As the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC area (better known as the Research Triangle) continues to grow as a hub for innovation and business, female entrepreneurs are progressively reshaping the landscape, making their mark from technology startups to construction companies to retail innovations. A SmartAsset study identified three Triangle-area cities among the top 50 locations in the United States where women achieve the highest levels of success: Cary, Durham and Raleigh. While women are increasingly pursuing innovative ventures in the Triangle, there is still room for further progress in equal investor funding for women-led startups and ending the wage gap.
The Triangle Business Journal’s Women in Business Quarterly Series this September served as a valuable opportunity to highlight successful female entrepreneurs making waves across a variety of local industries. Both before and after the event, Evergreen & Oak took the opportunity to connect with the panelists to discuss their successes and their insights for budding entrepreneurs.
Their insights are as follows:
Choosing the right team members who align with your vision and values is crucial. Each member should bring unique strengths and capabilities that complement your own, filling gaps in knowledge or experience that you may have. This diverse skill set will position the company for growth and adaptability in a competitive market. Equally important is a shared commitment to the business mission with each team member driving the company forward.
Mikki Paradis, Founder and CEO of PDI Drywall Inc., encourages young entrepreneurs to know their strengths and where they need to bring in outside experts. “Start assembling a team that really understands what you are trying to build and wants to be a part of your success,” said Paradis. “This extends to fractional work, vendor relationships, even your banker. Everyone you work with needs to be willing to be a team player, if not, then move on.”
Recognizing that a relationship, whether it’s in business or personal life, is no longer serving you, and having the courage to demand better is not a sign of failure. Rather, it is a testament to one’s strength. Benji Taylor Jones, Co-Founder of Innovate Capital Law, encouraged attendees to trade up, explaining that it can be worth starting over to get the results you or your company deserves.
Entrepreneurship is demanding, and neglecting self-care can lead to burnout, decreased productivity and compromised decision-making. Prioritizing time for rest and relaxation is important, especially long-term. It helps business owners to more easily innovate and be better equipped to handle the challenges that come with running a business. In caring for themselves, entrepreneurs can better care for their company, ensuring long-term growth and personal fulfillment.
Rachael Classi, Founder and CEO of Tiny Earth Toys, shared a valuable lesson she wished she had learned earlier: to ruthlessly prioritize your mental, physical and relational health. “These three things are the pillars that successful entrepreneurship can be built on,” Classi explained. “Without them, it is a shaky foundation to build and innovate from.”
Zakiya Alta Lee, MBA, is a venture capitalist and Senior Associate at IDEA Fund Partners. She shared the compelling rationale behind investing in women and minority groups, a perspective deeply rooted in both equity and financial sensibility. With a distinctive voice in the VC arena, she is opening doors for women and people of color in the Triangle, historically marginalized in their pursuit of funding. Lee underscored the significance of lifting others up in tandem with personal success, and not letting go of mentorship and empowerment within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Each of these panelists has earned their place as thought leaders and change-makers in our local area. While they are each pushing their respective industries forward, the Triangle Business Journal’s event served as a source of inspiration and connection for the many powerful women in business locally. Evergreen & Oak is proud to call the Triangle our home, and to support the women helping define this market.