Sandra Yancey – Founder & CEO of eWomensNetwork
The Networker: If you do good for others, it’ll come back to you tenfold, says the woman who’s bringing together professional women around the globe.
By Mary Catherine Brutz
“You can have it all, but not without access,” says Sandra Yancey. In fact, that’s the basis for her success. As founder and CEO of eWomenNetwork, a 600,000-member nonprofit devoted to helping women business owners and professionals meet and support one another, Yancey knows what it takes for women to succeed. For the past eight years, she has expanded her Dallas-based organization into a networking universe, consisting of an online database, an award-winning radio show, a charitable foundation, a publishing alliance and a growing annual event: the eWomenNetwork International Conference & Business Expo, which kicks off this year on July 10 in Dallas.
PINK caught up with Yancey, a mother of two, to get advice on networking, the economy and what it takes to start your own business.
PINK: In this difficult economy, what advice do you have for women trying to start a business?
Sandra Yancey: Show up. Get out there. Start meeting people. Build relationships. One of the biggest problems with women is that we do too much alone. Instead of a CEO, I call women in the start-up phase of their businesses “COEs” – chief of everything. The only way to get ahead is to get focused and surround yourself with great people who can do the things you’re not good at and who will do what you don’t want to do. You don’t need to spend time doing what you’re bad at doing. Starting a business is about inspiring others to see what you already know. It goes back to getting out there. Someone once told me that of every 100 people you meet, only 2.5 percent will follow up with you. Your future and fortune are in your follow-up. It’s about connections, not contacts. It’s not like the person who gives out the most business cards is doing the best. Zone in on two or three people and follow up with them.
PINK: What are your goals for the conference?
S.Y.: One of our messages is that the economy will return, so there’s no need to go hide under a rock and hope and pray. Seize things. The current economic situation serves no one better than small business owners. Why? I’ll use three of my favorite words: Everything’s on sale! Now is the time to not only make a living, but to make a difference. It doesn’t get any better than right now. Also, women need access. And access comes through relationships. Relationships come in all forms – contacts, leads and connections. You need people who can tell you, “Here’s what to do,” or “Here’s where to go.” Some people may not know that certain opportunities or businesses exist, and they just need access. Networking is not about getting. We are trying to change that whole paradigm. Networking is to give and to help people, and I believe that doing that will increase what comes back to you tenfold.
PINK: What kind of women will be in Dallas?
S.Y.: We’re expecting 3,000 women and completely bought out the Hyatt Regency. The name of this year’s conference is “Focused, Fierce & Fabulous.” Our conference attracts women who get it. They’re not going to believe what they see in the paper, or read on the Internet or hear on the radio [about the economy]. So they’re fierce! They don’t want to be men. Don’t get me wrong; we love men. We don’t male-bash. But it’s a fabulous thing to be a woman. We often do business in spas and over pedicures. Small talk leads to big business talk for women in the same way that it does for men. That’s what this conference is about. It gives women the access that is so important to have.
PINK: What advice do you have for women who may have recently lost their jobs?
S.Y.: I think women need to understand that when one door closes, another opens. We often lose things that we haven’t been happy with anyway. That’s just the way it works. Sometimes we get in a rut of being comfortable even if we’re not happy. In retrospect, a lot of people look back and realize that what happened was a good thing because they weren’t happy. Consider everything an opportunity, not an obstacle – a benchmark, not a barrier.
PINK: What else are you working on?
S.Y.: I’m excited because at the conference we’re launching a website called glowproject.org. This is going to be the epicenter of a glow movement. Often people ask me, “How do you know when a woman has the ‘it’ factor?” I call it “glow.” It’s brightness. It’s excitability. We’ve gotten together 14 women, seven entrepreneurs and seven corporate achievers – including Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, and Donna Orender, president of the Women’s National Basketball Association – so we can share their stories. These are some of the most successful women today, yet they’re humble. They believe in the concept of “lifting as you climb.” They exude confidence, strength and grace. The Glow Project’s goal is to help women learn that you deserve your dream, that you have the right to glow. The Glow Project will reach women through CDs, a magazine, and an online network and forum.
PINK: How do you define “success”?
S.Y.: Success for me is a feeling of achievement and accomplishment. It’s about having made a difference. Success is knowing things are better as a result of what I have contributed. Success is about discovering your purpose. And once you find it and embrace it, you can’t help but leave the world a better place. I believe that my purpose is to be a connector and inspire others to know that they’re entitled to dream, and that they can make their dreams come true. In order to find your purpose, you need to have that quiet space where you go inside and validate yourself. Life is about creating yourself, trusting yourself and taking risks.
PINK: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
S.Y.: “Give without remembering, and take without forgetting.” My mother used to say that when I was a little girl. She also said that sometimes you have to go to the edge and jump and build wings on your way down. I always think about that whenever I’m nervous, or scared, or fearful. I thought about it, for example, the very first time I decided to do a conference. It was a big jump for me and a huge risk financially and credibility-wise. I had no idea how many people would show up. At the first conference I had 107 people. I like to say that women give each other four C’s (even though I know they don’t all start with a C). They can make you a casserole, they can give you a box of Kleenex, they can give you chocolate, and they can give you a kick. That kick helps us get out there so we can do it again!
PINK: What are your best networking tips?
S.Y.: First of all, I would ask people, “How can I help you?” There is nothing like showing up for someone else. Also, ask good questions. When you meet people, don’t just ask yes or no questions. Ask questions such as, “Describe your most ideal client?” or “What is your biggest business challenge right now?” This opens up great discussions, and then you can better connect people with each other. Also, you need to trust in the energy of the universe. The universe likes balance, so I truly believe that if you do good things, it will come back to you.
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