Jo Baker

Oxford Dictionary Names 2018 Word of the Year

Every year, Oxford bestows its Word of the Year title on “a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year…” It’s a word that has “…lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.”

Sounds like quite the honour, right?

Like if you were a word, you would want to own that distinction?

It is a happy day for the Word of the Year, I presume; however, sadly enough, 2018’s word wasn’t what we as women and business owners might hope it would be.

It’s not an encouraging word.

It’s not a word that brings with it the promise of growth or positive transformation.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The 2018 Word of the Year is TOXIC.

Can you believe it? Of all the possibilities for constructive direction in this world of entrepreneurial advancement, technological opportunities, global outreach capabilities…the Word of the Year is TOXIC.

Wow. I’m stunned. I’m disappointed. And I can’t help but think that we, as engaged and capable female business owners, can turn this around for 2019.

So how did Oxford choose the Word of the Year? Primarily, it was based on internet search. There was a 45% increase in searches for the word toxic on[1]. Add that to noted increases in its use, in both literal and figurative manners, and you’ve got a word that saw lots of action in 2018.

It has been used to describe things such as chemicals, substances, gas, waste, algae and air—as well as intangible things like masculinity, environments, cultures and relationships.

And why would this grab the attention of a business owner like yourself? Because this should give you lots of invaluable insight into the state of mind in which your target market is operating. There is a palatable distaste for the world-at-large going on, and that burdensome level of negativity is going to show up in communications, interactions and brand choices.

I know: as a Fempreneur with a desire to influence, you’re already wondering What can I do?

You can start where you have the most power and influence: within your own business, at the heart of your own team.

Be the best correspondent you can be.

Toxicity is the result of misunderstanding, the unwillingness to relate to others, or a lack of empathy. It is bred from ignorance, and is aggravated when we shut down and refuse to communicate. Keep the conversation flowing within your business. Listen to your employees’ concerns and be transparent with them, too. When you’re all communicating freely, you can disagree with one another, but cannot deny the validity of others’ feelings or perspectives.

In a literal sense, you can reduce your business’s carbon footprint…

to rein in its toxic effect on the environment. Recycle. Conserve electricity. Start a carpool programme. Make fuel-efficient fleet choices. Offer individual and/or department incentives for energy savings. Audit processes for maximum efficiency. Get your team involved to create a cleaner work environment, then watch as the toxicity drains from your business.

Accept failure, which is inevitable in business.

In fact, it’s practically a prerequisite to growth. Adopt this belief and live it so that your team members can join you in seeking out opportunities in the midst of failure. Toxicity cannot survive in a workplace that is conditioned to always see the bright side.

Acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of team members so they will feel positively motivated to strive for growth.

An employee who feels overlooked is all it takes to plant the seed of toxicity; and that toxicity can rapidly snake its way through the rest of the team. When you recognise even the smallest achievements, that first seed is unlikely to be planted…and even if it is, it will struggle to find fertile ground.

Correlate optimism and teamwork with success.

Whenever your business reaches a goal or experiences growth or success of any type, be sure to associate that victory with your team’s desire to avoid toxicity. What we focus on is what we achieve, and nowhere is that truer than in business.

Use the innate feminine qualities that you possess...

...(intuition, peace-making, problem-solving, communication, objectivity, etc.) to foster a business environment that is focussed on productivity and collaboration, rather than on disruption and hostility. Lead by example, using what comes most naturally to you, and toxicity will never be able to survive in your organisation.

Just imagine the impact the female business owners of the world could have if we all practiced just a few of these anti-toxicity tips.

Employees will start talking about what a great place to work you’ve got, and you will attract more highly qualified candidates. Your customers will start telling their friends about the dedication of your employees, and your customer base will grow. Other businesses will see your success, and strive to mimic what you’ve built.

And before we know it, the Word of the Year for 2019 could be something like HARMONIOUS, SUCCESS…or even PROFITABLE.

Are you committed to reducing the toxicity in your business? And do you need some help inspiring your team to rally around the changes you’re planning to make? A keynote speaker can open minds and motivate spirits. Click here to learn more about booking me as your keynote speaker.


