Julia Pimsleur had reached the entrepreneurial mountaintop. First she took her passion project from a side hustle into a full-fledged business. Then she ascended to the even more difficult peak of turning a business making a few hundred thousand dollars a year into one generating millions per year.
She decided to write the book Million Dollar Women, detailing how she turned Little Pim, a company that produces multimedia materials to help children learn foreign languages, into a global language-teaching powerhouse. But the book didn’t just focus on Pimsleur’s success; she featured other women who had taken their businesses past the million-dollar-per-year mark and pointed out that fewer than 3 percent of women entrepreneurs ever achieve this milestone (it’s 6% for men).
After the book’s release, women began reaching out to her and asking for advice. The entrepreneurial wheels in her mind starting spinning once again.
“I realized, maybe I should try to get out in front on this issue. Clearly there were thousands, if not millions, of women just like me,” says Pimsleur, who lives in New York. “I’ve always been interested in moving the needle on something for women and realized this was it… I want to help close the economic gender gap by helping more women scale up their businesses.” She decided she wanted to help other women to reach the million dollar mark and beyond by providing them with coaching, community and mentorship.
Pimsleur came to a major crossroads in her life. Her passion for the mission of Little Pim would always remain—it is in her blood, in fact: She is the daughter of Paul Pimsleur, an icon in the world of linguistics whose Pimsleur Method of learning languages is still widely used today. But her involvement in the company began taking a backseat to her new mission of helping other businesswomen take their own passion projects to the next level.
She decided it was time to step aside as CEO of Little Pim and go all-in on her Million Dollar Women brand. This became yet another teaching moment for fellow CEOs.
“I got together with my board and my advisors and said that I felt this calling to teach women entrepreneurs,” Pimsleur says. “We decided we could sell, merge, or hire a new CEO and we explored all three. People often start their companies with the idea that they are going to do it forever, but the reality is that a lot of people leave their companies or get tired of them or have a new passion. People rarely talk about how to do that.”
Little Pim decided to hire a new CEO and keep Pimsleur on the board so she could devote her full energy to the Million Dollar Women organization, now a thriving social venture that reaches over one million women per year and which has continually multiplied its resources for women entrepreneurs.
The organization’s mission is to get over one million women to reach $1 million in yearly revenue for their businesses. They do this via their four-month online business school for women called Million Dollar Women Masterclass, the Million Dollar Mind podcast that she hosts, the Million Dollar Women Summit and a nonprofit scholarship program for women of color entrepreneurs. Million Dollar Women is more than just Pimsleur, it’s supported by her team, and a five-person board including Verne Harnish, founder of EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) and Stephanie Cartin, CEO of SocialFly, as well as advisory and leadership councils packed with powerful businesspeople—both men and women. Everything Pimsleur does is geared towards helping women in the exact circumstances she was in.
“I created our Masterclass as an online business school because I wanted to meet women where they are at. Most women start businesses in their mid-30s when many of them have children, aging parents and are at the intersection of a lot of different roles in their families,” Pimsleur says. “Women are super busy! They can’t necessarily stop and drop everything and go to a class to learn what they need to learn to make their businesses big. So I decided to bring it to them.”
Pimsleur has identified several key issues that most women tend to face in their careers, namely lack of access to capital, a lack of role models in their industry, or that their businesses are not set up to be scalable. These are challenges that Pimsleur specifically addresses in her Masterclass. And the results speak for themselves. She says that that so far, 50 percent of the Masterclass graduates doubled their revenues and 10 percent have already reached that million-dollar goal with many more getting there each year.
The most difficult part when it comes to scaling businesses for many women, Pimsleur says, is that the skills one might use to reach a certain level of early success are potentially the skills that could hold them back from reaching the next level.
“Women tend to be perfectionists,” Pimsleur says. “The irony is that the very skills that made them start their business, like being highly competent, Type A, driven achievers, and may have gotten them to $200,000 or $300,000 in revenue is what keeps them from going big. You need a totally different set of skills to scale a business. It becomes more about being a leader and working on the business not in the business. That’s where we come in.”
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo courtesy of Julia Pimsleur