Where are the wildly successful women entrepreneurs?

April 6, 2011
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If you like mysteries, try your hand at solving this one: Why are the vast majority of the most successful local entrepreneurial companies owned and run by men, not women?

Take IBJ’s list of fastest-growing companies, for example. We’re collecting information for the list that will appear in June, but here’s a breakdown from last year’s list of the top 25 companies: Only six of the 45 individuals who were owners were women. Ironically, the top two companies, CSCI Consulting and Phoenix Data Corp., were owned by women—Michele Meyer and Carol Curran, respectively.

Then think beyond the fastest-growing to wildly successful startups like Aprimo, Angel Learning and Suros Surgical Systems. All sold for tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Can you name a local company in that league owned or even piloted by a woman?

The point of the question isn’t to somehow suggest women aren’t capable, but rather to look for reasons behind the chasm.

Is Indianapolis a men’s club? Are women funneling their energies into other goals? Something else?

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  • How about Angie Hicks?
    She's the co-founder and CMO of Angie's List; it's kind of a fast-growing local company.
  • How about Angie Hicks?
    She's the co-founder and CMO of Angie's List; it's kind of a fast-growing local company.
  • Founder & President, Integrating Woman Leaders, Inc.
    I believe there businesses in the State of Indiana run by successful women entrepreneurs that are not being recognized in this article. Vera Bradley, started by two women just recently took their company Public, Mary Weiss, President & CEO of Weiss Communications, Indianapolis Woman Magazine, Sharon Rivenbark, President & CEO, For Bare Feet, Inc. Cathy Cabello, President & CEO, Cabello & Associates. Just to name a few! Billie Dragoo, Michelle Meyers, Angie etcâ?¦they have done a remarkable job growing their organizations.

    There are a ton of articles written with data to support that women donâ??t self promote Corporate American which would translate to why they donâ??t promoted the growth of their companies. I think the question should state, how can we help promote successful women business owners?
    Those women are out there but they are not submitting their information to be on the IBJ Fastest Growing Businesses lists. I know that for a FACT!
  • Theyâ??re out growing our business.
    While I donâ??t have a ready answer to some of the questions posed, I do have an answer for this question: â??Where are the wildly successful women entrepreneurs?â?? I know two of them. Krista Skidmore and Andrea Cranfill are cofounders and principals of FlashPoint, one of Indianaâ??s largest human resource consulting firms. (Disclosure: I am the marketing manager for the business and I wouldnâ??t be doing my job if I didnâ??t enter this conversation!) Where are they? Theyâ??re out growing our business.

    Jennifer Holmeâ??s point about women not promoting themselves or actively seeking recognition might be somewhat true for FlashPoint. Beyond project deliverables, we spend a lot of time creating extra value for our clients. Client relations have always been our top priority. For us, itâ??s less about differentiating ourselves from male entrepreneurs or focusing on the fact that our business was started by women. Itâ??s more about being relevant to our clients and helping them achieve their business goals. Through that process, weâ??re achieving ours.

    In the last four months, FlashPoint has added three full-time consultants to handle our growing workload and a business development associate to further grow our client base, bringing our staff total to 16. We are soft launching a new suite of services called Clearly HR. These are streamlined services with a lower, fixed cost for small businesses, nonprofits, and municipalities. Clearly HR complements our fully customized work and was developed to fill a need that we continuously found unmet in the market.

    Not only are Skidmore and Cranfill business leaders but they are community leaders serving on boards such as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Arts Council of Indianapolis, Humane Society of Indianapolis, and Indiana Humanities.

