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Starting a business is a long and difficult process, especially when going it alone. Erin Joy knows the difficult road of business ownership first hand. She’s dedicated herself to connecting fellow female entrepreneurs together, specifically in the Saint Louis area.
This past May, Joy’s company, Black Dress Partners, hosted the award-winning 2018 Midwest Women Business Owners’ Conference (MWBOC) in Downtown Clayton for the third year in a row.
The Midwest Women Business Owners’ Conference
The concept for the conference was inspired Joy sought opportunities to connect with her peers by attending conferences on both the East and West coasts, and realized in her travels that there was a gap in the market here in the Midwest. Entrepreneurs often find themselves isolated from their peers, which leads to poor performance and a decrease in their quality of life, Joy explained to EQ.
“Female entrepreneurs often find themselves even more isolated as many of them try to juggle their businesses, obligations to family and friends, as well as their passions.”
Standing On The Shoulders of Giants
The single mother and doctoral candidate knows the value of reaching out to her community and creating strategic partnerships to “shortcut the learning process.”
In January 2015, Black Dress Partners was looking for an opportunity to take their mission, helping female entrepreneurs maximize their potential, to the next level. She met with Arco + Associates at an informal lunch and decided to combine her company’s ambitions and her personal passions to create the MWBOC as a way to give back to her community. “I wanted to bring a group of incredible women together for a great show, valuable content, and an elegant atmosphere right here in Saint Louis.”
The focus of each MWBOC event is to allow attendees to connect and build personal and professional relationships, so they can move through the business process faster through shared resources.
Joy encourages both panelists and attendees to be vocal about their journeys in order to remove any sense of isolation they might have, “I wanted each woman to hear a story and think ‘if she can do it, so can I!’”
The conference brought hundreds of women business owners together for a series of panelists, seminars, and presentations to highlight and increase empowerment within themselves and their community.
Playing The Long Game
Black Dress Partners has an ambitious trajectory before it becomes the company Joy envisions, so keeping her “eye on the long game” has proven to be a successful strategy. Her goal is to bring her coaching strategy, vision, and mission worldwide, connecting female entrepreneurs around the globe with one another.
The one-to-many approach has held strong appeal from the beginning of her journey as a business coach, but she’s had to modify her thinking to include her team as her own business has grown.
Joy is extremely detail oriented both in her personal life and in business, so relinquishing control over every detail of every process is difficult. Of the many tough lessons she is learning to apply is to continually ask herself, “What did I do today that only I can do?”
To combat this, she has built her team to be one upon which she can depend and trust.
She truly beams with pride when discussing her team, never taking full credit for any of the work her company produces. During her opening remarks at the MWBOC, she revealed that though she had been deeply involved in the preparations and details for the conference for the previous nine months, she had not seen the final product of her work until she walked on to the stage to greet the audience just a few minutes prior.
“Now that is trusting your team!” she cheered enthusiastically to a riot of applause.
Crossing The Chasm
While she knew she had the right support around her and was remaining true to her personal and professional integrity, her wellbeing began to suffer from her workload. In accordance with her values, Joy looked inward and felt that the level of exertion required to achieve such a production was no longer tenable.
Thus, 2018 was the last year Black Dress Partners will host the MWBOC event, but it is far from the end for the conference. Joy is currently securing buyers to sell the conference as a brand and move into a partnership with that company.
When she announced her decision at the conference, many of the attendees vocally expressed their shock, which was both exciting yet unsurprising to Joy, “We have designed and built this conference as the go-to resource for female entrepreneurs, and their response is proof that we have adequately demonstrated both the unique value in what we do and having such a resource within our community.”
Joy explained that her preparations for this year’s keynote speech helped her make such a huge decision for herself and the future of her company.
Her keynote address outlined her three tenets of entrepreneurial empowerment: social support, well being, and integrity. She defines empowerment as “the ability to bring [your] dreams to reality by using the power inside you to take action that is in line with your vision.”
Passing On Leadership
The MWBOC team and Black Dress Partners are excited to see their conference into this next phase, and Joy is involved with every step of the transition. Currently, discussions continue with three potential buyers who will produce the event and acquire sponsorships while Joy and her team continue to design and deliver the content for the next few years. They will be hosting free webinars on topics like Calendar Management, and hosting several special interest roundtable events that allow business owners to experience the business coaching Black Dress Partners team offers.
“We definitely set a high standard that our clients and conference attendees have come to expect from anything we put our name to. It is important that whoever takes this over from us completely understands that and is willing to take this conference to an even higher level.”
Black Dress Partners recently opened a new office in Olivette. They and are hosting a grand opening on Friday, October 26th, 2018
from 4pm to 7pm: Click here to RSVP.
They’ll also be holding a suit/clothing drive in partnership with Dress for Success, so please bring any professional, interview-appropriate clothing suitable for donation. Bins to collect the items will be provided, as written receipts for tax write-offs.