Marcia Nelson is the founder and CEO of Deals & Divas, an educational and networking organization that connects women entrepreneurs and investors. Marcia recently joined The Alberleen Group platform, an investment bank and merchant banking firm servicing middle market companies and family office investors.
Over the last 20 years, Marcia has developed a strong network of family offices and advisors who are increasingly seeking access to quality direct deal flow from trusted, experienced partners. She has a particular interest in women-owned businesses and impact investments.
In this interview, Marcia shares her passion for empowering women-owned businesses, sourcing partners and advisors for women entrepreneurs, networking and connecting them with customers and the community. Her biggest piece of advice to those who are thinking of starting a business of their own: Don’t quit your day job! At least, not right away!
Learn more from Marcia’s entrepreneurial insights below and be sure to follow Marcia on Twitter for the latest updates on Deals and Divas!
I started Deals & Divas as a networking platform to support my business development efforts inside an accounting firm. We were looking to build out our women’s initiative and I came up with a catchy name.
Initially, I had no plans to turn it into a business, but it started to grow and gain traction, and we started to get some press around what we were doing. After four years of running it in-house, I launched Deals & Divas, LLC as my own company.
The statistics about women in leadership positions and pay is terrible. If we can’t fix it from within, then we need to build it ourselves. My mission is to enhance the value of women-owned and led businesses worldwide.
Deals & Divas focuses on educating, supporting and connecting women and helping them harness their own unique talents and strengths to build bigger, better, more sustainable businesses while engaging a broad, supportive consumer and community base.
I am really good at connecting the right people to each other, and building a culture inside Deals & Divas so that every person (man or woman) who comes to our events meets someone else who can help them.
I focus on curating the attendees – almost like a host for a dinner party who makes sure the guests are seated next to like-minded people. After people come to a Deals & Divas event once or twice, they start thinking about how to make strategic connections themselves.
There are definitely days when I think “What am I doing? How can I go on?” And then I’ll get a phone call or email from someone who came to an event who tells me that they made a terrific connection, found someone interested in investing in their company, or in one case actually hired someone they met. Those are the moments that make it all worth it.
I look for people who have a similar work ethic and goals. As a small business owner, I started out doing everything myself – from high level to low level jobs. I have been surprised sometimes by people who come to an interview and tell me everything they don’t do. I think, “Hey, I’m the CEO and if I need to empty the trash, I’ll do it. Why shouldn’t you do that, too?”
On the flip side, I love it when someone comes in and just rolls up their sleeves and takes over a project after I give them some direction. We’re still new and figuring it out along the way – and maybe that persons idea is better/faster/more efficient than how I was doing it.
Deals & Divas is a full-service community that helps owners and executives grow their companies by providing necessary tools for success, matching them with appropriate advisors, giving them access to capital, and leveraging the network to create and grow a loyal customer base.
For example, we encourage our hosts/sponsors to hire women-owned catering companies to provide food and to source wines from women wine makers. During the cocktail receptions at our events we have an “entrepreneur showcase” where women-owned companies can have a table to present their products and services – this helps them build out their customer base, and also gives them access to advisors and potential investors.
For our educational events, we have experienced business owners (men and women!) share their success stories on how they raised capital, or formed strategic partnerships. We also bringing advisors from legal, accounting, banking and other services who talk about some of things that businesses need to know to be successful.
We have been lucky so far not to have run into that situation. More often, I get people who offer to speak at our events, but they don’t fit the profile. I may invite them to come to an event and get a better feel for what we do, and let me know they’re welcome to attend in the future.
We use social media, but most of what we’ve built so far has been through word of mouth. Email is still the best way for us to promote our events, and we find that people forward the invitations along to others, which helps expand our network.
My company has been incubated inside another firm. Under the incubator, I have access to legal counsel, accounting/CFO services, and a network of other business owners that all share the same space.
It has been invaluable to have a real office to go to, with a receptionist and conference rooms when I need them as well. I also have been able to tap the other businesses for introductions to potential speakers as well as attendees for our events.