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Women’s Business Grant Applicants: Three Common Themes

Monday, April 18th, 2011


As we go through the Amber Grant applications each week, we’re always inspired by the dreams and stories we read from women business grant seekers.  There are some recurring themes that we’ve noticed.  And we think some of these themes are worth highlighting because they make women entrepreneurs distinct from many of their male counterparts.

(Actually, we wanted to say these themes make women entrepreneurs “better” than their male counterparts, but we don’t want to sound self-righteous – or offend the beloved men in our lives!).

Anyway – we’ll let you decide if you see yourself in any of these characteristics.  Not coincidentally, we’ve had three previous grant winners fall into each of these categories.  So if you’re a women looking for a business grant, what you learn here might help.

  1. Socially Centered ideas:  Yes, there are many great businesses that promote environmental sustainability and social responsibility while pursuing profits in traditional industries.  These are companies that work to reduce paper and ink consumption.  Or they may be coffee shops that use only fair trade coffee.  We at applaud those businesses and their sensitivity to operating as responsible corporate neighbors.   But what we see among our applicants are women owned businesses whose goods and services are specifically geared toward promoting a greater social good.  One of our favorites is a small business – –that sells compostable cutlery, cups, plates and a host of other items.  Green Duck founder, Jocelyn Tice, is a 2010 Amber Grant winner.  It always makes us smile when we see women owned businesses that are trying to do good for the rest of us – while still earning a profit.  We’ll feature more of these businesses in the coming months on our blog.  We want to make sure these women get some well-earned accolades.
  2. Nurturing Ideas:  We’ve noticed a lot of women owned businesses that create a service geared toward nurturing relationships.  Whether it’s an intimate apparel line of clothing… or sharing the kind of comfort food that your grandmother used to make… or business ideas that focus on moms and young kids…. we have seen hundreds of businesses and business ideas that are inspired by and focused on nurturing relationships.  A few months ago, Ellen Richard was awarded an Amber Grant to help her business,  Ellen is a former teacher and young mother who came up with the idea of selling “educational greeting cards.”  The big idea is to let kids be creative while teaching them spelling and penmanship.  As Ellen explained it, “It was on maternity leave that the idea for Letter Learning struck me like a ton of bricks.  While on a walk, I caught myself thinking about my students and their struggles with, well, everything, but especially literacy.  Also on my mind were the many thank you cards I needed to write on behalf of [my daughter] Katie. That intersection of thinking was it!! EDUCATIONAL GREETING CARDS.   What’s not to love?  I get to combine 3 of my greatest passions.  Education, kids and cards.”
  3. Fun Ideas:  Got any social things that you love to do?  Travel?  Shop? Hiking? Dating?  Just about anything that you do for fun, you can also do for profit.  The best example of this was our July 2009 Amber Grant winner.   Maia Josebachvilli, founder of Urban Escapes, took her passion for traveling and social adventure and parlayed it into a hugely successful business.  Her big idea?  Maia offered urban professionals in Manhattan the chance to escape New York City for a weekend, and spend time in the Catskill Mountain-region hiking, biking, and going to social events – basically spending time outdoors, and outside the city, with other people.  Folks had so much fun that Urban Escapes was acquired by Living Social in October of 2010.  So what do you love to do?  Can you turn it into a business and share it with other folks?

Well, ya never know! Amber Grant recipient sells company to Living Social

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Back on July 19, 2009, we announced the Amber Grant Award winner was Urban Escapes, here is an update on the status of their company. 


LivingSocial Buys Urban Escapes, As Social Discount Market Heats Up

by Kara Swisher

LivingSocial, the No. 2 social local deals start-up, announced today that it has bought Urban Escapes, a social adventure company.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
LivingSocial now has about 10 million subscribers to its discount offers online, where it competes head-to-head with Groupon.
Both companies have been garnering huge fundings, which is being used in a race for dominance in the space.
After the recent $135 million funding of Groupon that valued the Chicago-based company at upward of an eye-popping $1 billion, LivingSocial announced to that it had raised a more modest $14 million in a Series C round.
The Washington, D.C. start-up had raised $25 million in a Series B venture financing only a month before that. And it raised $10 million on top of that since 2008.
In addition, big companies have become focused on the fast-growing arena, such as recent acquisition interest from Yahoo in Groupon.
Here is the official press release about the latest LivingSocial deal:

