Advocating for professional women

TaKeysha Sheppard Cheney, Founder, Publisher and CEO, The Women’s Book

TaKeysha Sheppard Cheney, Founder, Publisher and CEO, The Women’s Book

TaKeysha Sheppard Cheney knows the economic power women hold. Despite strong purchasing power and frequent business startups, though, she says women still have much to strive for to achieve entrepreneurial equality and success.

Cheney founded The Women’s Book, a print and online directory of local resources for women, to both inspire and promote that success by informing women of the tools that are available to help them. Recognizing that today’s professional woman is busy, she has developed a multi-platform marketing strategy to expand the publication’s reach and thus its impact. Cheney’s success can be seen in her organization’s continued growth. In addition to the Columbus edition, The Women’s Book has expanded to Cincinnati and will soon launch in Cleveland.

Because of her success as both a businesswoman and an advocate for other professional women, Smart Business, U.S. Bank and Blue Technologies named Cheney to the 2011 class of Columbus Smart Leader honorees. She told us how The Women’s Book has achieved growth in a challenged media market by using multiple communication outlets and by building relationships with both individuals and organizations.

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

The publishing sector is very competitive — we are all competing for attention in a very crowded print and online world while navigating an ever-evolving field of new Web-based technologies. It can be especially tough starting a new magazine. Many don’t last beyond the first year, let alone first issue, because there are so many different aspects of this type of business that you have to manage effectively and simultaneously, from achieving publishing deadlines to sales and distribution goals.

Now in our third year and approaching our third media market, we have been able to grow The Women’s Book by creating great content that connects, informs and inspires our readers and building relationships with advertisers that help them showcase what they are doing to serve and benefit women. We have also kept our overhead as low as possible, recruited a lean but passionate and capable team, and implemented grassroots-inspired marketing strategies to complement our very limited marketing budget.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

I have leveraged my passion for entrepreneurship and the empowerment of women to build a successful business. I saw a need to create a multimedia outlet that connects readers to resources created for and by women. You don’t have to be a member or subscribe to our publications to access or benefit from them.

Our target audience consists of busy, professional women who are ‘juggling it all,’ so they can be very hard to reach. Our marketing strategy must be comprehensive to communicate with them effectively.

From the start, we have used a combination of print, Web and event marketing strategies to engage readers. We have also built mutually beneficial relationships with a diverse range of nonprofits, corporations and professional associations. We help to promote their programs and events in exchange for distributing our publications at their events. These partnerships help us to reach a highly targeted market with maximum efficiency for our advertisers.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

The Women’s Book raises the profile and increases support of women leaders, woman-owned businesses and nonprofits or groups that primarily serve women and girls. Women are major drivers of the economy — they comprise the largest part of the population, make over 80 percent of consumer purchasing decisions and are starting businesses at twice the rate of men.

While women have made great gains, there is still much that needs to be done to ensure they have at least an equal presence in a diverse range of leadership roles, greater access to community support services, and marketing outlets devoted to increasing revenue for their businesses.

How to reach: The Women’s Book, (614) 678-8008 or

See all of the 2011 Columbus Smart Leaders on the next page.