How Mary McCarthy helps women entrepreneurs reach their full potential

Laura Newpoff
Mary McCarthy

In 2014, Mary McCarthy and Caroline Worley attended the first Women’s Leadership Conference that was launched by Betty Collins on behalf of accounting firm Brady Ware & Co. A few years earlier, McCarthy and Worley co-founded the Women’s Small Business Accelerator and thought the event would be a good place to make connections.

A few months later, Collins, a director at the accounting firm, attended the accelerator’s annual fundraising gala and was impressed by the event. She approached the duo to see if they’d like to be partners for the leadership conference’s second year and they answered “yes.”

The partnership helped grow the event from 44 outside attendees in the first year to 350 in 2019. The pandemic, however, halted that momentum in 2020 when the event was canceled. This year, the event is being held virtually in July and will feature a nationally known keynote speaker, breakfast power panel, breakout sessions, awards, exhibits, networking and a cocktail hour.

Betty Collins

“We really believed in Betty Collins and her desire to grow women leaders within Brady Ware and the community,” McCarthy says. “We felt then and still feel now that leadership for women entrepreneurs is very important. We must continue to grow our leadership abilities as our businesses grow.”

McCarthy also believed that intentional networking was crucial, and a conference focused on women would provide that opportunity. The accelerator also received the net proceeds of the event that supported it and ensured its programs could be provided for a low fee.

McCarthy’s involvement in the conference is just one of the many ways she’s been impacting the lives of women – and entrepreneurs in general – in central Ohio for years.

Because watching entrepreneurs begin, grow and flourish is her lifelong passion, McCarthy founded YMT Consultants in 2009 to help microbusiness owners navigate challenges and opportunities with expert resources, rather than by trial and error. As part of her venture, she developed entrepreneurial curriculum including: The Aspiring Entrepreneur, The Inspired Entrepreneur and The Determined Entrepreneur. Other accomplishments include:

  • Securing one of eight $1.4 million Small Business Administration national contracts to implement a new initiative – ScaleUp America. It graduated 90 entrepreneurs between 2014 and 2017.
  • Securing Columbus pilot program Accelerate Columbus – Scale-Up & Grow to train 39 entrepreneurs in 2019. The program involved 51 percent of individuals with low or moderate income and 30 percent with extremely low income. Participants were 68 percent diverse, and 5 percent broke the $1 million mark after completing the program.
  • Partnering with the city of Columbus in 2020 to mentor 167 microbusiness owners through the Columbus-Franklin Covid-19 Fund to apply for CARES Act grants. Of the participants, 34 percent completed their applications and secured more than $650,000 in grant funding.

McCarthy and Worley founded the accelerator in 2012 and since then have mentored more than 800 women entrepreneurs and provided them access to education and training. Programming has grown by 150 percent since its founding, and more than $1 million in program and event fees has been generated.

The idea came after McCarthy read a SBA report written in 2007. It sparked a question. If all things were equal, such as education and income, why are male-owned businesses succeeding more than woman-owned businesses?

The report spelled out a number of issues, she says. For example, if a man says he wants to start a business, he is told, “Good luck.” But if a woman wants to start a business, she is asked, “How are you going to run a business and care for your family?”

“While these things [aren’t] new, the question to me was, what do we need to do to ensure we are not still hearing these things in the future?” McCarthy says. “What the WSBA decided we needed was accountability combined with support and connections.”

Responding to the pandemic

Even though she wouldn’t be able to help put on the leadership conference in 2020, that didn’t stop McCarthy from looking for ways to help women in business who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, not only from a work standpoint – think nail and hair salons and massage operators whose businesses got shut down—but also from a childcare perspective.

So, like many others, McCarthy pivoted.

The accelerator started a business crisis team to provide free mentoring, launched a pitch contest that aired March 11 and awarded $7,000 in prize money, and began a grant program that had given out $11,000 as of early March.

McCarthy also got to work to help structure this year’s conference in a virtual world. She did all of that while running her business and the accelerator’s regular programming while helping with the childcare needs of her grandchildren.

The conference this year will feature Peggy Klaus as the keynote. She’s a leadership and communications expert whose clients range from startups to the Fortune 500 and the author of two best-selling books. She’ll talk about the themes of one of those books – “BRAG: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It.”

The Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio has signed on as a sponsor this year for the event, which will also feature dozens of speakers and presenters from a wide range of backgrounds.

“This has evolved into something I never could have imagined,” Collins says. “We’ll have this all over the country if [the participants] get it out to their databases.”

The accelerator’s regular programming includes the Inspired Entrepreneur program that helps business owners develop an elevator pitch, a completed business plan and a monetized business.

AnnaMarie Cua

AnnaMarie Cua, owner of Beauty Box Organic Salon & Spa in Columbus, participated in the program last year. She and the rest of her class of 10 persisted during the health crisis via Zoom as they put their plans together and prepared for a formal presentation.

Cua says she’s always worked for herself and describes her approach as “winging it the whole time.” The salon has been in business for five years and Cua hopes to grow it through franchising with McCarthy’s help.

“I have big goals and dreams, but I get lost in the details,” Cua says. “[McCarthy] is able to see the bigger picture and say, these are the areas you need to address. She also either knows people to connect you to, has been through [a similar situation] herself or tells you where to go to get the information. She’s very straight to the point and doesn’t let you give excuses. She calls it as it is and makes you face the things you don’t want to face head on.”

Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.

Mary McCarthy

Founder, YMT Consultants; co-founder, Women’s Small Business Accelerator

In position since: 2009; 2012

Age: 61

Education: B.S. in business administration, Franklin University

Community involvement: Advisory board, city of Columbus diversity and inclusion; advisory council, Otterbein Leadership Advisory Board; advisory council, Tolles Career & Technology Center; public policy committee, NAWBO Columbus