Welcome to part one of The Main Focus, a weekly interview series by Courtney Cannon-Booth, Digital Director at Main & Rose.
The Main Focus digs into the very essence of humans in business. We like to have tough conversations and dial in on important topics to tackle the stigma of mental health, showing “weakness” at work, and being a minority; whether it’s female entrepreneurs, members of different races or different gender identities, we want to hear it all.
Know a good fit for The Weekly Focus? Contact us – we’d love to interview them!
This week, we interviewed Heidi Ganahl, CEO and Founder of SheFactor; a six-step method developed to help young women build empowered and fulfilled lives through their book, app, events and more. It’s a movement, born in 2019, for like-minded women craving community, growth, and purpose, so we were curious to hear how they were faring in light of COVID-19. If you haven’t heard of her before, Heidi’s an entrepreneur at heart. As Regent at the University of Colorado, Mom of four, Founder of the Fight Back Foundation, Founder of Camp Bow Wow (which she built into a $100m brand), and now the Founder of SheFactor, she’s faced incredible adversity throughout her life and has conquered it all with a positive spirit and incredible energy. Need we explain more about why we wanted to chat with her?
Didn’t think so.
We’ve been reading about a lot of companies that are adjusting to COVID-19 and have witnessed so many missteps as adjustments take place. As a startup in the growth stage, what has it been like for you at SheFactor?
Ironically enough, we did a lot of surveys of our community and had launched four of our squads as of about a month ago. We were in Chicago, DC, Denver & Springfield IL, and the squads were going really well. We were getting about 40-50 girls at the meetings, so it was really ramping up. But one of the things we decided to do simultaneously was to create a live event series. We were going to do two one-day summits here in Denver – one for young women that are already out in the workforce, and one for young women that are just graduating from college. We were going to have speakers, roundtables, workshops, and more. We also planned a private, luxury retreat up in Vail for about 50 girls. The thought was that they would get this as a graduation present from their parents or grandparents, and it’s really expensive – it’s $2900 – but it’s three days, it’s at a luxury resort – we were going to, you know, knock it out of the park. On top of that, we were going to do a three-day conference, like GirlBoss or Rachel Hollis Rise Conference, that we were going to put on in Nashville, and we literally got all of the materials done the week before this happened. So I had already made my first sponsorship calls, and I was like “Is SheFactor cursed!? What is going on here?!”
That’s SO many live events in the works – how have you adjusted? Have you been able to pivot at all?
We decided to take everything virtual. We did our first virtual national squad meeting March 23rd. We had 250 young women join, and it went really well! Tori [Heidi’s Daughter and Co-Founder] practiced the heck out of the technology and everything went beautifully, so we’re definitely doing that. We’re also doing a weekly, virtual happy hour on Thursday nights; pretty low key – play some games, get some girls on to talk, connect. We’re still going to do the summit in September, but we’re going to do it virtually if we have to, and then we’re pushing the luxury retreat to October, in hopes we can do that. We’re pushing the larger conference to Q1 next year.
That’s a ton of adjustments to make in a short period of time. Sounds like you have a lot going on in spite of COVID-19, but how has this impacted your bottom line?
I still haven’t even mentioned the most exciting thing we’re doing despite COVID-19. In my role as a Regent at the University of Colorado, obviously, we’ve had to cancel the graduation ceremony. More and more schools are doing that, or have done that already. So we’re creating a virtual graduation party on May 28th. We’re going to try to get as many speakers as we can and a couple of musicians to make it really robust and fun. We don’t have much of a budget, but we’re going to make it entertaining and playful by securing sponsors so we can do this for the good of the students’ spirits. We really want to give them some momentum going forward and launching into the world!
Luckily, we have a really lean team. We’ll be fine, but we’ve gotta figure out how to take everything virtual. We’re launching our membership platform during the April 22nd meeting where members will pay $10 per month to be a part of the SheFactor platform.
Since you have such a lean team, how has COVID-19 impacted your employees’ mental health? Do you have any concerns about them working remotely or adjusting to shifts from a Founder’s perspective?
The hardest thing about this is that everyone’s so distracted. It’s really hard to get work done right now – for me too – and to stay focused or to talk about anything but the coronavirus. The distraction factor is pretty big. The technology aspect isn’t too bad for us since we were already working virtually, but we’ve had to completely retool our business and up-end the live event series we planned and spent months putting together… putting that all on hold.
In terms of revenue and figuring out how to survive this time, we’re really going to have to shift to focus on individual memberships which we weren’t doing before; we were focused much more on live event attendance fees and sponsorships. Retooling our business model and keeping everyone engaged, limiting distractions, paying the bills, keeping everyone on board. We only have 4 employees, but we have 8 contractors working on things between tech and creative, and we can’t give them the business that we have been. And they’re not getting much income from any of their customers. I know they can apply for the paycheck program as independent contractors so I’m encouraging them to do that and trying to get everyone on the team focused on memberships so we can keep everyone employed and contracted with right now.
How are YOU feeling during all of these shifts?
It’s scary and sad but can be exciting in a way; you really have to tap into innovation & creativity right now and move FAST. I’m really proud of our team for acting on the fly, pulling off the virtual event and just figuring it out so quickly. They’re willing to try new things and experiment… and I think this is going to bring out a lot of new ideas, solutions, and ways of doing things that never would have happened without the coronavirus for everybody – not just SheFactor.
