Women Business Owners Series: Liz Whitehead CEO of 12PointFive and Diversity Masterminds
As part of our Women Business Owners Series, we recently sat down with Liz Whitehead who founded 12PointFive as well as Diversity Masterminds. Learn more about Liz‘s work, how she mentors diverse business people and helps underserved communities through her work.
TL: What prompted you to start 12PointFive and Diversity Masterminds®?
Liz: I’d been working in the networking space since 2002, first with WBEC NY (Women Presidents Educational Organization then) and then as Executive Director of WBEC DMV, WBENC’s DMV regional affiliate. I also worked for WEConnect International, which helps women business owners outside the U.S. obtain and leverage certification to grow their businesses.
I realized that a lot of people needed a more personalized approach in the certification and networking space, so I thought about starting my own business. After my second baby, I felt like it was time to do it. I talked to women business owners and other corporate executives in my network and was told I was a “connector” and that my strength was helping people prepare and implement long-term business development plans. I launched my current businesses to try and monetize that strength.
TL: Can you tell us more about your services?
Liz: At 12PointFive, I help diverse business owners make meaningful connections that drive growth for their companies. For diverse business owners, the opportunities are limitless but their time is not. A good example of this is helping them understand how to leverage supplier diversity channels and contacts through certification. This support comes in the form of mini-coaching sessions that help them and their teams achieve results.
I also offer 1:1 consulting for clients who already have certification, know how and where to connect and primarily need other help growing their businesses. I work with them to get systems in order and move from a referral-based model to a more strategic approach that enables them to look for bigger clients.
Diversity Masterminds® offers an on-demand course that gives diverse business owners steps to certification. It’s an 8-part series that helps these leaders learn about everything from defining their value proposition to creating a certification roadmap, as well as how to connect with the right supplier diversity contacts and much more. My business partner and I offer a live version as well with a cohort of business owners to build peer relationships.
TL: You are obviously focused on high-touch, personalized service for your clients. What do you do to make your client experience special?
Liz: I come from a service background, having previously worked for non-profits, and my approach is personalized and giving. I focus on teaching, training and mentorship and I’ve priced it so that I can give clients as much time as they need.
I start by asking clients what they want to get out of our work together. Then, I can provide little chunks of support to help clients get to the next steps, depending on their situation – like whether they have a sales team who can quickly act on the referrals I provide. I help support business development efforts, giving clients what they need when they need it and in an actionable way. For example, I send them regular updates on their targets so that they have a reason to reach out and follow up – like a conference is coming up that their potential client might be interested in or a press release to forward.
I’m not a certification evangelist – I talk to my clients about whether they even need a certification for what they are trying to do. I make sure to manage expectations and then based on their time, energy and resources, I give everything that I can.
TL: How many people work for you right now?
Liz: I have a business partner, Heather Cox from Certify My Company who I work with on Diversity Masterminds®. We also partner with other organizations to deliver our services.
TL: So how do you promote your business and get people in the door?
Liz: I hired a local woman-owned marketing firm, and they are worth their weight in gold – in fact, they won a WBC (Women’s Bond Club) Star award. I also write my own newsletters to spread the word about my businesses.
TL: Giving back is a big focus of many large and small businesses. How does social responsibility factor into your business?
Liz: My business model lends itself to helping underserved communities and I mentor local diverse businesspeople and start-ups to help educate them about free resources, as well as identify important things they need to think about to be successful. Recently, I’ve been working with business owners from Ukraine as well. I do this work pro bono because it contributes to a positive ecosystem for underserved entrepreneurs. I am the certification guru for Hera Hub, a women’s focused coworking space. Also, I mentor for Seed Spot, Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, and Dress for Success locally which serve those companies who are just starting out but need a sounding board and to have their ideas nurtured.
I also just applied for B Corp Certification – I’m committed to making a positive social and environmental impact with my business.
TL: What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur? What’s the most challenging part?
Liz: My favorite part is the flexibility – which doesn’t mean working less – but more working on your own terms. My children are 6 and 8 years old and it means I can be there for them. I can go to their Valentine’s parties, field trips, and organize my work around their schedules.
The hardest part is doing it by yourself. It can be lonely, and you never really know if you’re doing a good job because you don’t get feedback like you do when you are working for a company. But over the years, the numbers and client feedback have let me know that it’s going well.
TL: What advice do you have for women who are thinking about starting their own businesses?
Liz: My biggest piece of advice is don’t wait for permission to be great. If you are working at a company, no one is going to come and tell you to go out on your own.
TL: What are your plans for the future?
Liz: I want to grow the Diversity Masterminds® curriculum in the corporate space to help people who have vendor supplier summits and support services learn more about maximizing certifications.
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