Issue: October 2006 Issue
The Cleveland Chapter of the Women Presidents' Organization launches this month to provide guidance and support for women entrepreneurs.
With more than 350,000 women-owned businesses in Cleveland that account for 44 percent of the privately held companies, the city is on pace with the fastest-growing sector of the economy – women entrepreneurs.
â€œCleveland has a great reputation for entrepreneurs to start and grow a business,â€ says Jeanne Coughlin, owner of the Coughlin Group Inc., a women entrepreneur herself for more than 13 years, author of â€œThe Rise of Women Entrepreneurs: People, Processes & Global Trendsâ€ and the immediate past chairman of COSE (Council of Smaller Enterprises). â€œ[Women need] a place where they can go with like-minded female entrepreneurs and accomplish what they need to get done.â€
So when the national sponsor of the Women Presidentsâ€™ Organization, KeyBankâ€™s Key4Women, approached Coughlin to launch and facilitate a Cleveland WPO roundtable, she couldnâ€™t resist. Coughlin was excited to learn and connect with women in similar circumstances across the country and â€œto be a part of something bigger than yourself,â€ she says.
The nonprofit membership organization, which is headquartered in New York City and has 61 chapters with 1,000 members throughout the United States and Canada, requires women to own a business grossing $2 million or more in annual sales ($1 million for service organizations) to ensure members have similar experiences and pressures, as well as expertise with their gender.
The premise of the peer advisory group is to make certain these women do not feel alone. â€œItâ€™s bringing groups together as a sounding board,â€ says Coughlin. â€œIn order to be powerful, you must be vulnerable. Itâ€™s not just about â€¦ a good sense of camaraderie and a bond, itâ€™s about accomplishing your business objectives.â€
As the facilitator, Coughlin will host monthly roundtables for Clevelandâ€™s chapter. At each discussion, a woman entrepreneur will share a challenge she is experiencing. From there, women around the table have a chance to ask clarifying questions about that specific concern. The women then give examples of what worked and what didnâ€™t in their experiences. Because itâ€™s easy for a select few to dominate a group, the women have time limits with which they must abide.
â€œNo one actually comes out and tells you what to do,â€ says Coughlin. â€œThe key here is not to try to solve the problem for her.â€
Lastly, the woman who first shared her problem then discusses the next step she plans to take in an attempt to solve it.
Coughlin explains her role as a delicate dance between keeping the group on task while, at the same time, not smashing the spirit of the roundtable. â€œItâ€™s a dance of guiding, leading, directing and getting out of [the womenâ€™s] way,â€ she says.
On Oct. 5, WPO and KeyBank will kick off the Cleveland chapter with a reception at Key Tower. This will give Northeast Ohio women entrepreneurs a chance to learn about the organization and meet its current members.
â€œMore than ever, women entrepreneurs are recognizing each othersâ€™ successes and connecting as peers,â€ says Marsha Firestone, president and founder of WPO. â€œWe are very excited about our newest chapter and the resources WPO brings to accelerating their growth.â€
Coughlin is confident the event will fill the available space for her chapterâ€™s roundtable with 12 to 20 women. She plans to facilitate the first meeting in November.
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