Originally posted on TheWomensBook.com on October 19, 2012

On October 25th, the Women's Small Business Accelerator (WSBA) opened it's doors to the public. Founded by Mary McCarthy and Caroline Worley, the WSBA is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission to support women as they launch and grow small and micro businesses. WSBA will provide female entrepreneurs in Central Ohio with peer-to-peer support, mentoring, and education, as well as affordable offices and collaborative opportunities. Learn more at http://wsbaohio.org/

Originally posted on hivelocitymedia.com on October 18, 2012

The new Women’s Business Accelerator in Columbus is gearing up to help women entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

“It’s the region’s first incubator dedicated to mentoring, educating and guiding women as they explore, launch and build small and micro-businesses,” explains small-business consultant Mary McCarthy, who established the accelerator with small-business attorney Caroline Worley.

“Women business ownership is growing at a tremendous rate, but we still lag behind male-owned businesses,” McCarthy says. “According to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy, women-owned firms trail male-owned firms in such things as annual sales, employment growth and venture survival.”

The SBA specifically reports that the average firm owned by a woman generates only 78 percent of the profit of a comparable business male-owned business. Also, the four-year survival rate of new women-owned firms is 8.6 percent lower than that of comparable new businesses founded by men.

“We want to help close these gaps,” McCarthy states.

The new facility is located in a suburb of Columbus and comprises 16 private offices, 12 cubicles, three conference rooms, a training room and two kitchens. Office space is available for rent on a monthly, semi-annual and annual basis. Mentoring and facilitated roundtables are included in the rent, and members get a discount on the educational tracks. Women not renting space may participate in the facilitated roundtable for a small monthly fee and may take the educational sessions at cost.

McCarthy and Worley are self-funding the incubator but anticipate that rent and educational programs will generate revenue. “We’re also seeking sponsorships and grants,” McCarthy says.

Originally published in Columbus Business First and on bizjournals.com on October 18, 2012...

The path to entrepreneurial success is rarely a straight line for women.

To help these small-business owners navigate the curves, two Columbus-area entrepreneurs are launching the nonprofit Women’s Small Business Accelerator in Westerville.

Mary McCarthy and Caroline Worley work with startup and struggling small businesses through their Your Management Team Inc. business consulting firm and through Worley’s law firm.

“Those are the areas that most people don’t want to deal with, but it is where people really need help,” McCarthy said.

Women own 8.3 million companies in the U.S., the largest percentage of small-business owners. Yet their enterprises lag those owned by men in the areas of average sales, number of employees and access to funding, McCarthy said.

A July 2010 study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that nationally, women-owned firms held only 3.95 percent of all revenue.

McCarthy and Worley intend to move the needle on the numbers.

Space and advice

The Women’s Small Business Accelerator is an extension of other incubators in the region, Worley said, but it brings a needed focus on women, who do business differently than men. Women tend to excel at networking and work well in collaborative settings.

Shared office space is the accelerator’s business model, McCarthy said. The 6,000 square feet at 403-409 W. Main St. includes room for up to 35 businesses, three conference rooms, two kitchens and a training facility.

Mentoring is built into rental payments, McCarthy said. Monthly, facilitated peer-to-peer roundtables and training sessions will be available to tenants and other interested women entrepreneurs.

Topics will guide owners through writing a business plan to expanding their business past the startup phase.

“When I started out on my own, I wish I had been in an environment where I had direct access to education and other professionals,” Worley said. “Being around people who are in the same boat as you, to bounce ideas off of, that fosters success and growth.”

The organization’s space will be open to any type of business, though its founders expect fewer on the technology side. McCarthy said she is talking to several potential tenants.

Rental rates are between $225 a month for a cubicle and up to $550 for one of four larger offices with a window. Utilities are included.

Group to group

While McCarthy and Worley are the accelerator’s founders, they have developed a community of support around the venture. They’ve worked with other entrepreneurs and networking groups as well as the city of Westerville and its chamber of commerce.

TechColumbus offered assistance, too.

“This is an area of interest for TechColumbus, to help any entrepreneur get their business started and growing,” said Rick Coplin, venture acceleration director. “They will be able to educate and provide content for women based on their own expertise and experiences, and that will be very valuable.”

McCarthy and Worley also laid the groundwork to work with TechColumbus and other groups through their affiliations. Both women are members of the National Association of Women Business Owners and both are active in the Westerville Chamber. McCarthy works with the Small Business Administration and is a SCORE volunteer. She also trains and mentors through the Economic and Community Development Institute.

Sharon DeLay is a board member of the accelerator and will lead its first roundtable in November. The owner of BoldlyGo Career & HR Management met McCarthy and Worley through NAWBO and has partnered with McCarthy on projects through Your Management Team.

She envisions the accelerator as a place where women business owners can get everything they need to grow their companies.

“It is the whole concept of incubating ideas and getting them out there while understanding the differences that women are facing,” DeLay said.

To all the ladies

The Women’s Small Business Accelerator’s space is in the same center as McCarthy and Worley’s Your Management Team consultancy. When it became available, the two women thought it would be well suited to an incubator. And despite their heavy involvement in women’s business networking circles, they couldn’t think of an accelerator dedicated to women.

So the organization was born.

By making rents very competitive and including mentoring and education in the fee, the group’s board hopes to offer space that women entrepreneurs can use to focus solely on their businesses.

Many women launch businesses from home, and often are balancing the demands of raising a family.

“The focus is to take any woman owner and her business idea and turn it into something that will impact not only the local economy but also our families,” McCarthy said.

Shared space offers ready-made networking that creates referrals.

The Women’s Small Business Accelerator’s Westerville location is easily accessible from downtown Columbus and is on the bus line, which will assist in reaching its target audience, DeLay said.

Westerville also is an entrepreneurial community with a lot of small businesses and it is a great place for families, Coplin said.

DeLay wants other business owners to get involved.

“I want people to think about how they can share their experience and expertise and time to help women become even stronger contributors to the economy,” DeLay said. “This is a more direct route to offer support.”