“A circle of strong women”: The protective power of female business relationships
Insights from Ramona Thomas, My Chocolate Soul (Uptown)
Any female entrepreneur can tell you why it’s important to have strong women on their team.
Professional relationships are incredibly important — but they are often much harder for women to form and maintain compared to men. From young finance professionals who form pickup basketball teams to executives who make deals on the golf course, male-dominated professional spheres often unintentionally and intentionally create networking-building opportunities that women are excluded from. There are many reasons why it can be more difficult to form strong professional networks as women.
But these relationships are critical to our success in business.
Ramona Thomas, the owner of My Chocolate Soul, an all-natural chocolate boutique in Uptown, Chicago, knows this personally. The strong professional women in her life have been a part of her success.
When she was opening her retail shop this past year, she looked to her good friend, Tamika, fellow female entrepreneur and owner of a Chicago clothing boutique, for inspiration. Ramona credits Tamika for showing her how to navigate leasing, interior design, and all of the city’s requirements for retailers.
“Just watching her and talking to her was really inspiring to me.”
Even more important was her relationship with her female architect. Because while building out her new space last year, Ramona faced particular challenges as a woman-owned business.
“When you talk about being a woman-owned business, I mean dealing with contractors and subcontractors, where it’s completely male-dominated, and then they look at you and they think you’re young, this is your first time, you don’t know any better. Some people think it’s really easy and it’s okay to take advantage of you.”
As women, people assume that we are not competent when it comes to construction, plumbing, and electricity. That can leave female business owners vulnerable to contractors trying to take advantage of our perceived lack of knowledge.
Though Ramona had no experience working with contractors, her female architect did.
“I even watched how the contractor… responded to [my architect] as a woman. I knew there were certain behaviors he would never exercise with a man, but felt comfortable blaming her for certain things… She really covered and protected me, because I think that if I didn’t have her, I think my contractor would’ve just done whatever the hell he wanted to.”
This is just one example of the power of women supporting women. Acknowledging this power has always been part of Ramona’s life:
“I was born into a circle of strong women, and I think my nature is to draw that and to look for that and to nurture that and appreciate it.”
This circle of strong women has propelled Ramona to her success in business. She makes incredible all-natural chocolates motivated by the belief that:
“things that come from the earth, from the ground, are better than things that are made in the lab.”
As the “Chief Sweets Officer”, Ramona is currently making 100% of the chocolates herself. Ditch the chemical-ridden Hershey’s and try Ramona’s handiwork yourself.