Deb Kalsbeek has channeled her love for seeing other entrepreneurs thrive into a business that offers support for women-owned enterprises in Michigan and across the U.S.
Kalsbeek — who also co-owns SnapJoy Studio with Bethany Cramblet and owns Snap Weddings + Photo Co., dba Snap Studio — in 2018 started FemPro Business Society, an LLC that helps women entrepreneurs “achieve success through education, resources and community.”
FemPro, which Kalsbeek runs from her home in Hudsonville, spun out of a free Facebook networking group, #GRbossbabes Group, which Kalsbeek created with a former business partner. Over time, Kalsbeek said she soon saw the group members wanted more than just getting connected to other entrepreneurs; they needed help growing their businesses.
After a successful in-person event in 2018 that was supposed to be a one-time deal, Kalsbeek decided to expand FemPro into a consulting, training and networking/event business.
Today, FemPro offers a Women in Business podcast; several free online networking groups, including the #GRBossbabes Group, #Lakeshorebossbabes and a national #FemPro – Women in Business Group, which together have about 3,500 members; paid memberships with monthly trainings, workbooks and business templates; branding photoshoots; one-on-one mentoring; and a business directory launching Jan. 2 that will let entrepreneurs pay $10 to list their businesses on a publicly accessible page at femprosociety.com/directory.
As the daughter of entrepreneurs who founded her first business at the age of 17, Kalsbeek said she has always had a passion for sharing her knowledge and excitement about entrepreneurship with others. She said FemPro is firmly rooted in the “community over competition” mindset popularized by the Rising Tide Society.
“My life is very much community-based … because we all bring something to the table,” she said. “So, it’s really cool when you’re putting that out there and attracting like-minded people, which I think is what everyone sees in the three (Facebook) groups. … All three are very similar, like, let’s help each other out because business is hard. Sometimes, it’s really lonely. Sometimes, you don’t have a friend who owns a business that you can bounce ideas off of. It’s really cool to see that happening in the group — that everyone is so open to helping people.”
Kalsbeek said her first two years in business were all about figuring out what is and is not working with the business model, and going into 2021, she is going to sink more time and effort into community-building and one-on-one mentoring of businesses. The Facebook groups have been growing organically through word-of-mouth at a rate of about 30 people a week up to now, without much outreach, she said, but she hopes to more intentionally invest in their growth and development in 2021 and 2022.
In 2021, depending on the COVID-19 numbers, Kalsbeek plans to run a “mastermind retreat” with a maximum of 10 people, which will replace the FemPro Business Society University event that has been held in past years as an all-day conference with a larger group.
Currently, Kalsbeek has three team members who help with FemPro and also work in her other businesses.
She said they are working to spread awareness of the paid services FemPro offers beyond its social media groups.
“Everyone is so familiar with the online groups, but we want to make more widespread awareness of the fact that we do offer services as well, with the mentoring piece, the memberships — they have a brand-new training and workbook every single month to help business owners, and most of those are taught by other top women in business — (and that) we accept anyone who identifies as a woman. … Even if a guy wanted to join, more power to them, please do, but we’re definitely geared toward self-identifying women.”