By Samantha Leader
Tracy Higginbotham has had entrepreneurship in her blood since she was a little girl. She watched generations of successful women business owners in her family, including her mother and aunt.
She decided to follow in their footsteps, earning a bachelor of science degree in business administration from SUNY Oswego and completing postgraduate studies in business management.
At 30 years old, Tracy decided to leave her job with Lemoyne College and pursue her passion in event planning. She had two sons, a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old, and her goal was to stay active working while being home with her children. Inspired by her mother, on Aug. 8, 1995, she launched Five Star Events, event-planning company. She ran Five Star Events from 1995-2005.
Many things go into being a successful entrepreneur, but according to Tracy, sales plays a big part.
“Your job when you start is half service and half sales,” Tracy said. “I took a 10-week sales course when I started Five Star Events. It taught me how to present myself in press releases, marketing and sales.”
One of the biggest parts of keeping a business going is networking. In 1996, in order to help in that endeavor, Tracy joined WBOC, a local group that helps women entrepreneurs. At the time, the group only included only eight women. She quickly rose to lead the group.
“During this time, there weren’t many women entrepreneurs, so banks, universities, mortgage companies, etc., weren’t interested in investing in women,” she said. “Many women would call me from Syracuse, Utica, other towns, looking for advice.”
Eventually this led Tracy to leave her event planning business behind to start WomenTIES (Women Together Inspiring Entrepreneur Success) in 2005. The goal of this organization was to bring together women entrepreneurs from all regions and help them market their businesses.
“WomenTIES provides people with connections to women based businesses to do work with, instead of men,” she said. “Women still don’t make as much as men. Therefore my goal is to get the names of these women-based businesses out instead of going directly to a man-based one.”
WomenTIES is going on its 14thyear of holding regional events offering advice to women from Albany, Rochester, Binghamton, Syracuse, the Mohawk Valley and beyond. The company now has more than 300 members (local, state, and national) and 60 regional volunteers.
“Being your own boss makes it possible to stay active working while having children,” she said, “Technology makes it possible for women to stay in touch with their business, marketing and sales all out of the house.”
It takes three years to be financially successful in entrepreneurship. After three years, a person can increase their fees and do more business, according to Tracy.
“Every women has the ability to be an entrepreneur, but the three main things to remember are to surround yourself with other women entrepreneurs doing what you’re doing for support and celebration; strengthen your sales skills, realizing it can be a roller coaster, but it will be a positive experience; and lastly, surround yourself with pink flowers,” Tracy said.