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Business Owner, Business Professor, and Chief Hot Momma: Kathy Korman Frey on Today's Entrepreneur

by Jill Foster on June 3, 2009

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Women Grow Business enthusiast Kathy Korman Frey co-developed the curriculum for the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at George Washington University (GWU). The program won the National Excellence in Education Award from the U.S. Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Kathy also founded the consulting firm Vision Forward and its business curriculum initiative, The Hot Mommas (TM) Project.

This project takes the stories of real women everywhere and converts them to teachable role models for women and girls. It is the world’s largest collection of such teachable stories. And in 2006, the project received one of three National Coleman Foundation Case Awards. Kathy can be reached via Twitter http://www.Twitter.com/ChiefHotMomma.

Kathy’s conviction and drive for teaching entrepreneurship are contagious.
I enjoyed first meeting her at BlogHer’s DC Reach Out Tour last year. And it’s been a thrill watching Kathy’s business make an impact with the growing Hot Mommas Project and other initiatives ever since. Kathy spent a few minutes on the phone recently with Women Grow Business about what’s inspiring her lately and other business observations.

Her shared insights are summarized below.

On what defines entrepreneurship
An entrepreneur doesn’t have to be something you become from attending a certain business course. It simply can be a mindset: Conceiving of an idea, and then seeing it through.

Here are examples:

  • An employee of the Smithsonian Institution who was responsible for the construction of the Udvar Hazy air and space museum.
  • Her entrepreneurial twist? She did it while working part time. Some people call this “intrapreneurship.”

  • A stay at home mom who has a lot of business ideas every day, and is figuring out her next move. When is she going to pull the trigger on one of these ideas? She is just at the beginning of the entrepreneurial process. However, she is thinking very entrepreneurially and keeping a list of her ideas.
  • A student who has an idea for a business, or something that would improve her school. She implements it WHILE in school, and continues the business after school. Two examples of this: A student of mine at GW who started a business council to bring together the disparate student groups in one place – then plugged in faculty and the administration. Another student saw many groups for MBAs, but what about undergrads interested in business? She started University Women in Business along with some other students and it has taken hold across the nation.
  • The Mompreneur movement.
    This movement is a flashing billboard for their new definition of success and entrepreneurship. Women are using their brains to entrepreneur their work, and their lives. Both realms are legitimate banners to be held out there as “success.” Talk about bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan! (Or, as my case goes, bring home the bacon and hire someone else to fry it up in a pan because I tend to endanger my eyebrows and eyelashes when put in a cooking situation).
  • The interest in this model is starting EARLY. My students now want to know how to fit the life pieces together.

  • So, I literally had to inject parts of the Hot Mommas Project and the lessons from our surveys and database of women’s stories into the actual class! Right along spreadsheets and the 4Ps of marketing. How’s that for evolution?
  • Boomers and caregiving.
    Women are caregivers. It’s not just a “oh – women tend to do this.” It’s a fact. A majority of women are the caregivers for their kids, their parents, etc. Boomers are a forgotten group, I think. Someone please get in there and entrepreneur this area? I used to work at the National Council on the Aging and have a strong affinity for this demographic.

We are taught to think very linearly, however…
We ladies are zigging and zagging and doing it with style. The Hot Mommas Project actually would not exist without the zigs and zags. So, I am embracing the curves of the road now. No one can tell us anymore that it should be a straight road.

Blue suit entrepreneurship
The wheeling dealing dude in the blue suit is, frankly, an outdated image of entrepreneurship. It’s spreading. It’s everywhere. And we can all get in on it. The premise that “anything is possible” drives the new entrepreneurial mindset.

On confidence for carving out success (and failure along the way)
I tell my students confidence won’t be handed to you from some magical place. The trial and error of the real-world exercises in our Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership class are what give students a taste of the confidence that comes with putting yourself out there and DOING. They, the students, all innately understand that REAL success is not about memorizing concepts or turning in course assignments on time.

Academic communities tend to brainwash into the black and white a bit.
You are either an ‘A’ student or not. Corporate America does it too. How high have you gotten in the organization? How much money do you make? It is important for students of business and life to understand that false confidence comes from the title and the money.

A deeper confidence comes from another place. We try to get at that with the Hot Mommas Project – real stories, real people, real successes and failures.

Here is an example:
Saranne is a Stage 4 cancer survivor. Do you think she felt like a failure when she was in chemo and possibly less able to take care of her daughter and day to-day activities? Do you think she felt like a failure when her health took a front seat to the go-go-go?

Maybe, maybe not.

An extreme situation like that makes us say, “Of COURSE not! She did what she had to do to survive!” There are little, junior varsity versions of this everyday. You are tired. You are on overdraft protection. You need to take some time for yourself. You beat yourself up over it. You’re not “doing what you have to do to survive”…you’re shirking your responsibility.

Our survey shows a great number of women think this way. It’s a little feeling of failure every day. My message [in response to this belief] is STOP!

For more on Saranne, please join us for a case discussion of Saranne’s Hot Mommas Project story. And comments made before June 15 will be automatically entered into a drawing for a MomAgenda.

Women who have role models and mentors are more successful. Period.
So, if someone were to take away ONE thing from this post, I would want it to be go out and find a role model or mentor. It could be a guy, it could be a peer — mentors and role models come in all shapes and sizes (here is a podcast I did for HipTranquilChick on setting up your own mentor group).

Thoughts on a badge of honor
Failure is an interesting one. I was part of the generation that didn’t “do” failure. I think we’re kind of spoiled because there were no real generationally-influencing wars or hard times. You can see the humbling impact a national event like 9-11 has on our nation. It gets us thinking about what really matters. I like to use that as a tool to calm fears and worries – about failure especially.

There is a badge of honor that comes with failure, and looking at it, and saying “Hey, okay, I learned from that,” and moving on.

Manifesting baby steps as an entrepreneur
It’s really valuable to keep in mind that small steps toward implementing an idea are key in developing that entrepreneur-like initiative. For example, do you have a volunteerism idea? Convene a local meeting and invite people’s feedback on your concept.

That’s creating something new and following an idea up with action. It’s this exact one-two-punch of idea and action that anchors the entrepreneur’s mindset.

A Hot Mommas Project book is scheduled for publication in late 2009-2010. In the meantime, browse the Hot Mommas Project case library, and participate in an online case discussion of real women at www.HotMommasProject.org.

(Photo credit of Kathy Korman Frey by Jessica McConnell, George Washington University)

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