Show more women business leaders. What we focus on grows, so let’s start talking more about women founders. Let’s highlight the amazing women who are leading big businesses we know and let’s introduce the women who are running their own companies. I know that the girls who are watching will take action when they see they aren’t alien in their dreams. We need to know we aren’t alone, we aren’t crazy for wanting something and that we aren’t the first one to want more! You never know who is watching, quietly waiting for permission.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abby Schultz.
Abby teaches new entrepreneurs how to build an online business they are obsessed with and then scale to earning six figures in their first year. She’s been an entrepreneur for 15 years, creating several six-figure businesses of her own, as well as building the marketing automations and email funnels for Matthew Hussey. Her mission is to help 50 women a year build online businesses while avoiding overwhelm and fear of failure, and then investing her money into women-owned start-ups.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I knew, 20 years ago, that I wanted to be an entrepreneur but I let friends and family talk me out of it because it didn’t make sense to them. I followed the “good adult” path and enrolled in college, accepted a position with an oil company and was living the “good adult” dream until 2 years later when I found myself boxing up my belongings and being escorted out of the building. They called it Corporate Downsizing and offered me a severance package + unemployment benefits; I saw it as my chance to start a business. In 2006, I built Dance Diva, a brick-and-mortar dance apparel store and finally lived out all my entrepreneurial fantasies.
My business partner (aka my mom) ran into some personal issues and we closed the doors for good in 2014. It didn’t take long for that entrepreneurial itch to return and in 2015 I started building websites for Crossfit boxes, fitness coaches and personal trainers, but I found myself morphing into a small business coach when those website clients started asking for help with social media, sales funnels, setting up email automations, etc and I decided to brand my business as myself, so in 2016 I rebranded as myself, Abby Schultz. I continued working with my fitness industry clients until 2018 when I became the Systems Architect for my biggest client ever, the well-known British dating coach Matthew Hussey of How to Get the Guy.
When 2020 exploded I watched so many people lose their jobs and attempt to pivot into the online space, I knew I had to get back to my roots and teach tech to women so they could begin to make an immediate impact on the world and in their bank accounts. And here we are in 2021, launching Biz Builder Academy to the world! It’s 15 years of experience laid out in easy to handle steps for the budding business owner.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I am not the same woman I was when I started my entrepreneurial adventures and I could never have imagined how many times I would shift onto a different path.
It would be easy to look at my business timelines and think they failed, but the truth is, they were all very successful six-figure businesses. Money was never the issue, it was all about “How can I serve my clients better?” and when my clients needed more from my zone of genius, I stepped up to make sure they were taken care of because at the heart of each of my businesses was ME, and staying true to myself has always remained the same.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I didn’t consider it a mistake, but other experts did, and it was quite funny! When I was building out the financial documents to request funding for opening Dance Diva, I calculated I would need 30,000 dollars for rent, paint, a hot pink neon sign, fixtures, racks, shelves, shoes, clothing, tights, tutus, hair accessories, EVERYTHING! I had all my initial orders written out with each vendor, I had the layout of the store mapped out so I knew what fixtures would go where and how many I needed….and my SBA rep said “Are you sure this is enough money?” and I showed him all my planning and orders and lists and drawings and he still wasn’t convinced. So, I took his advice (cause I had never started a business before and he clearly knew what he was doing) so I scrapped my initial figures and started again from the beginning. 3 weeks later I ended up with a whole new financial packet but it still totaled 30,000 dollars! Poor guy at the SBA just scratched his head.
Funny enough, my sister was a Fashion Design major and 2 years later for her final thesis she had to create a small business packet for a clothing store, complete with financials, and when I helped her create the mock up packet, her total loan request documentation was right around 30,000 dollars!