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It’s Your Business: Own Your Awesome!

These are exciting times for female entrepreneurs and women who own small and micro-businesses. Not only are our numbers growing, we’re logging bigger and bigger successes.

But there’s something amiss, and it’s holding us back from realising our full potential.

Many of us are refusing to own our ambitions. We’re saying things like:

  • “I work as an IT contractor.”
  • “I am self-employed as an IT professional.”
  • “I work for a company called Girl Tech.”

Instead of saying:

  • “My name is Susan and I own my own company, called Girl Tech.”
So many of us are reluctant to tell people that we’re entrepreneurs or that we own our own businesses.


Isn’t that the goal?

Isn’t that the thing you’ve been dreaming about for years, decades…or your whole life?

I think we need to have a conversation about why we’re under-selling ourselves.

Why Women Own Businesses in Secret

After talking to hundreds of female business owners, I have come to a conclusion:

Women, as a matter of nature, would rather help others than help themselves.

I think we can all agree on the validity of that statement. We see what mothers, sisters, daughters and friends do for one another and it’s undeniable: Women feel good when they’re giving.

So do we have to choose between ourselves and our customers in business?


We simply have to stand back and take in the big picture, which looks something like this:

You are a woman who owns a business. You enjoy the independence. You like making your own decisions. And most of all, you like relieving people’s pain, helping them to solve their problems and ultimately changing their lives for the better.

This is why you get out of bed in the morning. It’s your passion.

And maybe you feel like if you spend more time promoting yourself as the owner of this business, talking about your why and your story, that you will be taking some of that joy away from your customers. You fear that the business will suddenly be all about you, and that shift of the spotlight will leave your customers in the dark.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, by promoting your passion and your story, you will be making your business more visible to the customers who need you most. You will be enabling yourself to help more people, in bigger ways.

So really, when you OWN your ambition and really OWN your business, you’re giving your customers more.

By “secretly” owning your business, rather than broadcasting that it’s yours, you are short-changing your customers. You’re not giving them the opportunity to get to know the real you—the one who cares so much about their well-being and their success. You’re limiting your potential, and theirs too.

Things to Remember as you Learn to OWN your Business

This is a big shift in thinking for most women, and it can take some practice. Here are some tips I have found helpful in learning to really OWN your business:

  • Tell your story more often, to more people. You can feel better about doing this by avoiding the standard, dry bio. Instead, talk about how you developed a love for helping others in your own, unique way.
  • Ask your most loyal customers to talk about how you (and your business) have changed their lives for the better. It can be easier for a woman to accept praise than to talk about her own accomplishments (and it’s usually better-received, too).
  • Hire a PR (Public Relations) firm to aid in getting the word out about your business.
  • Compete for industry awards. They not only provide great press, they can “speak” alongside you and vouch for your expertise.
  • Band together with other successful women and support one another. Brag about each other so you don’t always have to tout your own accomplishments.
  • Start calling yourself a business owner, rather than a contractor or employee. Look at yourself in the mirror and say it every morning, then start introducing yourself that way.

I would never ask you to change or disguise your own nature. Instead, I would encourage you to start owning your ambitions. Because they are YOURS, after all.

Need some help? Want to know how other women are promoting themselves for the privilege of serving more people? Then click here to learn more about my Fempreneur Course. In it, you will learn to make money doing what you love, without apologies. You might also wish to check out my other live events here.

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Banks vs Bootstraps: Women’s Business Financing Woes

Women in start-ups and small businesses are far more likely than men to self-finance. That means money from family and friends, from savings, from her salary…rather than from banks and other financial institutions.


A robust sense of independence is one reason.

A lack of available financing for women is another.

It’s true: Historically, women have had a more difficult time securing bank loans for start-ups and business growth. This can be attributed to a number of things, but one of the biggest explanations involves the types of businesses women are likely to start.

Take retail, for instance. I have found that women are much more likely to open a retail business than men are, and retail businesses typically have:

  • low revenue
  • high expenses
  • low profit margins
  • low credit ratings

…as compared to other male-dominated industries; like tech, for instance.

