGS)
TGS provides a full spectrum of information technology infrastructure solutions with a customer centric philosophy. The company was recognized as the 2013 Top 10 Small Businesses by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and Payne was a 2013 Central Midwest Finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year. While growing its client base, TGS has also grown its community footprint, supporting Project Warmth, Saint Luke’s Foundation, NFL Alumni “Caring for Kids” and other groups. Payne serves on committees for the Mid-America Minority Supplier Development Council and is involved with the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Women President’s Organization.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
After more than 30 years of working for various companies I noticed a change in the industry — businesses had forgotten about being loyal to customers. And I saw a shortage of qualified, seasoned, minority and women-owned IT companies. I soon discovered that Kansas City businesses were eager to open their doors to support local companies and local jobs.
How do you maintain success?
You must meet or exceed the expectations of customers at all times. I still go out and talk to our customers on a regular basis. I can’t go out and talk to every customer, so it’s important to communicate my vision to the team and they duplicate it. That’s how we’re successful.
Do you think women make good business owners and managers? Why?
Of course we do! Women see a different side [of people]. In general, women value relationships. As a result, we’ve grown through word of mouth.
What challenges do women face in owning a business?
It’s still hard to get through the door. In the IT field, some people simply don’t think women are highly qualified. But, things are changing. Once you’re “in” you’ve got to prove yourself. Proving yourself to a client can lead to a referral. It’s about being persistent.
How did you learn about One KC for Women? Why do you support the alliance?
As a minority woman starting her own business, it was hard to know where to go for help. I visited the Women’s Business Center and completed the Kauffman FastTrac Growth Venture program. I support OneKC because it’s a valuable resource. The women I’ve met support each other. I like to run things by someone else, get an outside opinion, and make sure I’m doing it the right way. It’s good to hear feedback and discover that other women have the same issues.
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Lenora Payne began her career in the word processing data equipment field. She also has experience in operations management, employee training, sales support and human resources. Prior to her founding TGS, Payne held positions at GE Capital Information Technology Solutions, MicroAge Computer Center, and other IT resellers, in various senior positions. Payne has attended the Kellogg School of Management and received various sales and technical certifications in the field of Information Technology.