Today we had the opportunity to interview Erin Joy
As the founder and executive consultant behind Black Dress Circle, Erin Joy uses over 25 years’ experience in entrepreneurship, roundtable facilitation, business strategy, and executive coaching to help fellow female business owners launch, propel, and grow their companies. Through one-on-one coaching, she provides clients with the resources, accountability, and guidance they need to thrive. Through customized coaching packages based on navigating clients’ most pressing business challenges—from HR to growth to preparing to sell to mindset and wellbeing—she gives women business owners the space and opportunity to leverage challenges into opportunities and solve for success.
Erin is committed to uplifting other entrepreneurs and accomplishes that goal through a variety of avenues. Since founding Black Dress Circle, Erin has hosted over 300 roundtables, 200 group coaching calls, 70 live events, and 1000 online events, and the company continues to serve over 60 clients. She also created and led the national award-winning Midwest Women Business Owners’ Conference; released an anthology of advice from women business owners titled The Anatomy of Accomplishment: Your Guide to Bigger, Better, Bolder Business Results; and has been featured in USA Today, the St. Louis Business Journal, and Entrepreneur Quarterly, among other publications. Erin is also the co-founder of Fuel to Fire, a group that empowers entrepreneurs to amplify and achieve their goals through collaboration and accountability, and The Hustle Hub, an online community where female entrepreneurs can find and share strategies, advice, and encouragement.
Erin is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Business Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology to enhance her ability to connect with and support women in business on both a professional and emotional level. In 2016 and 2019, she was designated as one of the top 100 St. Louisans to know, and she was also recognized with an international Enterprising Women of the Year Champion Award in 2019. Erin makes collaboration and empowerment a priority in every facet of her life – from helping female business owners thrive to uplifting the people of her local community to setting an example for her own daughter, Audrey, and the next generation of women who will lead.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Erin Joy: I spent 15 years selling and consulting in the real estate industry, but 10 years ago I decided to shift my focus to business consulting and executive coaching services. I wanted other female entrepreneurs like myself to have the tools and resources they needed so that they could succeed in their endeavors and career goals. That’s when I decided to start Black Dress Circle, which began as monthly peer-driven roundtables that offered support, guidance and insight specifically for women business owners. But my journey to entrepreneurship began long before that. I’m a third-generation entrepreneur; my parents started and ran their own insurance business, and my grandmother started and ran her own business before them.
Today, even my sister runs a business! Maybe it’s genetic, but I think it’s that we all share a similar drive to help others in whatever capacity we can.
Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Erin Joy: Through my consulting firm, Black Dress Circle, I work one-on-one with women entrepreneurs at any point in their journey to get unstuck, make solid business decisions, and step up to the greatness they are capable of. The coaching and support they receive is invaluable in helping these women navigate through challenges both now, and in the future. As I saw so many businesses struggling to face unprecedented challenges, it was important to me that I was doing everything I could to be a resource of knowledge and support, as well as adapting to fit the needs of my clients.
With all this in mind, we are working to provide the resources that make a difference for these women, like Erin’s Golden Rolodex of vetted resources, BDC workshops, The Erin Joy App, The Hustle Hub with Erin Joy, inspirational videos and online support.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Erin Joy: My parents. They opened an insurance agency in the dining room of our family home with three young kids. They hustled their way to the top, building not only that agency but also a real estate agency and a real estate portfolio. Some of the most valuable business lessons they taught me centered around work ethic, loyalty and being a good employer. Today, they’re cash-out entrepreneurs living the life of their dreams on a boat in Florida for half the year and their lake house in Illinois the other half.
They’re still fiercely loyal to their friends and former clients — they still only buy furniture and flooring from some of their best friends who own a store in our hometown. I have many memories of dining at restaurants all over central Illinois and we’d drive an hour through the corn fields to dine at those restaurants because the owners were insurance clients of my parents. I carry those principles of work ethic, loyalty and being a good employer into my business and I share those lessons with my clients. I’m fiercely loyal too, and once you’re a client, we’re bonded for life.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Erin Joy: If we want to take care of others, we have to first take care of ourselves. Something I always make time for, no matter how busy my schedule gets, is my mental health and wellbeing. I think all too often we get caught up in our to-do lists, our work and our goals for our businesses, and we have this tendency to put everything else above ourselves.
We worry about not letting anything slip through the cracks, and if something does, we put all the blame on ourselves for not working hard enough or being “good” enough. And I think that can be a real problem. Stress builds this way, and the pressure over time can be way too much for one person to handle. Especially now, when it seems like this entire past year has been synonymous with stress, we need to make sure we’re not putting our mental health on the back burner. It’s one thing to be constantly working; it’s another to be doing mindful work. My mantra for 2020 was “busy doesn’t equal productive.”
Is there a particular podcast you listened to, or business thought leader that you find helpful while maneuvering this pandemic?
