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Women Entrepreneurs

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Women entrepreneurs — mothers of reinvention

Women-owned businesses flex their muscles

By Janine Rojas

Jeannel King

With jobs in her field drying up, Jeannel King saw more than just the writing on the wall that it was time for a change. She envisioned how drawings could bring mere words to life – through a new career as a graphic recorder and meetings facilitator. Now as owner of Big Picture Solutions, King makes a profitable living. She is among thousands of San Diego women entrepreneurs who are doing well despite today’s economic challenges. King and others have done so by nimbly adapting to changing circumstances and opportunities.

Woman-owned businesses represent the fastest-growing segment of the economy, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners. Nearly 89,000 San Diego entrepreneurs are part of an industry of 10 million female business owners nationwide. These numbers are on the upswing, according to Adrienne Moch, spokeswoman for NAWBO San Diego.

Adrienne Moch

For many women, the need for flexibility can be a motive for starting your own business. But doing so can be very challenging and time intensive, said Moch, explaining that NAWBO’s mission is to help its members succeed. “NAWBO is not just for networking, but also to help women learn new skills and access the resources they need,” she stated.

For many women, the need for flexibility can be a motive for starting your own business. But it is very challenging and time intensive, said Moch, adding that NAWBO’s mission is to help women business owners succeed. “NAWBO is not just for networking, but also to help women learn new skills and access the resources they need.”

NAWBO’s role also includes public policy advocacy, added Moch. These efforts include its support of California Senate Bill 67, which is designed to boost state contracts for small businesses, including those owned by women.

Moch is the immediate past president of NAWBO, and an active member and volunteer. After years of working for others in communications and journalism jobs, Moch became a freelance business writer. Her clients include local women-owned businesses, including Moms in Business Unite, CoCo & Associates and Second Star Inc.

Help for Entrepreneurs

King is an example of someone who has benefited from help entrepreneurial support organizations such as NAWBO. She never imagined herself as a business owner – but was inspired to do so through other women who had already “made it” on their own. King worked for more than 20 years in the nonprofit management sector. When a merger caused the loss of her position, she explored ways to tap into her natural talent and passion for visual expression. In the process, discovered the niche industry of which she is now a part – and helps lead ,  as a board member of the International Forum of Visual Practioners. Her job as the owner of Big Picture Solutions is to help facilitate meetings through graphic illustrations that capture collective knowledge, vision and goals.

“It’s a really powerful way of keeping a vision alive long after a meeting is over,” said King, citing how her work is often put on display for employees to continue to ponder. Such was the case when she created a 32-foot timeline representing the corporate history of Palomar Pomerado Health as part of a cultural change project. Or how she helped Lockheed Martin software engineers communicate with a U.S. Navy Lt. Commander about how troops used their equipment in the field. She also provides services for Shell, The Ken Blanchard Companies and San Diego Hunger Coalition.

King’s vision for her own company doubles as the title of a talk she gives at seminars for other women entrepreneurs: “Zero to 100,000 in 360”  It is shorthand for going from start-up to grossing $100,000 within her first year of business. And she can more than just picture that goal. King says she’s on track to make those projections.

Danielle LiVolsi

Others who have excelled with support through NAWBO include Danielle LiVolsi. She launched NuttZo in 2008. Previously, she was a radio advertising sales executive for 10 years. For LiVolsi, heading her own company has been worthwhile.

NuttZo is an organic, Omega-3, seven nut-and-seed butter. LiVolsi came up with the concept after she and her husband adopted Greg (then age three) from an orphanage in the Ukraine. He was vitamin deficient, and needed a nutritional boost that appealed to his limited appetite (due to lack of exposure to foods besides simple porridges and soups). NuttZo proved the perfect remedy. Today, Greg (now 12) – and his 7-year-old brother Matthew, also adopted from the Ukraine – are thriving and growing, just like the NuttZo company itself.

LiVolsi says her sons are proud that she is a business owner – and why not? Not every child can boast that his mom’s product graces the shelves of 260 stores. But that’s not why Greg has NuttZo with bananas for breakfast every morning. “He eats it because he loves the taste and texture” says his mother.

LiVolsi launched NuttZo in 2008. Previously, she was a radio advertising sales executive for ten years. For LiVolsi, heading her own company has worthwhile. From 2009 to 2010, gross sales quadrupled. The unique product (there’s none like it in the market, holds LiVolsi) retails for $12.49  a jar, and $19.95 for a peanut-free version, less than the $20 – $22 per jar for organic almond butter. Costs are kept down by contracting out all services, including manufacturing and sales. NuttZo is sold at Henry’s, Whole Foods and independent grocers throughout Califoria, and in Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Luisiana, Alabama and Oklahoma.

Diane Powers

Diane Powers

Proven entrepreneur Diane Powers is a trailblazer of savvy reinvention. As the founder and owner of Bazaar del Mundo, Powers established an empire that became the most successful concession in Old Town State Historic Park. In developing the Bazaar, Powers demonstrated her creative abilities as well as her focused drive for leaving a lasting legacy. When Powers lost her state park lease in 2003, she did not falter. Rather, she shifted gears.

Powers’ enterprises today continue to serve as a vibrant and colorful entry to Old Town — outside of state park boundaries. Mariachi bands and the Bazaar’s famed, giant margaritas beckon from Casa Guadalajara – at center stage on Juan and Taylor Streets, flanked by Bazaar del Mundo Shops. The latter offers a deluge of artisan specialties and Mexican-inspired treasures for the home, plus fashion, arts, crafts and collectibles. Powers also continues to operate crowd-pleasers Casa de Pico (in La Mesa) and Casa de Banini (Carlsbad). She has a staff of about 500 retail and restaurant employees.

“This year promises to be better all around,” predicts Powers. “Our restaurants stayed reasonably stable throughout 2009 – 2010. We challenged ourselves to devise inventive and more affordable dishes and menus, and that has paid off.”

Powers says another strategy that has paid off is the invaluable marketing and media support she has received from her long-time PR advisers – who happen to be San Diego business owners themselves: Laura Walcher and daughter Jean Walcher. In the mid-1970s, the Bazaar del Mundo became a client of Laura Walcher Public Relations. Today, the Bazaar continues to flourish under the Walcher banner – but now under Jean Walcher’s PR agency, J. Walcher Communications.

NAWBO Programs

NAWBO supports the business development needs of its membership through a host of programs and services, including:

• Alerting members to key events of interest, including the national NAWBO Business Conference in San Diego, Aug. 31 – Sept. 1; Moms in Business Unite (momsinbusinessunite.com) conference in San Diego Aug. 3; and seminars offered by Ladies Who Launch (ladieswholaunch.com/SanDiego).

• Access to financial resources, such as: a new Women-Owned Small Business federal contract program from the U.S. Small Business Administration; and programs designed to award five percent of state and federal contracts to woman-owned businesses.

•Help navigating the complex women-owned business certification process.

•Public policy advocacy and education.

For more information, visit nawbo-sd.org

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