And when banks see those red flags, they deny, deny, deny.

As a result, women are forced to obtain funding from elsewhere: places like angel investors (who aren’t always so angelic) and high-interest credit cards. And when you consider that investors are only helping a little more than a third of female start-ups, and that women typically pay ½ percent higher interest on credit cards than men[1], it becomes fairly evident that we need the bank financing we’re being denied.

So what are we going to do about it?

Throw our hands in the air and claim defeat?

Or lay claim to the financing we deserve?

Some Heartening Data for Women’s Business Financing

As we have proven again and again, just because business is tough doesn’t mean we’re quitting.

For instance, despite the fact that female business owners are earning about the same amount of money as employees[2], and re-investing a large portion of their profits back into their businesses, they’re still growing in force. When I take a closer look at the Australian landscape for women-owned businesses, I am heartened, to say the least.

I’m not expecting banks to make an about-face and start raining capital on female entrepreneurs. However, I’m also not ruling out investments from venture capitalist firms.

According to the Australian Census, one-third of business owners are women, but only one-third of those women are securing funding from venture capitalist organisations. That’s about to change. Quotas and initiatives are now in place to fund more female-founded businesses[3].

What can we expect? More equitable investments. The massive disparity between business funding for men and women is being recognised, and the 25.4% of start-ups with female founders this year[4] will begin claiming more than the 2.2% of global venture capital they’re currently using.

The money is there.
You’ve just got to find a way get to it.

What’s a Girl to do?

It’s true. Women have a harder time obtaining financing from banks, for a variety of reasons.

Those reasons I cited earlier are still contributing, but now that we have more women in male-dominated industries, the stats should change, right?

Only if we…

  • Take more risks. Women are notorious for playing it safe. It makes perfect sense, really, when you consider the ways in which we were raised and the tasks we’ve traditionally been assigned. The business world is much different though. The willingness to take risks is directly associated with the level of success achieved. So take that leap, ladies!
  • Ask for what you want. Why are we so shy about asking for what we need? Including money for start-up capital? I have been working with female entrepreneurs for long enough to know that they’re not walking into banks with their heads held high and demanding respect like their male counterparts do. I know they’re not touting their abilities nearly as much as they’re apologising for their shortcomings. You deserve this money…and you’ve got to walk into the bank believing that.
  • Break industry barriers. As we’ve already discussed, the types of businesses women typically run aren’t attracting investors and aren’t falling into banks’ favour. If you’ve been considering breaking into a male-dominated industry, now is the time to get serious about it. You can compete; there’s never been a better time.
  • Conquer the fear. Most women hesitate to ask for the financing they need because they fear denial. Instead of filling out the application, they put off hopes of business growth. Instead of applying for the grant, they short-change their lifestyle dreams. Even if you do get a NO, you’ve lost nothing. Jump into the ring with everything you’ve got and if you’re met with denial, move on to the next opportunity.
  • Build your credit. Just because you don’t qualify for a bank loan now, does not mean you can’t reapply after you’ve built your credit rating. Borrow a small amount from a smaller bank. Seek out investors. Lower your overhead. And after you’re showing a profit, go to the bigger bank. You might be surprised at the change in tune.

Women in business are becoming increasingly aware of the barriers they face whilst working to experience success. Financing is just one more stumbling block. You can face-plant on it or you can clear it, comfortably, with a strategised leap.

So before you put your head down and start tugging on those bootstraps, work on making your profile more appealing to banks. Make connections with investment firms, like SheStarts, who recognise women in progressive industries. Together, we can change the landscape of women’s business financing…but first, we’ve got to be heard.

When I started my business, I was working from a closet in my home. I didn’t need a loan at the time, thank goodness, because I doubt Banks would’ve been kind to me, but I learnt some things and translated them into big success. I’ve taken some of what I know and shared that wisdom with you in my business book for women Out of the Closet: You can buy it on Amazon or on my website.


[1] Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics
[3] Imogen Baxter, Square Peg
[4] Start Up Musters report

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