Originally published in the Fort Myers News Press on December 26, 2010
By Yvonne Ayala McClellan
Being a business owner is tough work, but Lee County women are banding together to make it a little easier.
In the past year some Lee County women business owners have found guidance and structure to keep their companies on the right track.
They launched the Southwest Florida chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, which functions as a forum where new and seasoned business owners can find mentors, share novel ideas and develop an educational network — a component that’s lacking from traditional networking groups in the area, said Danielle Lucht, president of the group and financial representative with Alliance Financial Group in Fort Myers.
“A lot of people get into business and they don’t know how to actually run a business,” Lucht said. “We have people who have been in business for 20 to 25 years helping those who have been in business six months to a year.”
But women are an expanding demographic in the business world.
About 10 million firms in the U.S. are majority-owned by women, employing more than 13 million people and generating $1.9 trillion in sales as of 2008, according to research collected by the Center for Women’s Business Research.
About 50 percent or more of women-owned firms account for 40 percent of all privately held companies, the research showed.
About 25 percent of the roughly 30 members and guests who regularly attend local meetings are experienced business owners and about the same percentage are in the start-up phase with the remainder of members somewhere in between, Lucht said.
The group offers monthly meetings with one education component such as marketing on a budget, tax savings or how to adapt their business plan for 2011.
Shelly Osterhout, who opened Fort Myers-based Computer Solutions of America six years ago, saw the potential of developing collective knowledge through the organization.
Each member also functions as a resource bringing a fresh perspective and skill set to the group that is unique from the others, she said.
As a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator, business owner Dee Harris said she’s more clinically oriented and the group is “kind of like getting an M.B.A. without going back to school.”
Not only has Harris learned from her peers but has also learned about resources that are available to them through the national organization such as programs that help members find new sources of capital, loans and other funding or programs offering tax advantages for certain kinds of contractual work — all for women entrepreneurs.
The group has 22 paying members and is in the chapter formation process. Over the next six months, the group will work toward recruiting.
Tips for Women Business Owners
Danielle Lucht, president of the local women business group said women business owners and leaders should:
- Have a business mentor
- Have focused goals and dreams, both professionally and personally
- Stay connected to what’s happening nationally and locally in their industry
- Not be afraid to try new things
- Make sure to track where their business is coming from, so they can repeat it in 20111
When you go
Southwest Florida chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners
- General Membership Meetings: run the first Thursday of every month; networking starts at 11:30, a working lunch runs from 12 to 1 p.m.
- Business Education Sessions: run the third Tuesday of every month. Members host a meeting at their store or office to learn about the business how members can help each other
Visit nawboswfl.org for more information