MONIQUE HOLLAND Martinsville Newsletter
Four women owners of new and existing Martinsville businesses recently joined two female journalists for a morning of camaraderie, conversation and advice.
Before the meeting started, one of the women said she might be interrupted by a call from a worker.
“Isn’t that just typical,” said Mary Rives Brown, who owns Berry-Elliott Realtors with Doris Berry, who was also at the meeting. “Women juggle about 10 things at the same time.”
As if to illustrate the point, a fifth business owner who was to join had to cancel because her childcare failed; another during the meeting continued to receive text messages from a child at school; and a third received a phone call from her adult son.
Yet their conversation continued, weaving stories about raising children and balancing tasks in and around various aspects of running a business.
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Mignon Grant is the owner of Grant’s unisex salon and has been a business owner since 1990. Grant started working at Herford’s unisex salon on Fayette Street and when the owners no longer wanted to run the salon, Grant said that they had seen how busy she was with customers. and asked her if she wanted to take over.
She had been a hairdresser for five years when this offer surprised her, and her transition from employee to owner was so sudden that she barely had time to decide on the name. If she could go back, she’d probably call it “Mignon’s Hair Palace” or something close, she said.
Brown and Berry had worked together as real estate agents for another company before deciding to go it alone in 1995. Brown said Berry learned a lot about the field and when she considered starting her own business, ” I thought, ‘Well, who’s the smartest person in the room?’ at the real estate agency where we were and it was her [Berry].”
Berry said, “Mary Rives doesn’t give herself enough credit,” and she knew Brown had the knowledge, ethics, and customer relationships that would make her a good business partner.
Brown said they opened their Starling Avenue office three days before Christmas and were so wrapped up in the effort that they couldn’t focus on the holidays. His children “still talk” about the IOUs they received that year instead of gifts.
“We started with a desk, a chair, a lamp, a rotary phone, that was it,” she said.
Shatera Stockton Robertson, in addition to a job as a registered nurse, owns flower shop Unique Styles & Designs.
She had operated an event planning service from her home since 2006. As she saw her work grow, she completed a business start-up program through the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation where, she said, she learned a lot. In 2020, she opened her boutique on East Church Street in Martinsville.
“You might need to know a bit about where it was versus where it is now,” Brown said. “I want to write a book about the evolution of women in society according to the epaulettes… We can trace the power of women by the emergence of the epaulettes… It was a real symbol of power for women.”
One big change the women noted was in how consumers spend their money.
“There are kids today who don’t know how to write a check,” Berry said.
“They don’t,” Grant agreed.
Grant said she no longer accepts checks because of the risk of fraud. Paying the 2.5% a business is charged to accept a debit card is worth it for the convenience and has the added benefit of encouraging people to spend more money, she said.
Back when she was still accepting checks, she didn’t take them in December because “people were coming out of the carpentry and they were writing bad checks to me” more often than usual. In 2012, this loss was nearly $700.
“I don’t think a lot of people in my era carry cash,” Robertson said. “We’re not going to wear that. We’re going to slip, slip, slip, slip… Someone’s scamming you, you’re going to call the bank” rather than suffer a loss.
“Remember how we couldn’t get checking accounts without having a man co-sign?” said Brown. “I guess I was 22, came back here, opened a checking account,” but the banker told her she would need someone to co-sign for her.
“Really? Are you serious?” said Robertson.
“And he never really told me why, but it was because I was a woman,” Brown said.
“I haven’t come across that,” Grant said, despite being turned down on her first attempt at a business loan. “‘You have great credit, but we don’t want to take the risk,'” she said, the banker told her. She went straight to another bank, where she immediately got the loan.
“The word ‘entrepreneur’ has been misused a lot lately. It implies that if you have an idea, there should be a way to get it funded by someone else,” Brown said. “And it’s wrong, and I’m sick of hearing it.”
The word means taking your own personal financial risk in business, Brown added, but it’s weakened into something else.
“It’s easier to walk away from something when it was a gift that you’re not personally invested in, but if you put the time into it, you’re your own money,” she said.
“She said a lot,” Robertson said. “I say that because with me, I didn’t receive seed money to start my business. I took the plunge and I’m still working… as a nurse to make it work.
“I’m not trying to discourage anyone, but a lot of people…when they say they want to open a business, they don’t understand what’s going on with opening a business,” Robertson said. . “They just feel like you open a business and people fly in and they just buy from you and it doesn’t work like that…you have to build a business.”
When starting a business, it is important “to have a plan; don’t just walk out,” Grant said. “Try to think about what you’re going to do.”
Grant also said to always pursue your education and have a strong motivation and passion for the business you are getting into.
“Have a plan and a backup plan,” Robertson added.
She also said that taking advice from people with business experience is also a big help. “There’s so much I can learn from them and I think that’s great.”
“Ask me a few questions, I’ll be happy to help,” Brown said. “It’s the gift and the curse of being really young: you think you already know everything, and then you see them making mistakes” and you can learn from it, if you pay attention.