Since your company has worked remotely since the start, do you have any advice for companies that are just trying to figure it out?
They really have to be rigid about accountability and set very clear expectations around when they expect people to be online, how they expect people to engage, how they should run meetings and how much work they should expect people to get done. I think you have to back off the gas a little bit to let people grieve what’s going on and deal with the emotional side of what’s happening, which may mean backing off your goals a bit.
If you’re going to adjust your business model, you have to take into consideration that vendors are reeling too, and things aren’t going to happen as fast as you want them to. There will be glitches; it’s not going to be a smooth path. So being forgiving, setting clear expectations, and when things aren’t going right – pick up the phone. Don’t always email or text or message. Pick up the phone and have a conversation or have a Zoom chat where you can see people, watch their reactions, and actually be emotionally connected to them. Especially if you’re having critical conversations.
Is mental health something your employees or your SheFactor members openly talk about? Are you discussing how this can affect mindset, health, and wellness?
I think the mental health side is mostly around isolation. Being home and not being able to go to coffee shops, go to lunch, and go to the office; it’s just lonely! I think there’s a sense of loneliness and sadness around the idea that we might have to stay like this for a while. Even because of the economy – I think everyone recognizes this is a blip and we’ll hopefully get right back on track. But I think it’s the isolation that’s the really tough part and what we’re sensing from our conversations with the SheFactor ladies. I think that’s why we had 250 women on our last virtual event; it’s because they just want to engage with the people they normally engage with… and how else do you do that?
You’ve gone through so many challenges throughout your life and career and have come out the other side with such positivity and such great energy. What’s your philosophy about how to tackle challenges like this?
I think I’ve reflected a lot back on 2008 when Camp Bow Wow was growing like crazy – we were selling a TON of franchises when the market crash happened and everything came to a screeching halt. I gained a lot of experience and expertise in crisis management and retooling a business back then, and I’m using a lot of those same lessons now. The biggest recommendation I can make: focus on basic blocking & tackling with your business, and with your life. Focus on what your customer wants, what they’re going to need after they get through this, and how you can provide value to them. Ask them questions virtually, do surveys, check in with them. Asking your customer base “how are you?” and “how can we help?” is my number one recommendation for getting through this in your business. Really serving them. That’s what entrepreneurs do; we solve problems, right? Right now our customers have problems and we can help solve them. It may mean retooling the business, but it may not. Take a deep breath, slow down. Think about what value you offer your clients and how you can shift that to adjust to what’s happening right now.
I knew you’d have some good advice!
It goes back to what we were talking about earlier. Take this as an opportunity to see opportunity and revisit how you can do business better. Which employees are doing great things for you and being creative and having a good attitude? Celebrate them and reward them, either now or when this is overwith. We have an opportunity to come out of this, as entrepreneurs, even more efficient, more effective, and with more possibility and opportunity. If you can keep your mindset there, you could use this as an opportunity for your business even if there’s a down blip right now.
I know a lot of people right now are feeling really nervous about their jobs; they might be doing a great job at work, but there is so much uncertainty and they don’t know what’s going to happen. People are definitely feeling underappreciated (speaking to your previous point) because everyone is panicking and as you mentioned, rewarding and celebrating employees during this time is important, but something you have to actively focus on. Do you have any words of hope for people that are having a rough go?
I would say – this is what we do as Americans. We made it through 9/11, we made it through a couple of wars, through the recession in the 2000’s. We rise to challenges, and what my hope for this time is that it puts away all of the pettiness and come together. We can get past a lot of the stuff that’s been going on for the past couple of years. We can focus on being a community, having hope and faith, and finding our way back to loving each other and being kind again.
It feels like we’re all just getting a wake-up call or a sign of some sort and we just have to pay attention. How do you think this time will affect businesses going forward?
Looking back, I think Camp Bow Wow came out of that recession much stronger; a better business and more capable of serving our customers. I think that’s going to happen to a lot of businesses. And the businesses that don’t do the right thing are going to pay the price with the public. Again, we had to focus on blocking and tackling the basics when this happened with Camp Bow Wow. We had to be sure that our franchisees understood their financials, knew how to cut back, be more efficient, spend money more effectively, market more effectively, and serve their customers more effectively. It was all about keeping your customers engaged and finding new customers when it was a time where people didn’t have a lot of extra money for doggy daycare or upscale pet facilities.
That makes a ton of sense, and I’m sure a lot of entrepreneurs will find what you’re saying to be incredibly helpful. If you were to recap your biggest pieces of advice, what would they be?
- Focus on blocking and tackling – the basics of your business.
- Ask yourself – what do your customers need? How can you help them?
- Listen, listen, listen. Listen to exhaustion.
- Talk to your customers live. Not just with emails or texts; actually pick up the phone and find better ways to connect with them.
- Be hopeful!!!
Heidi’s experience and expertise in crisis adaptability is really something to be admired. Here at Main & Rose, we’re incredibly passionate about lifting other female entrepreneurs up and shining the spotlight on those that are working their bottoms off to run a successful business. We encourage you to tweet, share, or send great nuggets of Heidi’s wisdom to others. We’ve even created an image to share below. You can also follow Heidi’s journey and connect with her here: