Ten of this year's 2018 Philadelphia 100 members are owned by women. They credited their success to hard work, thinking big, and networking through organizations such as the Forum of Executive Women, the Union League of Philadelphia, Women's Business Enterprise Council, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program, or their local chamber of commerce.
Here are excerpts from interviews with some of the women who made the Philly 100:
Ellen Thompson, Results Repeat
"I started Results Repeat in 2014, as my sixth business. Four of them have worked. The first one, Know It All, I sold in the 1990s and is now part of IBM. Results Repeat is a digital marketing agency. We build websites and drive traffic from the internet to those sites through SEO, Google Ad, and Facebook ad management."
The company posted $100,000 in revenues its first year and is on track for $2 million in 2018.
"Herb Kelleher from Southwest invented the phrase, 'Put your customers first.' But we put our staff first. When you do that, your customers are taken care of, so for my team, they're paid fairly, have decent benefits for a small company, and understand their place."
Maily Cunningham, Cunningham Commercial Pest Control LLC
"I'm a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business graduate from December 2017. My husband started the business out of his car in 2005. I was raising babies at the time. We restructured the ownership in 2012 and it's 100 percent my company. We're hovering around 25 to 30 percent growth annually, and on track for $250,000 in revenues in 2018."
Cunningham credits the certification as a woman-owned business and being around like-minded entrepreneurs. "That was pivotal, getting in front of various customers" who wanted exposure to women-owned businesses.
Kate Shields, Vault Communications
Her advice to women? "Be bold and make the ask – not for money, but for time. Everyone has 15 minutes for coffee or a phone call. Many women are too risk-averse to ask, fearful it's overreaching, strange, or stalkeresque."
Shields got her start in corporate America, sending her resumé to Jerry Buckley, former head of PR at Campbell Soup.
"I sent him a photo of myself [wearing a Campbell's M'm! M'm! Good T-shirt] with a peanut-butter sandwich smashed into my face – at 3 years old. I really set myself apart!"
As for Vault Communications' growth of 83 percent between 2014 and 2017, "this year we slowed down a bit, making sure our training was right. It was awesome, but we had to invest in infrastructure and revisit maternity leave and vacation policy."
Vault will grow about 10 percent in 2018 to roughly $7 million in revenue.
Patty Tawadros, Studio X
"I started the company in January 2003 after I got laid off from a dot-com. My partners also left the same company. My parents were immigrants. 'Say yes and figure out how to do it later,' that's what my dad said."
In 2007 she bought out her partners, and the digital branding and design firm became a 100 percent woman-owned business.
"I was complaining to my mom, who's from Israel. My dad's from Egypt. They put my brother and I through college and paid off their house. She said, 'Stop complaining and start working.' So I said, 'I will double my business.' I did that."
For 2018, Studio X's estimated revenues are expected to be $500,000, doubling in five years.
Stacey Rock, Solvix Solutions LLC
Rock and her husband, Anthony, run Solvix Solutions, which they started out of their garage with a $5,000-limit American Express credit card.
"We do a lot of office supplies, sit-stand desks, printers, toner, network capabilities, software, and some services for those, as well," said Anthony Rock. The Marlton company started out with private business clients and has expanded to the federal government. Solvix is expected to top $22 million in revenue this year, up from $14 million last year.
"We really like to work with vendors who sell American products. Shame on someone if they sell to the government and they don't sell something made in America," Rock said.
Valerie Schlitt, VSA Inc.
"I'm an accidental entrepreneur. I grew up in corporate America, which was a great place to work and raise kids."
In 2001, she was laid off and started working out of her house in Haddon Township. An elder-law attorney hired her to find leads, so she began cold-calling geriatric-care managers, senior centers, and others.
Friends and other women she hired worked out of her house. "We made lists and got him appointments. Then I started making calls for other companies' sales teams."
VSA Inc.'s estimated revenues for 2018 are $4 million, up from $650,000 in 2015.
Her advice: "Dream big. Have more faith in yourself than you think you should."