Happy Women’s Small Business Month!
As a women-owned and led firm, Evolve is committed to uplifting the women on our team and supporting women-led businesses and nonprofits in the community. We sat down with President/CEO Amy Schiffman to learn more about her experience as the founder and leader of Evolve and the lessons she’s learned.
Q: Evolve just celebrated three years, congratulations! What are three lessons you’ve learned as the President/CEO of a women-led firm?
A: I can’t believe it has already been three years - we’ve been busy!
The first lesson I’ve learned is that culture is king (or queen!). You can be doing everything right on the client side, but if you’re not spending time examining internal culture and devoting resources to its development, you lose.
Second, the key to my success is surrounding myself with talented, insightful, strategic people. I certainly don’t have all of the answers and my business challenges benefit from a diverse set of perspectives and experiences.
Third, I’ve learned that Evolve’s growth is about so much more than the number of people on our team or our sales goals. When I’m asked about my vision for our future, I think in terms of the kind of work we strive to do, the organizations and missions we look to serve, the environment on my team, and the lives we hope to impact - we then work backwards to determine what it will take to achieve those things.
Q: What are some of the unique challenges women face as business owners? How have you overcome them?
A: Women business owners often face different challenges than male business owners. We sometimes have to work to prove ourselves and our worth a little harder than men do - sad but true. Given the strength and experience on my team, I don’t worry too much about that anymore, but it’s a very real hurdle for many women working to establish themselves in the consulting world and beyond. Opportunities to network with and learn from other female business owners and nonprofit leaders are important.
Q: As the leader of Evolve, how do you strive to empower women at your firm?
A: When we engage in annual goal setting with every member of our employee team, which is predominantly female, we ask each person to set professional development goals. This is not optional - which may sound strange - but we look to empower every individual with an opportunity to continue to build their skill set, develop their interests, and expand their knowledge, both for their own benefit and for our clients’. If we stop learning or cease to be curious, we can’t grow as professionals and humans. We seek team members who are looking to expand their knowledge base and pride ourselves on supporting colleagues in reaching their goals.
Q: As Evolve grows, are there other things you would like to do to support the women on your team?
A: There is so much more we can do, and we’ve only just begun (cue Karen Carpenter). We will design and implement a new management training program in 2024 which will speak directly to the needs of female managers and team members. We also look to get more of our team back out into the field to teach, train, and facilitate important conversations with and for nonprofits. Our Culture Committee is working to develop additional opportunities for team members to share information and resources with one another, because strong communication is the key to our success. Last but certainly not least, we are launching our first pro bono fundraising project this winter, benefitting an exceptional organization (Ascend Justice) that empowers individuals and families impacted by gender-based violence or the child welfare system through holistic legal advocacy and systemic reform. This work was driven by an all female committee of decision makers at Evolve.
Q: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to women thinking about starting their own business?
A: Go for it! Find a mentor, or several, and get as much advice as you can. Turn to your female colleagues and friends for support and collaboration. Take as much risk as you can (without losing your money or your mind). The world needs more of us!
If you're interested in working with Amy and supporting a women-owned business like Evolve, Amy is available to speak at conferences and trainings on fundraising, nonprofit leadership, and empowering women to develop their leadership skills. Reach out to Jamie Klobuchar at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.