LivingSocial Redefines Social Adventure with Acquisition of Urban Escapes
Unique, Exclusive Experiences Now Offered to LivingSocial’s Network of 10 Million Subscribers
Washington, D.C.–October 19, 2010–Leading social shopping site LivingSocial ( today announced the acquisition of social adventure company Urban Escapes. LivingSocial will now be able to exclusively offer its 10 million subscribers-strong worldwide community a host of diverse, fun and unique adventures and experiences, produced by a team of on-the-ground experts.
“By working closely with merchants in all of our markets, LivingSocial has helped thousands of people across the country experience fun and exciting things to do in their neighborhood,” said Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO and Co-Founder of LivingSocial. “With the acquisition of Urban Escapes, we will now have the ability to help curate some amazing experiences and adventures exclusively for our members.”
From “Zen Escape Yoga Hikes” to “Boulder and Brew Tours™,” Urban Escapes redefines social adventure, and its unique itineraries promote a fun and active lifestyle and a chance to escape the day-to-day rat race. Urban Escapes staff will work directly with LivingSocial representatives in five introductory markets designing and creating one-of-a-kind experiences and adventures for LivingSocial customers.
“People who use LivingSocial are already looking for fun, new things to do in the area they live or where they’re visiting,” said Maia Josebachvili, founder and president of Urban Escapes. “We’re passionate about organizing experiences you could never arrange on your own and this acquisition is the perfect opportunity for us to expand these completely unique, guided experiences around the globe.”
As the premiere local activity discovery engine, LivingSocial lets anyone find restaurants, shops, activities and services popular in their area at a savings of 50% to 70%. Handpicked adventures from Urban Escapes offer unique adventures and experiences at affordable prices to the LivingSocial community.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Successful Tips from Savvy Entrepreneurs

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

By Susan Gunelius

inShare.Post by Liz Cullen, contributing Women On Business writer

I left DC in the pouring rain early this week to arrive at the Women Presidents’ Organization Conference on Coronado Bay in San Diego. The location was tempting and, I admit, was one of the main reasons I lobbied to attend our sister organization’s conference. I have been to WPO conferences for years in various locations, however, and I knew that even if there was a glitch in sunny San Diego’s perfect weather matrix, the conference would renew and re-energize me.

The WPO is the sister organization of WPEO and is a peer advisory group for women who own multi-million dollar businesses. Although (or maybe because) the conference does not focus on certification or procurement, my areas of focus and expertise, I always come away a little smarter. The conference concentrates on the big picture – a task that can be challenging at the best of times but which is crucial when times are tough and budgets are tight. Of course, not everyone can be in San Dieg,o so I will share a few of the things I have learned over the years from some of the country’s savviest entrepreneurs:

1.You can’t know everything – So look for people who know what you don’t. One of the key aspects of any conference is listening to advice of experts and adapting their wisdom to the inner workings of one’s own company or department. What women business owners seem to understand better than most is that some of their best resources can be found at these gatherings, not only in the featured speakers but especially among their fellow business owners.

2.Working on the business is as important as working in the business – An important part of conferences like these is to take the opportunity to get out of the daily routine and analyze what your company’s goals are and what innovative things you can do to achieve them. You don’t need to go to San Diego to get this perspective either. Just scheduling time outside the office for regrouping and reenergizing, with key management or with trusted friends can rejuvenate you for the regular grind of running your business.

3.Work doesn’t always have to be work – one thing these successful women business owners have in common is that, while they work hard, they truly enjoy what they do. Without exception they say that 1) they did not make a 5, 10, 20 year plan to be where they are and 2) there is nowhere else they would rather be. Planning is important as is goal setting (and achieving). To some extent, however, you have to be adaptable and flexible while choosing a route that is comfortable and enjoyable for you. I cannot count how many times I have heard, “Do what you like. The money (success, things you want) will come.”

7 Techniques to Thrive in Any Economy Written by SharynAbbott March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I came across this brand new blog today. Enjoy it and visit it regularly…it has new fresh ideas to help you with your business.

Enjoy it and visit it regularly…it has new fresh ideas to help you with your business. 

Written by SharynAbbott  March 23, 2011 
You are more than likely among the fortunate few if you are reading this. You are an entrepreneur or contemplating being an entrepreneur.
You have an opportunity to control your hours, lifestyle and income. You can re-invent yourself whenever you choose and you know how to make relationships work for you.
But the last two years have proved a challenge. Those who have money are holding on to it and those who don’t have the money to work with you are fewer and further apart.
Has it ever occurred to you the money is always out there, it never goes away, it’s just in different hands. You need to work more diligently to find out who has the funds and to discern from those who are going through the motions. Most people want you to believe their business is in great shape, but most entrepreneurs are struggling because they’ve kept doing the same things they have always done.
This economy requires different tactics. When what you have been doing is no longer working, it is important to change what you’re doing. Markets move and potential client resources change.

Over the past twenty years I have had tremendous success with the following 7 Techniques, when working with entrepreneurs. If you apply each and every technique, you too will discover how much easier it is to have more than enough clients with much less effort than you are currently expending as an entrepreneur.
1. Spend 35% of your time marketing your business
2. Create Power Partner Relationships
3. Develop 25% of your business by referral
4. Attend at least one new event each month
5. Improve your Sales Skills
6. Write to get recognition in your business community
7. Speak at organizations to gain credibility

Great Advise to pass on!! Business Networking, referral style

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

I recently found this article in my local newspaper. To WNN, it seems like excellent advise!!  I took a look at BNI’s website.  They have organizations all over the United States.

