Guest Columnist

Column: Pitch parties target female owners

Guest columnistNovember 4, 2013 

So much about running a small business can be stressful and serious: Building revenue, managing staff and holding off rivals can take a toll on anyone.

Now a national nonprofit is adding a bit of whimsy with a contest for female entrepreneurs who have the gift of gab.

Count Me In Urban Rebound is holding pitch parties in Fayetteville (Nov. 7), Cary (Nov. 12) and Charlotte (Nov. 21) that will give female entrepreneurs a chance to practice a two-minute pitch in front of experts.

The experts are looking for women who want to expand their businesses quickly and sustainably, create jobs and contribute to their communities’ growth. Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence helps female entrepreneurs trying to expand microbusinesses into million-dollar enterprises.

“It’s amazing how many fabulous, great businesses there are out there,” said S. Briles Johnson, director of The Women’s Business Center of North Carolina and coordinator of Urban Rebound Raleigh-Durham. “Count Me In is a great way to practice your pitch.”

The parties are practice for the Dec. 2-3 Count Me In Urban Rebound N.C. conference and competition in downtown Raleigh. The winner of that will get access to funding and nine months of coaching and training intended to significantly boost revenue growth within three years.

Conference speakers will include Good Morning America’s Tory Johnson, an author, business owner and small business expert; local business gurus; and N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

What’s the value of honing your pitch?

“In business, you never know when you’re going to have a chance to grow to the next level,” Johnson said. “You may have that opportunity at the drop of a hat. So you need to be ready.”

A recent study based on U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. has jumped 59 percent to 8.6 million since 1997, and those companies had $1.3 trillion in revenue and 7.8 million employees, according to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Business Report from American Express OPEN, the company’s small-business arm.

North Carolina was of the five states with the fastest growth of companies owned by women.

Despite that growth, women-owned companies employ only about 6 percent of the national workforce and generate less than 4 percent of revenue. That’s about the same as in 1997. Female business owners want to see those numbers grow.

Count Me In is a great resource for female entrepreneurs, and there are dozens of groups ready to lend a hand if you ask, said Valerie Fields of V.K. Fields & Co. PR PROS, who founded her public relations and copywriting agency in Raleigh soon after graduating from college and has been involved in the events.

“The spirit of camaraderie that’s evident and being surrounded by other like-minded individuals fuels the process for creativity and innovative thinking,” Fields said. “Entrepreneurs should be lifelong learners, and Count Me In helps advance that.”

Sheon Wilson is a personal stylist and writer in Durham. Find her on Twitter @SheonWilson.

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