The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

January 19, 2013

Breaking through

Women playing big part in Madison County business community

When Mary Jamerson started in the automotive business more than 30 years ago, it was “no small feat for women to be seriously considered for any leadership role,” she said. Nonetheless, Jamerson became president and CEO at Anderson’s Myers and Ford Autoworld.

In Madison County, Jamerson’s story isn’t entirely unusual.

While there aren’t any hard numbers, “from all appearances, we have a pretty high percentage of highly successful women in business,” said Angela Barbosa, executive vice president of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce. That’s “women who own businesses, who run them, who’ve just had a huge impact.”

There are several local programs that foster women seeking to enter the historically male-dominated business field.

Networking

Many networking opportunities, like the FAB — Females Active in Business — luncheons conducted monthly by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, focus on local women.

They’ve “been a great platform for women in our county to network and (have) their talents be showcased,” said Jennifer Sisson, a financial adviser with Pendleton’s Performance Financial Group and president of the Indiana chapter of Women in Insurance and Financial Services.

The luncheons were “formed by a group of women to encompass all aspects of life,” Barbosa said. That’s important because “men and women approach business differently,” she said.

For example, men compartmentalize and women don’t. “Women don’t separate their personal lives from work,” she said. At the FAB luncheons, “I get to talk to other women about how they balance those two, how they deal with doing their jobs and raising kids at the same time.”

The luncheons also offer speakers and help local businesswomen form a support network and tackle problems, Sisson said. “Sometimes, it’s the gal right beside you that is the expert.”

Start-up capital

Another boost for local businesswomen likely comes from increased ease of access to start-up capital.

For example, last year, the Flagship Enterprise Center was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as being the state’s biggest source of microloans — loans typically ranging from $1,000 to $50,000, and made to for-profit start-up companies and early-stage small businesses.

Eleven of those loans, for a total of $132,300, were to businesses owned by women. That’s about 37 percent of its total loan portfolio, noted Flagship client services manager Adam Hoeksema, who coordinates the program.

That’s key, because women “may encounter less favorable loan conditions than men or they may be less willing to take on risk by seeking outside capital,” according to a 2010 report from the Department of Commerce and the Economics and Statistics Administration.  

“The woman-owned businesses involved in our microloan program are incredible,” Hoeksema said. “Many of these women are building more than just a lifestyle business that might just employ a couple people, they are really swinging for the fences. They are creating new jobs, and in some cases, they are creating entire new industries.”

Recognition

Another important factor in the success of Madison County businesswomen is the recognition they receive for their successes. The annual Athena and Community Shining Star Awards, for example, honor about 20 local women each year. The Athena program is co-sponsored by Jamerson and The Herald Bulletin.

While not limited to business, the awards recognize women who not only have high levels of personal and professional accomplishments, but also show a commitment to their community.

“When someone wins that award, you know they’ve accomplished something,” Barbosa said. “And that they’ve not only had success, but they’ve given back.”

Jamerson said opportunities like Athena, FAB and others in Madison County can help foster a stronger business community, where “voices are heard and diversity is given a chance to flourish.”

“Women are a powerful emerging market in business today,” she added. “I feel very fortunate to live in a county that wisely honors those who provide vision, talent and leadership for the betterment of our community.”

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

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