Expert Advice

Why Community Is an Essential Ingredient to Small Business Success

April 15, 2021
5 min read

Priscilla Presley and Lauren Cheek understand that mentorship is important to a female entrepreneur’s business growth. That’s why the duo started The Forward Female, an L.A.-based consulting and creative agency, to help women start businesses and find community.

The agency functions as part in-house creative studio, part coaching program for woman entrepreneurs, providing everything from full-service branding to business mentorship. Presley and Cheek also created a networking app to foster digital accountability within its community so that women can connect with other woman founders, attend workshops, and ask for advice.

The founders also recently launched the #YouGrowGirl initiative, a tour highlighting more than 20 L.A. small businesses on social media throughout the month of April.

Hello Alice spoke with Presley and Cheek to discuss the #YouGrowGirl initiative, the importance of community, and the biggest business lessons they’ve learned so far.

How did the idea for The Forward Female come about?

Lauren Cheek: Priscilla and I were both doing different things. Our circle of friends all knew and supported each other. We were really inspired by that because, especially with women, there’s often this mindset of competitiveness. We were like, ‘How can we help kind of shift out of that and push people to collaborate and support one another?’ It all stemmed from that idea and conversation. Now we have a mission to help women start and grow their own businesses. We do that with our one-on-one business coaching and our accountability community, as well as our creative agency.

Priscilla Presley: Whenever Lauren and I came together, we realized that we were really successful from a young age, and it all stemmed from our networks and the people that we knew. These incredible women that we know knew each other, and then they lifted each other up. That’s just so powerful. There are a million ways that you can do that. There are all different kinds of communities or ways, so we had to sit down and say, ‘OK, how is it that we’re going to help bring this together?’

And how did you come together to start the business?

PP: At the time, I was working for Warner Bros. and Bumble doing all of their events in L.A., and Lauren was working and capturing content for all kinds of major companies, including Bumble. We started working together, and she came to one of my first events that I threw as a plus-one for our mutual friend. We just hit it off, and we became instant friends. We started having this conversation, and it was literally one day, we were at my house. We were just having some wine, and we were talking about this idea. Every single weekend after that initial conversation, we would get together, we would have conversations, and we just didn’t stop. That was in October of 2018, and we were like, ‘This is a business!’ We started having numerous conversations to where there was a third partner involved, NJ Falk, and she came onto the team, and we just started really building it out from there.

Accountability is an important factor in your community. Why did you make that such a focus?

PP: We had a co-working space in the downtown L.A. arts district where we had events weekly. Women came every single day to work and collaborate. But whenever the pandemic hit, we saw a lot of women in our community were struggling. The biggest thing that they were lacking was the sense of community. And so, we quickly pivoted to be a digital community, offering services to be able to serve what we saw that need was especially at the time, and accountability was a big factor. Whenever you were sitting in your house all by yourself and needing that support and somebody that understands what you’re going through, saying like, ‘Hey, are you moving forward in the way that you’re looking to move forward to live that life?’ It’s been so powerful to see all the connections come together.

Along with accountability, you’ve cultivated a supportive community.

LC: We all know as entrepreneurs, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. You definitely hit those roadblocks and those hard days, and having supportive people around you to have your back and keep you accountable and keep going is so crucial. We’ve really been able to incorporate some of those things into our community, where we have weekly accountability calls every Monday and Friday to check in with all of our members, and we declare what we’re trying to accomplish for the week. We share any big wins we have going on. It’s a really amazing, supportive group of women that all come together and really cheer each other on. And we’ve seen kind of the fruits of that come from the women actually being able to collaborate and work together and grow their businesses.

PP: Community is essential to growth and success, no matter what stage you’re at in life and business and your career. The sense that you have to know how to do it all, or that you have to do it on your own, or that you have to write down every single aspect of running the business, it’s just not realistic. The sooner they can realize that having a community can help you actually get clearer and get to the destination that you want faster than you thought possible, the more successful we all are.

How did you go about building your community?

PP: With building that community, you have to provide massive value. There are so many different groups and communities that are out there now, but being able to provide value with our accountability and connecting with even just one person can open the door is massive value. Being authentic, genuine, and having real relationships with every single one of our members has helped us succeed. We’ve tried the digital marketing, we’ve tried the Facebook ads — we’ve tried all of that. But what actually helped us grow is the success of our members and word of mouth.

You’ve also launched the #YouGrowGirl small business tour. What does that initiative add to the mix?

LC: With businesses coming back to life and with everything reopening, especially here in L.A., we wanted to do a fun initiative that would bring some joy back to all the small businesses. We partnered with this amazing florist, and she was able to give us these beautiful bouquets that we’ve been passing out throughout L.A. and highlighting small businesses that are coming back to life. The whole initiative is to spread awareness and to highlight amazing small businesses.

How has the response been so far?

PP: Everybody is so excited to see us. It’s been so much fun. We’ve already stopped by a coffee shop and one of our favorite boutiques here in L.A., and it’s been really cool to see the lights just getting reinvigorated into these businesses and people coming and stopping by. They’ve been nothing but excited and supportive of our initiative. We hope that everybody follows along and supports small businesses.

As female entrepreneurs helping other female entrepreneurs succeed, what’s one big business lesson that you’ve learned?

PP: Every failure is really not a failure — it’s truly a learning lesson. Being able to learn from every step along the way is crucial to get back up and start again. Also, never be afraid of change and pivot. That’s what helped us get to where we are today. Doing pivot after pivot to really hone who we are, what we offer, and how we can truly change people’s lives. And we wouldn’t have been able to get there if we didn’t pivot and we weren’t OK with failing and learning.

LC: Just to add on to that, I think being able to be flexible and consistent is what I see time and time again that builds success. It’s just pushing through those hard times and having that support system to have your back.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Want to learn from someone who’s figured it out? Learn how to seek out experienced colleagues through our step-by-step guide on how to Find a Mentor.

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