Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Susan Nelson Spencer, Co-Founder of Ethowork, located in Laguna Beach, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Ethowork is a small, minority, a women-owned consultancy that helps companies improve their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices. Until now, we have primarily assisted apparel manufacturers, but now we are taking on clients from outside the fashion industry.

Tell us about yourself

Well, there are two of us. Patricia (Patty) has extensive experience in the sustainability space, working with the world's leading companies in the apparel industry. Her areas of expertise lie in supply chain risk management, ethical sourcing, product sustainability programs, ESG, CSR management strategy, worker well-being initiatives, and global regulatory compliance.

I'm a learning designer who spent her previous life working in both the fashion industry and fashion education. I've created online, asynchronous employee training, sustainability/ESG courses, as well as courses for factory workers and managers concerning employee health and safety and workers' rights.

Patty and I have a great synchronicity in our business, as Patty comes in first to assess and develop a strategic plan for our clients, then I create the learning experiences to implement the plan.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Our most significant accomplishment to date was a factory-level project we worked on last Spring. After writing policies and guidelines and then creating training courses to implement them, we went back to the client's factory to close the proverbial loop. When we spoke with the workers, they were so happy with the changes we recommended for the factory and the training they received. It was super validating to see that level of improvement and worker appreciation.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Since we started, we've worked on a referral-only basis. There's an excellent demand for ESG right now, and companies are reaching out to us. However, I think we'll need to start marketing our services soon enough. We've been so busy that we have yet to give how to approach this much thought. We're definitely open to ideas that anyone in the Subkit community might have!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Empathetically, try to put yourself in your client's shoes. So far, we've worked with small to mid-size, family-owned companies who's cash-flow is sometimes dependent upon a large retailer's order. When we write a proposal, we try to be as flexible as possible surrounding our services and often offer "phases" for work completed to ease the financial strain.
  2. Understand how your business partner(s) work. I like to go-go-go and am a very action/results-oriented person. Patty is much more methodical and strategic. We both needed to adjust our styles a bit to move forward. Knowing someone's work style and building grace and patience are vital in a partnership.
  3. Don't spend on extras. We get invited to many conferences, but they are often costly. As we move into Phase Two of our business plan this year, inevitably, we'll need to start attending some of them. If we had spent all that we earned in 2022, we would have to find a way to afford to start making these strategic alliances. Not spending our earnings during our first year of business is now enabling us to spend strategically to build and develop our business in 2023.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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