Jaime Schmidt and the Power of Women Helping Women
The number of women-owned businesses has grown 114% over the past 20 years, and while we’ve certainly come a long way in the world of female entrepreneurship, we’re not done yet.
A 2017 study [PDF download] showed that when it comes to businesses in the US, the gender gap is starting to close: 39% of all businesses are female-owned.
And these female-led businesses have an incredible impact on the economy: Of the more than 11.6 million women-owned companies in the US, they employ nearly 9 million people and are responsible for generating $1.6 trillion dollars in revenue. (Not bad, right?)
Personally, I also fall into the female entrepreneur category. I’ve owned and operated my own businesses since 2009 - ranging from side projects like an online store selling vintage jewelry to the full-time freelance writing business I operate today.
But with those experiences, I’ve witnessed firsthand some of the obstacles that come with gender identity and entrepreneurship.
So what inspires me most and helps me push past those stumbling blocks? Looking to successful women who empower others.
Jaime Schmidt is one of those women. She’s the founder behind Schmidt’s Naturals, a natural deodorant company that started in her home kitchen. In just seven years, she scaled the brand into more than 30,000 stores - and eventually sold to Unilever (all while maintaining product quality).
Today, Jaime focuses her efforts on helping, educating, and investing in emerging entrepreneurs. In June 2019 she launched Supermaker, an editorial-driven platform that celebrates diverse, independent brands and creators. Jaime is also the co-founder of Color, an investment portfolio that supports underrepresented founders from diverse backgrounds.
I got some insight into her personal journey as a business owner. Here’s what she had to say.
Facing the Obstacles of Building a Business With Jaime Schmidt
Kaleigh Moore: Tell me about some of the challenges and obstacles you’ve faced as a female business owner and investor. How’d you work through them?
Jaime Schmidt: Despite the positive point of view I uphold, the challenges of being a woman in business are very real.
One of the biggest frustrations I’ve faced personally is when press and storytellers get hung up on emphasizing that I was a “business mom” rather than focusing on the magnitude of what I was building as CEO of a fast-growing company. While I understand the appeal of the angle, what I’ve always been after is a balanced representation of my whole story and skill set. I think eliminating words like “mompreneur” and “she-eo” from our vocabulary would lessen the attention on gender, allowing the focus to be more on the strong leaders we are as people.
As an investor, I again view my identity as a strength. Having women at the capital table is a growing priority for brands today, and I’m finding that founders are drawn to my success story with Schmidt’s and understand the real value I can add.
Kaleigh: What’s something you learned early in your business that you try to remember when helping and supporting people who are starting a new venture today?
Jaime: The challenges are only going to get greater, so it’s important to have a realistic understanding of what the life of an entrepreneur really looks like. You will live and breathe your work. If there’s a fatalistic or overwhelmed attitude early, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
However, if every obstacle and opportunity is approached from a place of strength and real love for the work you’re doing, then you can power through and reap all the incredible rewards of entrepreneurship.
Kaleigh: Was there ever a time in Schmidt’s early days where you felt like the challenges you were up against were too big to overcome?
Jaime: Building out our manufacturing operations was one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever been up against. Running any startup is hard enough, and having co-packers or contract manufacturers can help lighten the load. But when you’re making in-house, there’s a whole other business language to be learned.
While some CEOs were stressing about marketing plans and hiring, I was juggling all that plus managing quality controls, dealing with malfunctioning equipment, late deliveries of raw materials, and so much more. I saw the value in owning my own manufacturing and chose to take the challenges head-on.
Sure, I had my moments of saying, “Screw this,” but I found security in the passion I had for my work and my commitment to making healthy products available to the masses. I came out of the experience with some amazing stories and lessons I can now share to help others facing similar challenges.
Kaleigh: Do you still feel underrepresented in the work you do today? If so, what can be done, and how are you working on fixing that?
Jaime: Yes: We need to share our stories! At Supermaker, we do just that. We prioritize story collections that focus on highlighting underrepresented founders including women, non-binary people, and people of color.
By sharing the challenges we’ve overcome, openly celebrating our own successes, and teaching the valuable lessons we’ve learned along our way, we equip other women with the inspiration and confidence they need to move forward on their own entrepreneurial paths.
On a personal level, I don’t hold back with my own storytelling and am proud to draw attention to my success as a businessperson as a way of inspiring others, which is the focus of my book Supermaker: Crafting Business on Your Own Terms (launching on April 28).
This Women’s History Month, think about how you can share your story - and empower others to do the same. Let’s close the gender gap around entrepreneurship and shine a light on all the smart, talented women whose businesses are making a positive impact in today’s world.