Celebrating Female Entrepreneurs: Key Emotional Intelligence Competencies

With March being Women’s History Month, and the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence recently becoming a certified women-owned business, I want to celebrate a special woman in history: Barbe-Nicole Clicquot.

A Spotlight on the Grande Dame of Champagne

Let’s take a closer look at 19th century female entrepreneur, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, who created the modern champagne industry and led Veuve (which means “widow” in French) Clicquot out of the brink of destruction. At the age of 21 years old, Barbe-Nicole married Francois Clicquot, Philippe Clicquot’s only son — the marriage was akin to an arranged marriage, a business deal devised by two industrial leaders. Francois Clicquot had a champagne business that was stalled and looked ready to collapse. Unfortunately, in 1805, six years after their marriage, Francois fell ill and died 12 days later. Barbe-Nicole and Philippe were devastated. Phillippe wanted to close the wine business, but Barbe-Nicole approached her father-in-law with a bold proposition. She asked him to allow her to run the business and invest.

Shortly after, Barbe-Nicole took over the family wine business, but she wasn’t an immediate success. She had years of setbacks and during the war, commercial shipping was crippled.  She smuggled most of her best wine out of France as far as Amsterdam. As soon as peace was declared, her champagne debuted in Russia and Tsar Alexander I announced that it was the only kind he would drink. Suddenly, the demand for her champagne increased so much that fulfilling orders was challenging. At that time, making champagne was an incredibly tedious task and wasteful business. Barbe-Nicole realized that she would need to improve processes if she was going to meet the high demand for her champagne.

When it comes to champagne, it’s made by adding sugar and live yeast to bottles of white wine — the yeast then digests the sugar, leaving the byproducts of alcohol and carbon dioxide which give the wine its bubbles. Unfortunately, when the yeast consumes all the sugar, it dies and leaves a dead yeast at the bottom of the bottle. The first champagne makers dealt with this issue by pouring the finished product from one bottle to another to rid the wine of its yeast which was very time consuming.

Barbe-Nicole, on the other hand, was very innovative and instead of transferring the wine from bottle to bottle to rid it of its yeast, she created a new method to keep the wine in the same bottle and consolidated the yeast by gently agitating the wine. Her genius method is called riddling, where the bottles are twisted and turned upside down, causing the yeast to gather at the neck of the bottle. This process is still used by modern champagne makers.

It’s safe to say that Barbe-Nicole’s innovation was a revolution — she successfully improved the quality of champagne and accelerated production rates. It would be decades before any of her competitors became wise to the method of riddling. Barbe-Nicole created a global empire and made Veuve Clicquot champagne a recognizable name in the industry, highlighted by its distinctive yellow label. Today, Veuve Clicquot boasts a legacy spanning over two centuries and is one of the world’s most coveted Champagnes with over 19 million bottles sold in 2023.

This quote from Barbe-Nicole (from a letter written to her grandchild) is inspirational for female entrepreneurs:

“The world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow. One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let your intelligence direct your life. Act with audacity.”

Must-Know Emotional Intelligence Competencies for Female Entrepreneurs

Last week, I was in Denver for the Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), and walked away with new perspectives. I met so many female entrepreneurs in a variety of industries acting with audacity and modeling Barbe-Nicole. Below are four emotional intelligence (EI) competencies that female entrepreneurs are practicing to become better leaders.

  1. Adaptability and innovation of service and product offerings is front and center. New ways of solving business or personal problems are being addressed by today’s female entrepreneurs.
  2. Authenticity and vulnerability in addressing real problems that female entrepreneurs face with capital funding and financial risks tied to business growth.
  3. Personal drive and creativity when developing strong relationships and collaboration with large brands around the world.
  4. Optimistic attitudes and resilience when facing setbacks in business.

Moving Forward

Personally, I believe as a woman business owner, we still have an uphill battle to be 100% successful.  What we do have are some great role models like Barbe-Nicole, strong EI competencies/tools, and support systems like WBENC. I encourage you to learn about other amazing historical women and to have the audacity to lead, grow, and build your businesses!

About the Author

Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer, and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 25 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing, and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers,a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It quickly became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012. Her book Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories, and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband, Roy, and 11-year old twins, Alex and Gia.

Connect with Bobi by emailing bobi@swiei.com.

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