Story | Women in Business

Utah Women Talk Business Tips and Advice

Mar. 23 2023

It seems like everyone has a side hustle these days, but women business owners aren’t just a fad or a passing phase. Susan Peterson, Annie Auernig, and Julie Hanks, three Utah business owners, shared their experiences starting a business and offered advice for women entrepreneurs.

Starting a Low-Overhead Business

Susan Peterson, CEO and founder of Freshly Picked, started her business with a bag of scrap leather she bought at a garage sale. When that ran out, she broke the glass out of old windows to recycle the frames to get money for more leather and reinvest profits to continue growing.

Annie Auernig, a co-founder of Sodalicious, started her business by pooling a small cash investment with business partners. They also used credit cards to fund the early days of the soda and cookies business.

When Julie Hanks first started offering therapy services, she had an office share space that cost $300 a month, and her philosophy was to cover that rent. Eventually, she did more than cover the rent. Today, she oversees several therapists at her three Wasatch Family Therapy locations. 

While each of these women’s approaches was slightly different, they had one thing in common—they all had an idea they believed in and were willing to put in the work to see the vision come to life. Peterson started her company because she wanted cute moccasins for her son and couldn’t find anyone who made them. As a tired mom in need of a caffeine fix, Auernigthought it would be nice if there were someplace she could drive through to get a drink without having to get the kids out of the car. Hanks’s lifetime fascination with people and their motivations led her to a career in therapy. 

“The barrier to starting a business is zero,” said Peterson. “You don’t need to have your ducks in a row. You need to have a duck and say, eh, hope it flies.” 

Starting a business on Etsy is free, and several platforms like Shopify and Squarespace make setting up an e-commerce website easy and affordable. All three women agree that the most important thing is to cast fear aside and start. They all agree that you will never know enough, and circumstances will never be perfect – but start anyway.

Benefits of Being a Woman Business Owner

Each of these women started their business for different reasons. For Hanks, it was the desire to work part-time hours while making a full-time income. Auernig wanted a convenient place to get a caffeine fix. When she noticed it got attention, Peterson posted about a product she made for her son. Today, their businesses and day-to-day efforts look very different. However, they all find many benefits in being women entrepreneurs.

For example, Hanks loves the flexibility she enjoys running her own business. She is also happy she can employ other women and offer them flexible schedules; in turn, they care about being good employees.

For Auernig, being a business owner allows her to surround herself with people she chooses to work with. She says, “Life is short, and you are going to spend your days with people that either you get to choose and you like and get along with, or you don’t get to choose,” she said.

Peterson appreciates being able to provide for her family while still creating an environment where her kids thrive. 

Business Resources for Women

There are several resources for women business owners looking to start or grow a business today. Peterson, Auernig, and Hanks readily admit to relying on Google to tackle business challenges. There are several resources for women entrepreneurs, including: 

  •     Return Utah

This initiative from the Lt. Gov.’s Office helps women who have been out of the workforce for a time by offering resources, including on-the-job training.

  •     Suazo Business Center

Minorities seeking business advice for women can turn to the Suazo Business Center. They offer advising, education, workshops, and more.

  •     Utah Governor’s Office Of Economic Opportunity

The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity offers assistance if you’re looking for grants, entrepreneurial advice, or networking and learning events. 

  •     Utah Small Business Development Center

While the Utah Small Business Development Center isn’t just for women, it offers support and business tips for women. Utah business owners are encouraged to schedule a free consultation.

  •     Utah Women & Leadership Project

This Utah State University organization hasa wealth of business tips for Utah women. It offers everything from research studies on women’s issues to information about grants for women-owned businesses.

  •     Women’s Business Center Of Utah

The Women’s Business Center of Utah has the sole purpose of helping women start and grow their businesses. They offer advising and training, courses and webinars, and information about women’s small business grants and funding for women-owned businesses.

Find the Right Small Business Investors

Sometimes women business owners shy away from taking on investors for various reasons. Finding someone investing in women-owned businesses which is a good fit for you and your company can be overwhelming.

Susan Peterson self-funded her company, but she quickly said, “It wasn’t that I didn’t raise money because I was trying to prove a point. I didn’t understand it. Now, I understand it and have a really good grasp on what it means.”  She says gaining that understanding made her open to taking on a funding investment.

When seeking a business investment for women or looking for people who are investing in women entrepreneurs, it’s important to understand how funding will impact the business. There are many different types of investors and investment structures. It’s important to research the options and find an investor who cares about the business.

Difficulties of Starting a Business

The path to success has had its fair share of challenges for these business owners. However, they learned how to navigate the obstacles. As Auernig says, a lot of the benefits are also the challenges. For example, you may not have to go to an office daily, but your work often follows you home. Other challenges can include knowing when to pay yourself, juggling work and other responsibilities, growing the business, and others.

With so many challenges, it can be easy to get discouraged. That’s why Peterson says you can’t judge yourself by one day alone. Instead, she likes to take a step back and view her progress by looking at it from a monthly or quarterly perspective. This zoomed-out view makes it easier to recognize the wins, the progress, and the forward movement.

One message stands out loud and clear from these three women: get moving and figure out the solutions to challenges and difficulties along the way. Women business owners will always face challenges, but through the support of other women, taking advantage of available resources, and moving forward even when the next step isn’t clear, you can find success. 

Start Your Own Business in Utah

Are you thinking of starting your own business and becoming a woman business owner? Many resources are available to help you get started. Check out Inspire In Utah and its additional resources including networking, mentoring, and training opportunities. They also feature stories of 100 Utah companies that champion women. The stories will inspire you as you build your business and provide ideas on making your company an inclusive workplace.

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