Originally posted on dispatch.com on September 14, 2012

New nonprofit organization focuses solely on growth of businesses owned by women

The growing number of business incubators will soon include one dedicated to women.

The Women’s Small Business Accelerator, a new nonprofit organization set to launch by the beginning of October, is the brainchild of entrepreneurs Mary McCarthy and Caroline Worley.

While women make up the largest percentage of small-business owners, they still lag men in average sales, employee numbers and funding, McCarthy said.

The incubator is an attempt to help correct that disparity.

“It’s all about supporting those women entrepreneurs,” McCarthy said.The incubator will be housed at 403-409 W. Main St. in Westerville, with more than 6,000 square feet of space that can accommodate about 35 offices.

Women can rent space for their business at a fee of $225 up to $550 per month. In return, they will be offered mentoring through peer-to-peer roundtables and classes covering topics including writing a business plan and how to expand a business past the start-up phase.

The new incubator is open to any kind of business, “although we’re anticipating it won’t be focusing on tech as much as, say, TechColumbus does,” McCarthy said. The new incubator sounds promising to Eric Fischer, development planner for the city of Powell, which started its own small-business incubator in July 2011.

“They seem to have a nice niche,” Fischer said. “It’s a nonprofit so it’s a little different from our city-sponsored incubator, but every (incubator) idea is like starting a business. Every one has to find its own niche.”

Business incubators that focus exclusively on women are rare, said Linda Knopp, director of policy analysis and research at the National Business Incubator Association. “But I have heard of several programs that reach out to women entrepreneurs to encourage them and help them in pursuit of growing a business, even if it’s not the sole focus of the incubator.”

The Women’s Small Business Accelerator is part of a growing trend as local and state government and civic organizations seek to overcome the lingering effects of the recession by creating jobs and encouraging small businesses to grow.

There are about 1,250 business incubators in the United States, up from about 1,100 in 2006, according to the National Business Incubator Association.

McCarthy and Worley have experience in fostering small businesses, as co-founders and partners of Your Management Team, Inc., a Westerville-based business consulting firm. They consider the nonprofit a complement to their business.

“This is a way to provide even more opportunities for women entrepreneurs,” McCarthy said.

Helping to direct the incubator is a board that includes Sandy Blanquera, founder of Social Boomerang; Sharon DeLay, owner of BoldlyGO Career & HR Management; Shannon Feucht of the Small Business Administration; Tom Guy of Innovate New Albany; and Mary Relotto of Dames Bond.

“So many women don’t know how to start a business,” Relotto said. “This incubator will provide an affordable way to get great advice from other women. ... A women’s incubator like this will help us all thrive and families do well.”

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” -Thomas A. Edison


Motivation Monday Edison

Since it’s a new year, setting business resolutions, intentions and goals for 2015 gives us an opportunity to focus our efforts.

The next level. Small business owners, freelancers and consultants always have their eye on it. As women in business, how do we establish ourselves as experts? The simple answer: Influence. To expand on our achievements and increase influence, utilize your accomplishments and make them work for you. With the specific, achievable and encouraging suggestions below, you can elevate your status - if you follow through. 

  1. Apply for Awards: Celebrate your hard work by giving yourself a chance to be recognized for it. Look for the win, but get your name on that list of nominees. No matter what, you’ll be considered an expert in your field and make people curious about your vision. Positive reinforcement, for the win.
  2. Record Your Wins: Every product or service you send out to the world, find something noteworthy about it. Write down what makes it unique, how it will better the lives of people receiving it, or what you loved about creating it. This serves two purposes. One: it keeps you in touch with your “why,” which motivates. Two: you just created the bones of a blog or post. Not Congratulations!
  3. Venture New Markets: Traveling refreshes the mind, but have you considered how it could expand your reach? Wherever you go, for whatever reason, try to attend a conference, event, or networking function. Even if it’s one client, one relationship, that comes from the experience, your business will be more fruitful because of it. Building an audience that expands from your current market takes your influence to the next level. 
  4. Seek Bylines: Create buzz for yourself and your product. You deserve it. Find a publication or website within your area of expertise and contribute regularly. Can you imagine the credibility and leads one weekly pitch could generate? Yes, yes you can. Now go for it.
  5. Civic Leadership: Find and serve a cause that aligns with your values. In addition to service being a righteous thing to do, it also enhances your network, improves your leadership skills and demonstrates your talent. All of that on top of making the community better? That’s what is called a win-win.

Entrepreneurs need more sales, more leads, and more attention. Always. The key ingredient to managing these pieces like a leader is influence. Strategy is the game. Play it wisely.