Chauncey Holloman Pettis is the director of the Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC), which inspires women- owned startups to chase their dreams of entrepreneurship. She is also the CEO of Harlem Lyrics — an integrated line of greeting cards, school supplies and apparel.
The Arkansas Women’s Business Center provides no-cost, one- on-one consulting to Arkansas women- owned businesses focusing on PPP loan assistance, marketing, business pivoting due to COVID-19, and much more. Pettis has more than 15 years of experience in the world of entrepreneurship and small business development, and she also participates on a number of local boards and committees.
COVID-19 has created unique challenges across all industries, but particularly for small businesses. What has been the key to navigating the crisis successfully and safely?
Keeping a user-friendly virtual meeting tool and tight schedule are paramount. During these trying times I find it necessary to just be a calm voice, reassuring them that “this is only temporary” and I can help you through it. Once that’s established, we can provide guidance on everything from how to apply for PPP loans or how to pivot their business to e-commerce.
What motivates you to keep coming to work each day?
Our entrepreneurs rely on the AWBC for guidance and to bounce ideas off of. I have seen businesses launch, maintain and grow with our help. Knowing that every minute I spend assisting our entrepreneurs actualize their dreams, or find financial success, leads to real positive impact for women, families and communities. What could be more motivating?
What is the best moment of your career so far?
The launch of Momentum: A Minority Women-Owned Business Accelerator in 2019 was one of the proudest moments in my career. Momentum focuses solely on developing minority women businesses and was the first of its kind in Arkansas. Its main focus is to eliminate barriers and provide support and guidance to increase their chances for success.
As a successful woman in leadership, what experiences most shaped your career and philosophy?
One of my earliest experiences that shaped my career was starting my business years ago. It gave me first- hand knowledge of what business ownership can do for your sense of self and a family’s economic mobility. My experiences give me empathy, insight, and best practices for owning a small business that I try to pass it on as a counselor and director.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life and career?
The women in my family are my biggest influence. I am a fourth-generation entrepreneur in a family full of women-owned businesses. Seeing their success and growing up immersed in their empowerment not only inspired me to launch my own business, but also showed me the importance of seeing success that looks like you.
Tell us the best piece of career or life advice you have received?
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” This piece of advice has led me to take every major leap in my life. This mantra has emboldened me to take calculated risk and bold choices that have helped my career progress and to create amazing spaces and programs for others that I can be proud of.
How do you like to de-stress after a difficult day/week?
I wish I could say I ran or biked or something healthy but I am quite the couch potato. I love watching new content and holding in-depth analyzing discussions with my family and friends. Throw in a bucket of popcorn and a big blanket and my stress melts away.
What advice do you have for keeping a team focused and motivated in challenging times?
I acknowledge that we are all people and not machines. These are challenging times and the uncertainty can be hard to process. I’ve found it necessary to create a space where we talk things through not just professionally but also personally (if they choose). This “re-centering” time empowers us to then go about the business of helping others.