    Their talent is well-rounded, deep-seeded, and fully accessible. So, hereâ??s FlashPoint! Weâ??re crushing our sales goals, exceeding our client expectations, and having fun all the while. Now donâ??t get me wrong, we like awards and attention, and weâ??re working to earn some of that too.
    • Executive Director, Marketing and Product Development
      FlashPoint is a first class business! We work with them for leadership and management training, as well as HR policies for our company. Additionally, we partner with FlashPoint to provide a variety of HR consulting services to our customers. Andrea, Krista and the entire FlashPoint crew are amazing! In order for that to be possible, I believe it starts at the top!
    • Seek & you will find...
      Norm â?? perhaps the conundrum falls on those in the media? From a diversity perspective the best thing you could do is ask â??Where do successful women entrepreneurs hang out?â?? They are out there, just not hanging out where you do, therefore, you are not privy to their success. Successful women have many other roles to fulfill, not just their entrepreneurial role and perhaps those trump boasting enough about this aspect of their lifeâ?¦Nevertheless, if you search, you will find. Next Wednesday 4/20/11 there will be 300 in attendance at the NAWBO Indianapolis 2011 Trailblazers Event taking place at The Conrad. The event is sold out and the following successful business women and entrepreneurs will be on hand: Angie Hicks, Kathie De Voe, Susan Haber, Dr. Jennifer Satterfield-Siegel and Mary Schmid. If you are not aware of who these successful women are, then I invite you to educate yourself at www.nawboindy.org . I am proud member of that organization â?? where successful woman-owned businesses hang out.

    • Definition of Entrepreneur
      Norm, Mickey Maurer, who I believe you know, wrote a wonderful book in 2009 called "19 Stars of Indiana" in which he profiled 19 outstanding women. They included:
      Sarah Evans Barker
      Mary Bolk
      Angela M. Brown
      Alecia A. DeCoudreaux
      Christel DeHaan
      Nancy Shepherd Fitzgerald
      Eva Mozes Kor
      Jeanette Lee
      Sylvia McNair
      Patricia R. Miller
      Nancy Noël
      Mercy Okanemeh Obeime
      Jane Blaffer Owen
      Ora Hirsch Pescovitz
      Ernestine Raclin
      Sharon Rivenbark
      Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
      Becky Skillman
      Carolyn Y. Woo

      If you look at this list is that each of these women are leaders in their field and approached their particular field with excellence and an entrepreneurial approach. They are just not in "fastest growing companies" necessarily because their efforts go beyond revenue.
    • Less Talk, More Action
      It's been enjoyable reading the comments posted to this piece. I appreciate the additional information individuals have made to help shed a little more light on the talented women entrepreneurs in our market.

      I also find it interesting how we define successful entrepreneurs. Per the article above it is defined as individuals who have sold their companies for a large profit. I don't disagree with that measuring stick, however I think there are more qualities that contribute to a successful entrepreneurial venture, like providing an environment for meaningful employment, a venture that supports growth for its staff, happy clients and profitable, sustainable growth.

      I will go ahead and add another name to be recognized as a successful local woman entrepreneur. Kelli McLemore, an owner and the woman who leads all business development activity for The Basement Design + Motion. Interesting that she is a primary growth driver for this young organization which has both feet firmly planted in the creative space and the technical space. The organization has experienced significant growth, drives revenue into the State and is not afraid to push the creative and technical boundaries on behalf of its clients.

      Why is she not plastered in our local press repeatedly? Growing the business takes time, focus and genuine interest in our client relationships and staff accomplishments. That leaves a little less time for chasing press as both Sharon and Susan eluded to above. In full disclosure, I am one of Kelli's business partners and have the had the pleasure of witnessing her succeed first hand.
      • Sellouts
        Jacob, I see that you're article categorized women as being wildly successfull if they sold their businesses for a large profit. Did it ever occur to you that women's aren't sell outs? It's our nature to grow and nuture something dear to our heart. The same as most women don't abandon their children, I would believe that the same is true for thier businesses. While men are driven by profits, women tend to be driven by relationships. Think about it.
        • Forgot a few
          Christel DeHaan and the two women who started Vera Bradley are good examples. There are plenty of other examples, though under the radar screen...let's face it, there aren't a lot of billionaires in the State.
        • Read a little closer
          Christine,
          You may want to read my comment a little closer. Here is a direct quote so you can review once again. For your convenience I will provide the ENTIRE paragraph here, "I also find it interesting how we define successful entrepreneurs. Per the article above it is defined as individuals who have sold their companies for a large profit. I don't disagree with that measuring stick, however I think there are more qualities that contribute to a successful entrepreneurial venture, like providing an environment for meaningful employment, a venture that supports growth for its staff, happy clients and profitable, sustainable growth."

          I would also caution you to suggest that relationships and profits are mutually exclusive. It is possible to achieve both. If you don't believe me I suggest you ask some of the successful individuals noted in the comments that follow this article.
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        1. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

        2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

        3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

        4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

        5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.

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