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What If Every Woman Had the Resources to Turn Her Business Into a Multimillion Dollar Venture

By Nell Merlino

  • What if you could snap your fingers and have a perfect figure?
  • What if you could imagine your dream house and it would suddenly be available in your ideal neighborhood at an affordable price?
  • What if you needed a dress for an event and your favorite store showed you four or five options, each one better than the last?
  • What if you could write down your description of your ideal partner and the next person you met fit the bill?

Too bad these dreams won’t magically materialize like that. But one big wish of women everywhere need not be a fantasy any longer. The goal of available resources and support to launch and grow a new business is now within our reach.

When we talk about resources for women business owners, we are talking about more than dollars—we’re really talking about a community with internal and external supporters, access to working capital, and education and mentoring that catapult women into success.

We’re already seeing the results of this “what if” come to fruition for many entrepreneurs. Among the awesome successes:

  • A woman would go from owning one day spa in an airport to creating an oasis in every airport where women could get spa services, organic food, and comfortable seats. A woman business owner would redo all the special airline clubs to make them inviting, soothing, healthy, and calm places. Gina Stern, founder of d_parture spas , passed the $1 million mark in 2006.
  • A Master in Social Work would go from being a hospice counselor to running an online bereavement business making products and services available to people worldwide as they cope with some of the most challenging moments of their life. Renee Wood, who created the The Comfort Company , is able to work from her home, include her children in parts of her business (they help her pack and ship boxes), and still be fast on her way to the $1 million mark in annual revenues.
  • A migrant work picking grapes in Napa would now own her own vineyard. Amelia Ceja of Ceja Vineyards grew her business to the $1 million level in 2006 and has not only become a role model for Hispanic women, but has had a major impact in developing wine appreciation and the growth of the industry across the US.

With only 250,000 women at the million-dollar level in business revenues compared to more than double the number of men at that same level, it is imperative that more women stop thinking small and see themselves as at least as capable as their male counterparts. When women grow their businesses, they employ more people and contribute in a different way to their communities. Three of the most important things women need to achieve this success are validation, support to break through both financial and personal barriers, and a sense of community.

Society norms are that men welcome each other into the business community in a different way than women. In order for it to be the norm that women are successful in business, we must create the community that engenders it. Women are at a transition period in culture. Emerging in value to our economic structure, women are seeing the impact of the softer type of leadership they bring to middle management in many companies. But when you look at major corporations, women are still the minority in leadership positions.

Women increasingly believe that to create the lives they truly want, they need to create businesses that support those lifestyle choices. What we are seeing is that the women who do move up in gross revenues by running successful companies are hiring more people and taking time to live full, well-rounded lives. Their partners are, for the most part, on board with helping them. Responsibilities are shared. Energy is given to self-care as well as business growth.

This type of support gives women the opportunity to move out of traditional roles and forge ahead—letting them be visionaries who have the possibility of actually achieving their dreams.

Nell Merlino is founder, President and CEO of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, the leading national not-for-profit provider of on-line business loans and resources for women to grow their micro businesses into $million enterprises.