written by Erica Lemp, Editor, eBizToday@BizLaunch
PROFILE: Beth Gitlin, Executive Director of weVENTURE
This month, we had the pleasure to interview Beth Gitlin, Executive Director of weVENTURE powered by Florida Institute of Technology, a regional economic development initiative focused on accelerating sustainable business growth for women entrepreneurs. She oversees a network of centers throughout Central Florida (including Melbourne, Rockledge and Orlando) whose main goal is to drive regional economic growth by focusing on key performance indicators relevant to increasing the impact of women-owned companies. weVENTURE was recognized by the SBA in 2015 as a Regional WBC Center of Excellence. Ms. Gitlin was awarded the 2014 Small Business Advocate of the Year for Florida and the 2014 Space Coast Business Leader of the Year for Business Development. She was president and owner of Global Passages, an international trade consulting company. Additionally, she has 20 plus years of experience in the retailing, manufacturing and global sourcing of consumer packaged goods working as VP for General Foam Plastics Corp and in various merchandising and international positions with Wal-Mart. She also served 4 years as a lieutenant in the US Army Signal Corps.
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
The spark was ignited when I decided I wanted to have more flexibility in decision making and strategic collaboration processes, and create a business which I would feel comfortable in representing a stronger ethical and moral fiber than I had previously experienced.
What motivates you?
I’m motivated to create opportunities for others to shine. I love helping to see others achieve the success and happiness they have defined for themselves and support them through their journey.
How do you define success?
I define success by dreaming big, achieving great outcomes and results and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. I’m continuing to learn to define success by “being in and enjoying the present and being thankful for the gifts and grace that have been afforded me.”
To what do you most attribute your success?
To having great parents who afforded me the opportunity to have a strong sense of self. I was never told I couldn’t do something. Also, I think some people innately are highly motivated and high achievers. So there is a nature and nurture component to success. Finally, having the opportunity to live abroad as an exchange student my senior year in high school encouraged me to continue to have a sense of curiosity and sense of wonder to continue to learn new things as I grew older.
What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Build a sustainable business model. Some of it is trial and error. You will fail at some point. Identifying your value proposition and understanding your customer segments and what problems your product/service solves are key elements.
Put a strong team together. You can’t do it alone.
Know your financials – anyone can do it. Educate yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask. Take a course if you need to – but KNOW your financials.
Learn to delegate and develop your leadership skills as your business grows in order to build a strong team.
Have the end in mind when you first start – will you sell in 5-10 years, will you hold onto the business for future generations? What is the end game?
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ernst and young. Some 46% of its 31,000 employees are women and 46% of senior managers are female. The company has a sponsorship program, which is like a mentorship on steroids, where partners advocate for women in their groups and help them get promoted. Example: Beth Brooke, EY’s global vice chair of public policy, works to get women slots on highly visible projects. They also sponsor EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women competition to help outstanding women entrepreneurs think big and grow rapidly.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
I see that I have been able to be part of a movement and leave a legacy in Central Florida with a group of extraordinary female and male leaders by helping to raise the profile of women in business, encouraging our young girls to consider futures as entrepreneurs and technologists, and to have helped redefine the conversation around success for women. When that has been accomplished, the economic impact for our community and region will have grown exponentially with the help of women entrepreneurs who have shown how to get it done.