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An Interview on Small Business Ownership from a Woman's Perspective
  • 21 August 2018
  • Tiffany C Wright

An Interview on Small Business Ownership from a Woman's Perspective

Did you know that women-owned firms employ nearly 9 million* people in the U.S.? Continue reading to hear how one woman has used her entrepreneurial spirit to carve her own path, professionally and personally, for small business ownership. Please meet Roxann Smithers, founder and partner in the law firm of Smithers + Ume-Nwagbo, LLC. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the firm provides general counsel services to owners of small- and medium-sized businesses. Roxann specializes in helping owners, suppliers, subcontractors and general contractors at various stages of the construction process.


Did you know? August 26 is Women's Equality Day which commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

Interview has been slightly edited for ease of understanding and flow.

What advice would you give to new or aspiring entrepreneurs?

One of the first things I always tell [anyone who wants to start a business] is to make sure your personal finances are in order. That takes planning [and] it's very, very important. It reduces the stresses on you. Very early on, any financing you do get will be based on your net worth, your credit score, your debt to equity ratio.

Second, take the time to do a budget and understand how you generate revenue vs. how you make a profit. Have a clear plan on how to fund your business until it is profitable. You may need to work two years or have a side hustle [before you run your business full-time]. I see lots of clients with great ideas but who don't have sufficient financial wherewithal to deal with the timeline it may take to generate sufficient revenue.

Third, be prepared to fund this budget that you've taken the time to develop. Include funds for professional services like accounting, insurance and legal services.

Do you do anything to make your firm unique and able to stand out from the crowd?

Certainly! We're unique in that we're a woman-owned firm. My business partner, Nwa'ndo Ume-Nwagbo's background is in employee benefits. This is something that few business attorneys, fewer women and fewer attorneys of color offer. As a small business ourselves, [we can relate to our clients.] The advice we give, we have to live it as well.

Did being a woman or any of the situations you encounter as a woman influence your decision to start your own firm?

No. I had already made a decision to go to a smaller law firm [in order] to have a higher quality of life. I had looked around to see who made partner and the hours they worked and had decided I wanted something else. The decision to start a business was more about having control over my own destiny. Being a woman wasn't a primary [driver] in becoming a business owner.

However, the two people I asked to join me were women, so [together], we made it a point to promote that we were a woman-owned firm. For Women's History Month, we like to get together with our women-owned business clients to network, provide professional development, and/or volunteer at a charity that is focused on supporting women.

Do you face additional challenges as a female entrepreneur?


[Generally, you face] the same...sort of challenges that you face in a law firm and in the legal profession. [There] is [a] stereotype that [a] lawyer is an older, white man - so you often find yourself in situations where you are the outlier or where people are expecting something different. This is particularly more the case with our firm, which is focused on corporate legal services, [rather than] family law, divorce, or other areas in which you [typically] find many more [female lawyers].

What are your thoughts on a National Women's Equality holiday?

[I like the idea] because it encourages us to think about topics that we may either overlook or take for granted, depending on our perspective.

Small business ownership with a focus on revenue and profitability can help women reduce the wage gap directly through higher income and indirectly through controlling one's work life balance and destiny.


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