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Business Ownership Initiative hires executive director

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The Indianapolis-based Business Ownership Initiative has a new leader who is looking to help the not-for-profit grow along with the entrepreneurs it serves.

Julie Grice, a 10-year veteran of the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and former business owner, began her tenure as executive director of the Business Ownership Initiative of Indiana on Sunday.

“We think [she] has the right mix of talent and experience to lead the organization forward,” board President Marilyn McCombs, a vice president of Star Bank, said in a prepared statement. “Having owned her own … business is just the icing on the cake.”

Grice, 46, replaces longtime leader Sharon O’Donoghue, who accepted a position with a federal agency in Washington, D.C., in late 2010.

“I look forward to being able to speak with her,” Grice said. “She’s a jewel, and she’s quite beloved here.”

Founded in 1997 as the Neighborhood Self-Employment Initiative and supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the organization is focused on developing businesses in central Indiana. It assists entrepreneurs with resources necessary for growth, including business education and help in finding financial support.

BOI assisted 130 startup businesses last year, Grice said, and though the owners had vastly different backgrounds, they all had one essential quality in common.

“They still have an energy and a passion and a dream,” Grice said. “Being able to help those folks is going to be a significant part of what I do in the first year.”

Grice said she plans to use the momentum O’Donoghue built during her six-year tenure to continue expanding business initiatives in central Indiana. Since 2003, the organization’s budget has grown from $35,000 to $350,000.

Along with having “walked the walk” for 18 months running communications consulting firm Grice Smart Sponsorships, Grice said her decade of work with the chamber created strong connections.

“I was able to interact with thousands of new and existing businesses of all sizes,” she said.

Moving forward, Grice said she hopes to reach out to established businesses to collaborate with BOI and support its mission. She knows it will be a challenge to improve upon the framework that O’Donoghue laid.

“Being able to build on that is something in and of itself,” she said.

Balancing the budget also will be on Grice’s agenda. The organization reported 2009 revenue of nearly $350,000 and expenses of $477,000, according to its most recent federal tax filing. Preliminary figures show the gap narrowed in 2010, with $418,900 in revenue and $435,200 in expenses.

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