Erin Joy: While it’s not a podcast, “The One Minute Manager” by Kenneth H. Blanchard is filled with simple management tips and tools for anyone that manages people or teams. I’ve had it for years, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for actionable advice on best practices, whether you run your own business or are simply part of a larger team. “Goals begin behaviors, consequences maintain them.” It’s full of golden nuggets like that. It was this resource and many others on my bookshelf, that inspired me to write The Anatomy of Accomplishment: Your Guide to Bigger, Better, Bolder Business Results, which I regularly share with clients and audiences around the country.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Erin Joy: BDC is known for our creativity, hustle and strategic thinking but even more for our focus on really walking alongside our clients and journeying with their company. For example, over the years I had multiple roundtables for women at different points in their business career; the “Emerge” group members were women earning less than $1 million in annual revenue, at the start of their journey. The “Evolve” group was composed of women further along in running their business, making more than $1 million in annual revenue. These circles would meet in-person to tackle unique business challenges, and we would come together as a group to collaborate and provide innovative solutions with our combined expertise. From the very beginning, we have offered resources that are vital to women entrepreneurs in all stages of their business growth.
Now I offer female entrepreneurs consulting packages based on the challenges they want to solve – from human resources and operations to growth and mindset and general well-being. In the sessions, I help these women identify issues and opportunities and really analyze their businesses, so we can collaborate and strategize a plan for them to meet their goals. I also produce an ongoing series of videos, “Mindset Mondays,” where I provide actionable tips and insights to both clients and my social media following, designed to inspire for a productive week. We also had events and workshops where we could come together in the spirit of continuous learning and effective networking, leveraging our peers’ knowledge, and having fun too! All of my offerings are centered around the effort to help women develop habits and mindsets that empower them to have not only a business that works, but a life that works too. After 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur myself, it’s important to me that I’m sharing my expertise and resources in a variety of creative ways.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Erin Joy: There are three words that I live by and have designed my entire business around; “Educate. Inspire. Empower.” These words guide my purpose and intention, not only within Black Dress Circle, but in my own life as well. While I’m always striving to provide value for my clients, I’m also applying these words to myself, and asking how I can be living and acting on them every day.
I’ve always continually educated myself throughout my life, because I think it’s so important to be constantly seeking out the unknown and using what we’ve learned to better ourselves. I’m currently pursuing my PhD in Business Psychology, which is an incredibly important area of study when it comes to what I want to achieve with my company, Black Dress Circle. Having this psychology-focused mindset can help us shape our approach to both life and business in positive and impactful ways. I want to be able to use insights to help women who need guidance in living balanced lives.
I think we all have the capability to inspire others, if we are passionate about what we are contributing to the world and are doing so in a way that impacts the lives of those around us for the better. In turn, looking for sources of inspiration of our own can help us feel excited and empowered, ready to take on challenges and come out of the other side stronger.
Lastly, “empower” goes both ways as well. In my business and in my life, I try to surround myself with empowering people; people who have a passion and a drive for what they do. In turn, I try to empower others, by helping people see their full potential and transforming it into results whether that looks like improving productivity, efficiency, profitability or even just satisfaction in their own lives.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Erin Joy: I knew what I was getting into when I started this company, and I knew it was going to be tough. I knew I was going to work my tail off hustling to secure new clients and then service those clients — as a single mom in graduate school with a new business. I had 15 years of small business experience under my belt by the time I launched this company. However, given all of my experiences, I’d tell others when starting their organization, that the growth of your company is correlated to your personal growth — the more you invest in yourself, your personal development, your well-being, the more space there is for your business to grow.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Erin Joy: As a leader, your vision must be crystal clear. Not only does your vision need to be clear, you need it in your face all the time, every day. There’s no right scale or focus of your vision — it’s YOUR vision. Whatever it is, it needs to be so clear that you can see yourself, in your mind’s eye, achieving your goals and dreams. You want it to be so clear that when the vision unfolds you can say to yourself, “But of course, I’ve been expecting this all along.” Your vision is going to grow, shift, expand and that’s okay — whatever it is, just get it and keep it super clear.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Erin Joy: Your network is your net worth – it’s a cute little phrase but it’s true. Research shows that entrepreneurs with big networks, and close ties with contacts within that network, fare much better than those without. It’s the access to resources that your network provides that makes all the difference. As an entrepreneur, you have to know who to go to to get things done in the blink of an eye.
What’s your favorite “business” quote and how has it affected your business decisions?
Erin Joy: When one door closes another one opens. It might be a little cliché, but it rings true at a time like now, when all we can really do is either accept change, or let it conquer us. Throughout the past year, I have been fortunate to be able to help some amazing entrepreneurs to grow and thrive in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty. This phrase was a guiding light and a promise that everything would be OK, and as a result I have seen so much innovation and truly doors opening that we never anticipated.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Erin for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
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