Lesson learned, just because it doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I had a business coach, before business coaches were even a thing. In 2005, I worked with a guy at the Small Business Association (SBA) office in downtown Oklahoma City to help guide me on how to build a business plan, create financial forecast spreadsheets and how secure funding for my wild idea, Dance Diva. It was a free service; I made appointments with him and drove to the SBA office every other week for guidance and we had weekly email check-ins to make sure I was on track to open the store. I cannot remember his name, but if it wasn’t for him and the SBA I know my life would look different. I may have forgotten his name and his face, but I will never forget his actions, support, encouragement, advice and impact on my life.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’m a sucker for both business and self-help books so I have a massive collection, but the 1 book that sticks out is “4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss. I was on vacation in New York with my hubby; we were staying at an AirBnB in Greenpoint (back before they became illegal) and we each picked a book from the host’s bookshelf to take with us up to the rooftop hammocks for an afternoon of relaxation. I chose “4 Hour Work Week” because of the cover colors and the absurdity of the title. I read that entire book that afternoon. I ordered a copy of the book for myself so it was waiting for me as soon as we got home and I vowed to begin outsourcing pieces of my life that I didn’t enjoy or didn’t want to do; we hired a lady to clean the house and a crew to do the yardwork and just like that we had free weekends again. It forever changed the way I look at tasks.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
I repeat this quote by Earl Nightingale to myself almost daily, “Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it, the time will pass anyway.” It reminds me to focus on what I want and to continue moving forward on my path, no dream is to big to accomplish when you take it step-by-step.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I always knew I wanted to change the world, but was overwhelmed by how big that task seemed. Over the past few years I’ve realized that me helping women create their businesses IS changing the world. I can’t expect to do it all myself, so by changing the world for one person, it causes a ripple effect, where then they can change the world for someone else and on and on. I believe doing good things, no matter how small, creates a positive impact on the world.
I want to do more though, so my next goal is to become an angel investor and help fund women owned small businesses.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Women won’t apply for positions unless they are at least 100% qualified. We don’t voice our wants, needs or desires for fear of appearing aggressive and being labeled a bitch. I know plenty of amazing women who have wonderful gifts that the world needs, but they sit back because it’s safer than being called an imposter.
We need to normalize confident women putting themselves out there before they feel completely ready.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
This is exactly why I created Biz Builder Academy, to provide a safe place with step-by-step teachings to guide women in turning their idea into a profitable business so they show up and begin sharing their gifts with the world. I teach them the tech, I guide them on how to show up authentically and I provide accountability so that they don’t even have a chance to give up on themselves. We celebrate wins, we celebrate mistakes as lessons learned and we shift the focus of lack and scarcity into abundance and gratefulness. All these things are designed to teach women that confidence comes from within, and not from outside validation.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
We need to normalize confident women putting themselves out there before they feel completely ready. We should normalize girls making mistakes, teach them to get up and try again and that there is a difference between failing at something and being a failure.
It’s been my experience that women have a different approach in that they typically focus on how we can solve a problem for someone, and not necessarily focusing on what will make the most profit.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.
1-Give praise and encouragement often.
I know most people think women are mind readers, but it just isn’t true! Tell us when we’ve done a good job, acknowledge our effort, and provide feedback on tangible things we can improve upon.
This can be as simple as inviting women into the technical meetings, invite us behind the closed-door meetings of negotiations or brainstorming sessions so we become familiar with the jargon, the issues, and how the meetings are handled. Take the mystery out of tech meetings.
Assign projects that are either 1, perfectly aligned to our zone of genius or 2, just slightly above what we know; both options will provide confidence and growth, which raises the bar for how we show up.
3-Make technology programs accessible and available.
Bring back computer classes in school, and I don’t mean just to play Oregon Trail (did anyone ever beat that game?!)
Make afterschool programs and clubs well known such as Girls Who Code, and introduce more tech skill programs for adult women who are learning digital skills.
4-Show more women business leaders.
What we focus on grows, so let’s start talking more about women founders. Let’s highlight the amazing women who are leading big businesses we know and let’s introduce the women who are running their own companies. I know that the girls who are watching will take action when they see they aren’t alien in their dreams. We need to know we aren’t alone, we aren’t crazy for wanting something and that we aren’t the first one to want more! You never know who is watching, quietly waiting for permission.
5-Invest in women-owned start-ups.
Money can be the biggest hurdle to overcome when starting a business. This is often why businesses fail. Growth requires investments. Money can be the thing that halts progress, or it can be the gift that keeps on giving. You can also invest time in women-owned companies; what can you offer that will provide success? Time and money are very powerful investment tools that have the potential to make or break businesses.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I love to give, I’m definitely an over-giver, but I would tell others to share your knowledge, give freely, give often and give without expectation.
Knowledge is everywhere; you can find answers to everything on Google and you can find out how to do everything on YouTube. What we teach isn’t what clients pay for; they purchase from us because they trust us and they align with us. We, as creators, should provide as much value as we possibly can, because you never know who is watching you from a distance.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to have a coffee chat with Marissa Mayer, the former CEO of Yahoo. When she stepped into the CEO role at Yahoo to try to reverse their falling numbers, she had a large target placed on her back. I know the reports say she failed to produce because the company didn’t rebound during her tenure, but I don’t believe that means she failed. I’d love to pick her brain on why she implemented the programs she did, what she was attempting to achieve and how it felt with the whole world watching.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Find me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/theabbyschultz/
You can find out more about Biz Builder Academy and me at https://www.abbyschultz.com/
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.