18 Nov Make Mine a $Million shoots for May program
Madison, Wis. – Wisconsin organizers of Make Mine a $Million business could hold the state’s first awards program this May as Wisconsin does its part to take one million women-owned businesses to $1 million in annual revenue.
Although the date of the awards program has not yet been made official, Wisconsin’s female entrepreneurs – including Make Mine a $Million members – soon will be competing for capital, mentoring, business services, and perhaps most importantly, recognition, according to Laurie Benson, CEO of Inacom Information Systems. The goal of the program is to inspire one million women entrepreneurs, including those in the technology and life-science sectors, to reach the $1 million revenue mark by 2010.
Thus far, Make Mine a $Million has held two awards programs, one in San Francisco and one in New York City. The next one could be held between the coasts in Wisconsin, but winners will be selected on the same criterion – business growth potential. Benson, who believes Make Mine a $Million has transitioned from a program to a movement, also said a Wisconsin project coordinator could be named soon.
“This is the ultimate collaborative effort to drive economic development in Wisconsin,” Benson said, “because as we create jobs, they could include your own [job].”
In many ways, the program is designed to help women entrepreneurs take their businesses to the proverbial “next level.” There are an estimated 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States, yet only about three percent, or 245,000, generate $1 million or more in annual revenue.
Count Me In, the New York-based micro lender that established Make Mine a $Million, estimates that getting one million women-owned businesses to the $1 million revenue mark would create more than four million new jobs and have $700 billion in economic impact.
Nationally, the effort is being led by Nell Merlino, founder and CEO of Count Me In and the creator of Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Merlino, who made her second visit to Madison to promote the program, said Make Mine a $Million has secured a grant of $1.1 million from insurance giant AIG, and a commitment from Intuit to provide members with Quickbooks accounting software.
Membership and awards program benefits are designed to help women entrepreneurs overcome barriers to growing their businesses. These include real barriers such as a lack of access to capital and, in Merlino’s view, imagined barriers such as the belief that growing a business consumes too much personal time.
Merlino has said much of the time commitment of growing a business can be offset by delegating to a growing staff and by working smarter, but she’s also addressing work-life issues. The AIG grant will be devoted to provide award-winners help with child care, college savings, and care for aging parents.
“Women who are growing their businesses are still responsible for their families,” she noted.
The new sponsors join existing benefactors like Cisco Systems Corp., which has provided award-winning female entrepreneurs with valuable technology packages, and local sponsors like the law firm Foley & Lardner, which is providing business-related legal information.
Another sign of national momentum is the benediction of political leaders. Make Mine a $Million has received support from prominent national figures like U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who addressed the New York awards event, and potentially important players like U.S. Rep Nydia Velazquez, D-New York, who is in contention to chair the House Small Business Committee.
At each awards program, 20 entrepreneurial women competed for business-oriented benefits, and two recent winners have Wisconsin ties. They include Valarie King-Bailey, CEO of OnShore Technology Group of Chicago and a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who was the first African American woman in the UW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and fellow UW graduate Marie Moody, founder of Stella & Chewy’s, LLC.
Moody, who plans to open a production plant in Muskego, Wis. for her Brooklyn, N.Y.-based wholesale pet food business, recommends the Make Mine a $Million program to Wisconsin business women. Different women have cited different program benefits, but Moody singled out the validity that comes with winning and the network of support that develops from making connections with other women executives.
“A lot of small-business women,” she noted, “really work by themselves.”
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