By Michele Crocitto, Marketing Coordinator at PipelineDeals
With Mother’s Day this month, we’re honoring women entrepreneurs that we admire who split their time between growing their business and being a mother. We asked each Mompreneur about their challenges and learned their tips for success. Today’s post features Sierra Hansen, President and Owner of Hansen Public Affairs.
Can you provide a brief bio of the business you started?
I started my public affairs business almost three years ago. When clients come to me, they are often facing a communications crisis. I work with them to identify community, government and media opportunities to resolve the crisis quickly so they can retain the trust of their stakeholders. My clients range from government, private and non-profit groups, and I am particularly interested in infrastructure, healthcare, land use and transportation.
What inspired you to start a business?
After working in the public and non-profit sectors for 15 years I decided to try out the private sector at an agency in Seattle. After two years, I realized I could build my own practice on the vast network I had developed over the course of my career. Consulting is a great fit for me because I like working with a range of clients facing serious challenges. I love coming into impossible situations and finding solutions.
Who has been your biggest inspiration that has gotten you to where you are?
My mother is my greatest inspiration and advocate. She founded her own business more than 35 years ago in the residential home industry in Texas, and today she has one of the largest construction-related companies in the region. She built her company as a sole practitioner and now provides opportunities for dozens of men and women because she has an incredible reputation as a hard-working, honest and diligent contractor. In the early years, I would go to work with her and see her working tirelessly to provide for her family and her work ethic inspired me to never give up, never take no for an answer and always believe in myself. When I decided to launch my own firm, she was my biggest fan and one of my most important mentors in providing advice, counsel and support.
What are some major challenges you face as a mother, and a woman entrepreneur?
One of the benefits of being a consultant is having the flexibility to spend more time with my child. I can spend a few extra hours a week helping him improve his reading, volunteering in the class, walking him to and from school. I also dedicate a week during the summer to “Mom Camp” and he and I will go kayaking, go to a museum or just swim at one of the public beaches. But, I also talk about my work with him so he is exposed to a strong work ethic in the way I was by my mother. Spending time with my child leads some people to believe that I do not work, so I am constantly seeking out new networking opportunities and I find myself talking more about work at social functions than I might otherwise.
Share your tricks of the trade – what business apps, or products help you run your business and life more efficiently?
Honestly, I love my Windows phone. People are often skeptical, but it is the single most important and productive electronic device I’ve owned. When I traded in my iPhone and iPad a few years ago, I never looked back. The phone links a number of social apps for contacts, helping me stay up to date on vacation, job and family news from my friends, clients and colleagues and better connect to them as a colleague and consultant. Having access to MS Office products means I can seamlessly edit, view and send documents on the go from my phone. The lack of games means I spend my time working and communicating versus playing Candy Crush or Plants vs. Zombies (both of which I do enjoy in moderation on my android tablet in the evenings.)
Looking back to when you were just getting started, Is there anything you would have done differently?
I spent a lot of time in my first year responding to RFP’s at public agencies with little success. I was often competing against much larger firms, and spending hundreds of dollars in printing, production and lost time with no success. While many municipalities have women, minority, disadvantaged business or small business contracting goals, the reality is small firms are usually not realistically competitive for these contracts. When I shifted my focus to building relationships with other firms, I found the referrals to be much more lucrative and aligned with my skills and expertise.
What is one piece of advice you have for mothers wanting to start their own businesses?
Be honest with yourself and your clients when you need to prioritize your family. I have a 24/7/365 day a year policy with my clients, and I try to respond as quickly as possible to the smallest request. However, I find my best clients understand that I am a mother, a wife and a professional, and sometimes I am not available to them because of a family obligations.
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