Written by:Cynthia Benjamin/Staff writer/ Democrat and Chronicle

Near the end of Thursday’s meeting of Business Networking International Rapid Referrals, Chris Hannold, a painter, shared his gratitude with the group.
After all, it had been his day to be one of the two presenters. For eight minutes, the 36-year-old shared about his Penfield company, Perfection Painting. The small-business owners and other professionals at Flour City Diner, where the weekly meetings are held, liked his presentation, and they said so when they got a chance.
“I just want to thank everyone for being wonderful to me,” Hannold said. The group has referred 10 new customers his way. “Every referral, you don’t get the job, but I’ve received at least seven where I got the job.”
He referred at least 10 customers to other members, or partners. In fact, referrals are a significant part of the mission.
Matthew Drouin of Nothnagle Realtors, the chapter’s vice president, said that since Jan. 1 there have been 170 referrals and $40,000 in business completed.
During the meeting, chapter President Elisa Martin, a financial planning specialist with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, asked participants to talk about their business. They essentially shared what would be a good referral for them, and there was a catch — they had 60 seconds to stand up, say it and sit down, thus the “rapid referrals.” If they didn’t finish in a minute, a timer beeped right in the middle of their talk. That helped accomplish a lot in a little time over lunch, with more than 20 people in the room.
After Hannold’s presentation, Matt Whitcomb of East Rochester, the second presenter of the day, taught the group a technique on how to start a conversation about his business, Lasting Legacies, which he hopes will go national. He also has an objective to help other members, which he also calls his partners.
“I say, ‘you know, what I don’t do is painting, but I know someone who does.'”
BNI has about 140,000 members worldwide, he said, and some 20 chapters in the Rochester area, ranging in size from 10 to 30 members each. BNI gives its members a chance to share ideas, exchange contacts and business referrals.
Each chapter has one person per profession, so there is, for example, only one chiropractor, one certified public accountant, one real estate agent. The occupation can be anything, according to the website.
To learn more or to visit a meeting, go to

Congratulations to the 2011 inductees of the National Women’s Hall of Fame

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011


As the National Women’s Hall of fame launched their new website: , they have also announced this year inductees.

2011 roll at Women’s Hall Released

Written by  The Associated Press

SENECA FALLS — The founding dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing will be enshrined in the National Women’s Hall of Fame with 10 other women, including singer Billie Holiday, educator Donna Shalala and civil rights champion Coretta Scott King.


The 2011 honor roll, unveiled Tuesday, includes Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. Senate, and Lilly Ledbetter, an Alabama woman whose lawsuit against Goodyear sparked a pay equity act in Congress.
The 11 women will be inducted at a ceremony Oct. 1, with other activities occurring Sept. 30.


Established in 1969 in Seneca Falls, where the first known women’s rights convention was held, the hall acclaims women who have made valuable contributions to society and especially to the freedom of women.


An internationally renowned nursing leader, Loretta Ford, 90, is best known for co-founding the nurse practitioner model in 1965 in Colorado through her studies on the nurse’s expanded scope of practice in public health nursing. In 1972, Ford became the founding dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing, where a wing is named for her.


“I’m stunned and thrilled,” Ford said from her home in Wildwood, Fla., adding that she thinks the award will be a credit to her fellow nurses and nurse practitioners. “They’re the ones that deserve the award.”


“Her accomplishments over her lifetime have really been quite magnificent. She’s really transformed the nursing profession,” said Kathy Parker, current dean of the UR school.
Ford’s development of the nurse practitioner program “really changed nursing around the world,” said Parker, who is a nurse practitioner herself. “There are over 140,000 nurse practitioners practicing in the U.S. alone.”


Of that development, Ford said, “It really came out of my work as a public health nurse and some of the decisions that we had to make independently.”
Nurses were working in clinics for well babies, crippled children and immunizations, “and we needed to have nurses making more decisions,” she said. The nurses also were educating patients “so they could make reasonable decisions about their health and make them feel like partners in giving care.”

Ford said she came to UR because it had developed a “very fine plan of unifying nursing so the school wasn’t separate from practice at Strong Memorial Hospital” and elsewhere in the community. The plan “put practice, research, education and leadership under one administrative head. So all of nursing was my responsibility.”


As part of that, she was director of nursing at Strong as well as dean of the school.
Holiday and King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., are among five women being honored posthumously. The others are St. Katharine Drexel, who dedicated her life and fortune to aid Native Americans and African-Americans and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament; Dorothy Harrison Eustis, co-founder of The Seeing Eye, the nation’s first guide dog school; and Abby Kelley Foster, a major figure in the national anti-slavery and women’s rights movements in the 1800s.


Other living inductees this year are Helen Murray Free, a chemist whose research revolutionized diagnostic testing; and Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon, the founder of the Avon International Running Circuit and an Emmy Award-winning television commentator.
Also Tuesday, the Hall of Fame launched its new website,

Includes reporting by staff writers Emily Shearing and Laura Nichols.