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How the Sharapova Women’s Entrepreneur Program Finalists Are Learning and Growing

Several months ago, we announced the exciting launch of the Maria Sharapova Women’s Entrepreneur Program with NAWBO. The 12-month program is providing seven women entrepreneurs with a virtual educational and mentoring experience aimed at supporting individualized business and leadership growth. Here, we catch up in a Q&A with this “Spectacular Seven” to see how each is learning and growing:

The “Spectacular Seven”

Reema Dutt, LuminouStudios, NAWBO-Los Angeles
Camille Vizzavona, Birthstone Scents, NAWBO-Los Angeles
Deanna Montrose, Paraffin International, Inc., NAWBO-Phoenix
Kelly Parthen, Bean Sprouts, NAWBO-Orange County
Lindsay Wilson, Ink Factory, NAWBO-Chicago
Denise Doczy Delong, Singleton Construction, NAWBO-Columbus
Kimmi Wernli, Crazy Richards Peanut Butter Company, NAWBO-Columbus

 

What inspired you to participate in the Maria Sharapova Women's Entrepreneur Program with NAWBO?

Denise: I have been a member of NAWBO for eight years and have been exposed to ideas that have completely changed my business. As part of NAWBO, I also participate in a Columbus roundtable of women business owners and the National Circle program of women business owners. These two groups provide me an opportunity to network and learn from other women business owners. I was at an event for the National group when they announced this program. I was immediately drawn to the idea of being mentored by NAWBO and Maria Sharapova. I know that any mentoring I receive will make a big difference in my personal and professional life. I also know that I learn every time I interact with NAWBO and that any chance I can get to learn more, I should try and grab it! Also, how exciting to work with Maria Sharapova and her team!


Reema: We were at a point in our business where we saw a lot of momentum, and we wanted to capitalize on it correctly. We read and are proactive about learning and talking to others in various fields, including business, but we were reaching a point of scale where we need more structured and relatable guidance. The timing was perfect for us as the Sharapova program does exactly that. 


Kimmi: The opportunity to work with Maria and her amazing team of experts!


Camille: I heard about the program through Maria’s Instagram. Birthstone Scents is my third business and I always thought I could have done better with the two previous ones but I lacked guidance.


Deanna: I had just joined NAWBO this year because I was looking for extra support with my company as we scale. I have a team around me who is quite talented and supportive but I wanted support from female founders and businesswomen who understood some of the hardships of being a woman driving a strong business. I was told about NAWBO and once I joined, Lynda Bishop let me know about the Maria Sharapova Women’s Entrepreneur Program. Our company, Paraffin International, manufactures a sports and beauty retail product and I knew about Maria’s amazing Sugarpova line. I very much wanted to be a part of this program and to receive insight from Maria and her team was very exciting to me.  


Kelly: The opportunity to meet Maria and her support team…timing was perfect as the program coincides with our Bean Sprouts Kitchen book launch, and we get to tap into Maria’s (and her team’s) brand and marketing expertise.

 

 


What has been the most rewarding part of the program for you so far?

Denise: I get a lot of joy from interacting with my fellow participants but I would say the most rewarding part is the work I am doing with my mentor, Patty DeDominic. Patty is a very successful business owner and she is meeting with me monthly to help grow my business. The insights, ideas and strategies she is teaching me are going to get my company and I to the next level. This woman is amazing, how can it not be a monumental reward to have her focus on trying to help me grow my business! The other angle in this is elevating women business owners. I think it is such an honor to represent women business ownership in the United States and to also be a face for NAWBO. Any way I can encourage women to be in business and to be a part of NAWBO is very rewarding for me. GO TEAM NAWBO!

Reema: So far, it’s been great getting to meet, learn and understand the stories of my fellow participants (“The Spectacular Seven”, as they call us!). It just shows how unique and how similar all of our journeys are. We are all very different in terms of industry, background, stage of business, etc. so it’s great to see how many parallels exist within all those differences. In addition, the actionable and accountable guidance the program provides keeps us on track in a productive manner. It gives us specific “to-dos” that lead somewhere tangible, and that’s really important for all of us. 

Kimmi: The most rewarding part has been working with my NAWBO mentor Laura Yamanaka. 

Camille: My mentor Loreen Gilbert is outstanding and I am so honored to have been paired with her. She is super smart and the kindest. The other women from the program are also such an inspiration. I have so much to learn from them!

Deanna: The support and value they give to our group is amazing. They have a large team and they are here to assist us in our journey. They bring in experts who give us sound business advice based on experience to lead us to greater things. Maria wants to see the best for all of us and the support given is simply unbelievable. The assistance is in all areas of business, but for me, the assistance is also in driving a product line into market, which is my personal business journey.

Kelly: Meeting the other “Spectacular Seven”—such a diverse group in so many ways (ages, backgrounds, company size, product/service offerings), yet facing many similar business challenges and opportunities.

 

Have you implemented anything you've learned from the program into your business?

Denise: Yes, I am implementing several of the things Patty has taught me. For example, Patty recommends that I analyze my entire organization structure for where I want to be vs. where I am now. Basically, to identify all the areas in my structure that won’t work when I am a larger company. I am also looking for a new peer group of companies in the $100M revenue level. I need to start networking and learning from larger businesses so I can learn from them what it takes to get there. Lastly, we are getting more strategic with my time. The goal is to be very strategic with 40 percent of my time so that I make sure I am accomplishing the things to move my company forward.  

Reema: We haven’t fully implemented anything yet, but we’re having a lot of internal discussion about what the program is teaching us. For example, one of our biggest challenges as we scale is streamlining operations. I’ve had great conversations with my mentor about this and it now makes it into our team agendas. I’d say it’ll be another month or so until we put it into full use, but that’s just the normal timeline of integrating new ideas into an existing business. 

Kimmi: Both the One Page Business Plan and my mentor Laura have challenged me to dive into the mechanics and finances of my business and I have started to focus my efforts and narrow down on getting both of those areas clear and organized. 

Camille: Yes, for sure! I am using the One Page Business Plan for my business as well as for specific things I want to do with my business. I had my business partner take the personality test as well. It was super helpful. Turns out that we are super complementary! Pfeewwww!

Deanna: Yes, I am receiving great guidance and implementing the guidance given. I have made some instrumental pivots in my company based on this advice. 

Kelly: The program is really encouraging us to work “on” the business instead of “in” the business.

 

How do you hope this program will improve your business, and/or leadership as a business owner?

Denise: I am hoping this program gets Singleton exposure so that more people hear about us and how we can help their construction programs move forward. In addition, all the training and mentoring will help me make changes needed in our organization so that we can successfully grow our construction business.

Reema: We hope it helps streamline our operations, helps us scale (both financially, but also organizationally in terms of recruiting). As leaders and business owners, we hope it helps us stay focused and stay true to our vision and mission as a company. 

Kimmi: I am hopeful that my alignment with Maria Sharapova and this mentorship program through NAWBO will give my company increased exposure and will provide introductory connections to new markets. 

Camille: There are many aspects I hope this program will improve. I hope to become a better manager of people and also hope that it will help me network with other great women business owners. I hope to gain more visibility and exposure for Birthstone Scents.

Deanna: For our company, we are entering the retail market. The advice and leadership I hope will help us make positive decisions that will drive the needle for our company. As an owner, I am personally growing on this journey as well, in many ways, personally and professional. So, this has changed me for the better and I am grateful to NAWBO and Maria’s program for this.

Kelly: Through the program, we anticipate doubling our revenues next year and having an unBEANlievable national cookbook launch.

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