Move Over, Rosie the Riveter

Kitty McConnell

Female entrepreneurs often face a different set of challenges than their male counterparts, including gender bias and lack of support. Two new groups targeting women business owners aim to change that.

Even before its grand opening in October, the Women's Small Business Accelerator (WSBA) drew a full crowd to Westerville for a networking breakfast. The 6,000-square-foot nonprofit accelerator has around 35 offices that rent for $225 to $550 per month. Tenants also get mentoring and business advice.

Co-founders Mary McCarthy and Caroline Worley are members of the governing body of Athena PowerLink, a women's mentoring program, and the Columbus chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, of which Worley is president-elect. Board members include Dames Bond founder Mary Relotto and Shannon Feucht, an economic development specialist in the Columbus office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

"Female entrepreneurs face many challenges starting from just an idea and completing a business plan and obtaining access to capital to start or expand. Sometimes it can be a struggle just to locate a good place for advice and a starting point," Feucht says in an email interview.

Revenues, too, can be scarcer: Feucht says the average woman-owned firm generates just 78 percent of the profit of male-owned counterparts. Women's startups also have a survival rate 8.6 percent lower than those founded by men.

Carol Clark is another of Columbus's female-business boosters, launching the Ohio Women's Angel Group in October. A former president of Women for Economic and Leadership Development in Ohio, Clark says funding is one of the main obstacles women in technology must overcome. With advice from Ohio TechAngels and TechColumbus, she aims to grow a thriving angel fund for high-tech companies with at least one woman executive.

Next on the horizon, the local SBA plans to launch the Women's Business Center (WBC) in the Franklin County Economic and Community Development Institute in January. The SBA established the WBC program in 1998 to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs in typically male-dominated fields such as engineering, information technology and construction through a combination of training, resources and access to government funding.