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Women entrepreneurs get helping hand

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

Business is often a dog-eat-dog world and until recently, many women have been absent from the feeding frenzy.

As more women become entrepreneurs, there are increasing numbers of organizations to help women who want to thrive in the business world, like the Women’s Business Center and now Ladies Who Launch.

"It’s really to help women clarify and expand their visions for their companies and move forward with what they accomplish," said Erin Olson, the Utah leader for Ladies Who Launch, who is recruiting members from Park City.

Olson comes from a family of entrepreneurs and wanted to help other women with success.

"We’ve had 15 businesses and I’m also launching my own company," Olson said.

As she’s observed, women take a different approach to business.

"I think women are different than men," Olson said. "Women start businesses for different reasons. Women are more passionate about their ideas. They don’t go into traditional funding or business plans."

Cheryl Forester, part owner with Cassia Nielsen of a Park City-based clothing company called Cherella USA, and member of Ladies Who Launch, agrees. Forester says the passion can be an advantage.

"What’s nice is women are talkers," Forester said. "They are some of the best networkers around. If they love it and get behind a product or service, they will spread the word."

Olson has observed many women start businesses from their hobbies.

"That’s one of the things that’s really happening," Olson said "and a lot of women tend to be emotionally attached to their ideas."

The emotional attachment can also be a detriment. If someone doesn’t like the ideas, then it hurts their confidence.

"I think a lot of women suffer from confidence, especially with the demographic here and there are a lot of women with hobbies and they can’t juggle it," Olson said. "I think it’s a challenge that can be dealt with. We provide a lot of positive reinforcement. They can do it and be successful."

More women are learning there is a way to balance their lives while running a business, Olson says.

"It’s interesting with women and business; a lot of women are catching on that they can have business and a family," Olson said.

The problem for many women, however, is how they get started with their ideas.

"I think, generally speaking, they have an idea but they don’t know how to get going," Olson said. "I know women who don’t feel confident in doing it so they never do it."

Ladies Who Launch offers programs to help boost that confidence and inspire creative business thinking. Olson said women can be extremely successful when they receive positive reinforcement.

"The more stories you hear about women who take off and are successful, you say, ‘If they can do it, I can do it,’" Forester said.

Ladies Who Launch provides workshops called "Incubators" that are held once a month one night a week for two hours. Each Incubator involves 12-women group.

"It’s a focus group for women," Olson said. "It’s really unusual. The women are hands on, giving advice. The whole idea about it is they will have better business ideas to expand and move it forward."

There is also an Ongoing program that involves 40,000 members nationwide. The Ongoing program offers events and guest speakers.

"The variety is vast," Olson said. "It allows someone to get in touch with the businesses and grow and get advice from them."

The women in the Incubator groups are able to establish partnerships and network as well. It’s the main reason Forester joined. She says all successful businesses are about networking and "letting people know you exist."

"It seemed like a great way to network and showcase stories, and you can use it locally and nationally," Forester said. "We travel a lot in our business and we have an opportunity to network through Ladies Who Launch."

Forester says these types of opportunities can help beginning entrepreneurs.

"It’d be great for a young person who doesn’t have resources and or wherewithal," Forester said. "You would glean some great information from it.

"Women have resources," Forester continued. "When you are connecting with a network this size and seeing other businesses this is an easy option, it’s a no-brainer. I would have loved to have found something like this when I started three years ago."

The program is for anyone at any stage of business.

"It could be for somebody who’s had a business for a long time and looking to take it to the next step," Olson said. "It’s also for women who have a new business or for those who have an idea or those who want an idea. It’s even for writers who want ideas, it’s really for anyone."

A typical Incubator session, women will sit down and present their ideas or projects to the group.

"We really try to get our members creative with what they are doing," Olson said.

The homework is to write down ideas for the other members. In the next meeting, they share their lists and "women will listen to their visions for their company," Olson said.

"It’s really a magical thing, this is where the ideas come in," Olson said.

Olson says Ladies Who Launch is popular in other states and she brought it here because she saw a need after reading an article in Newsweek.

"They did a study and wanted to find the top 10 cities for women to own businesses and Utah had five in the top 10," Olson said. "The financial institutions are here. I wanted to have (Ladies Who Launch) here because it’s a great place for women."

Forester also is happy the organization is available locally.

"It’s relatively new in Utah although it has a following in other cities," Forester said.

Forester says she learned on her own how to make a business successful and any further business ideas can only help. She hopes to benefit from the group and also be of help to other women.

"Although my business started three years ago, I’m looking for marketing and distribution channels. If I’m with Ladies Who launch, I can give them that feedback instantly and they don’t have to learn it the hard way," Forester said.

"I can meet someone who is a designer," Forester added. "It was cool for me to meet Erin because she’s dabbled in it. There’s a way we can tie our businesses together. I have an opportunity to meet other women and see their ideas.

The first Ladies Who Launch Incubator session will take place in April. For more information, visit http://www.ladieswholaunch.com or call 866-411-ladies (5234).


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