NH Women in Businesses
Building the Network
The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute has projected that “Women small business owners will create 5 to 5.5 million new jobs across the U.S. By 2018, transforming the workplace of tomorrow into a far more inclusive, horizontally managed environment.”
In New Hampshire, women business owners are already making significant contributions to the state’s economy, thanks in part to a supportive business environment.
Leslie Sturgeon, founder of Women Inspiring Women (www.wiwnh.com), the state’s largest organization promoting women’s empowerment, networking and personal and professional development, started to support women in business when she was 22. “The biggest pluses of doing business in New Hampshire are the support and resources that are available here. People are so very helpful. Whether I needed assistance, information, or a referral, no one’s ever said no when I’ve asked for help,” she says.
In the four years after Sturgeon launched Women Inspiring Women in May 2007, the organization had grown to more than 250 members with 1,000 followers on Facebook, and four times that number on her mailing list. More than 2,000 people had attended the organization’s events. “I’ve seen lots of women start following their passion and dreams-and so much of that is about relationship building, which can begin at events,” says Sturgeon.
In October 2010 and November 2011, Sturgeon partnered with the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development and Public Service of New Hampshire to present the New Hampshire Conference for Women. According to Sturgeon, the conferences-which included five educational sessions, an exhibitor expo and networking-“were filled with inspiration, education and transformation, as well as fun surprises, exhibitors, door prizes and great networking.”
Joanne Randall, host of the WTPL radio show, “NH Women In Business,” (www.nhwomeninbusiness.com) sees networking as key to the development of entrepreneurs. “When the economy is down, personal communication and networking become more important. Entrepreneurs- or those just thinking about starting a business-need to network to develop a support system. The purpose isn’t to sell to the other people you network with. Instead, the people you’ve connected with become your board of directors, your resource network, and even your sales force. People want others to succeed-and to feel that they contributed to that success-and they’re willing to help without the expectation of a return.” The third annual conference is planned for fall 2012.
One of the state’s leading women in business, Dr. Deborah Osgood, is an expert in entrepreneurial education and development, and co-founder and CEO of Knowledge Institute, based in Exeter. Osgood’s Institute offers small business educational initiatives that serve millions of entrepreneurs on a monthly basis through on- and off-line resource and referral networks. Osgood says, “What distinguishes New Hampshire is the accessibility of decision-makers and programs tailored to supporting venture startup and growth. There are very powerful networks here to support entrepreneurs, and programs, like those offered by the Division of Economic Development, means that you’re one phone call away from sitting down with someone who can help.”
Women, Osgood says, are typically receptive to networking and collaboration. “Unlike men, women aren’t afraid to ask for directions-a trait that serves them well when honing in on defining their business purpose, target market and profitability objectives. It’s all about working well with and through others.”
The Knowledge Institute, through BUZgate.org, helps small businesses locate free resources and referrals available from the US government and nonprofit small business assistance agencies. Access the NH section at www.buzgate.org/8.0/nh/state_home.html?st=nhNH networks for women in business:
Trade associations to help women in business in specific industries or career paths: