Today, that organization -- the National Association of Women Business Owners -- has more than 8,000 members nationally. In Columbus, NAWBO serves its members by providing networking, training and other vital opportunities.
And this year, NAWBO honors three business owners who embody the spirit, passion and determination of successful entrepreneurs. Each honoree represents a different industry, yet they have all taken an innovative approach to their business and have mentored other business owners in the region.
Mindy Hedges started Media Solutions Inc., a media buying firm, 14 years ago as a one-person company in her home, with no clients and while her husband was unemployed.
After just 10 years, Media Solutions is considered one of the 10 largest advertising agencies in Central Ohio. It has 12 full-time employees and was included in Working Woman 500 (2001) as one of the five largest women-owned businesses in Central Ohio.
Hedges started the company because she felt that when a client spends, on the average, more than 70 percent of its total advertising dollars in media, this department should have greater credibility and involvement in the marketing process. She was also a firm believer that an advertising agency must deliver results to a client's bottom line or the client should look for another firm that will.
Hedges advises new business owners to never give up.
"With ambition and determination, all things are possible," she says. "Oftentimes, my determination was the only thing I had to keep me going."
Cookie McIntyre feels that entrepreneurship is part of her genetic make-up. Her father was an entrepreneur with an independent family business, and she was exposed to entrepreneurship at an early age as she watched her dad innovate and build upon the family business.
In the late 1980s McIntyre saw her opportunity to start her own business. The McIntyre Co., an executive search firm, recruits executive talent worldwide on behalf of its clients through a targeted and "infiltrative methodology." The firm's typical recruitment engagement is for senior executives in the $300,000 to more than $1 million compensation range.
McIntyre says that her nonconformist approach has led to her success. While the business models of competitors are transactional in nature, McIntyre's model takes a more personal approach. She has built strong, long-term partnerships, developing far-reaching relationships with her clients' senior executives, and works on behalf of clients to pursue whatever is needed to help them to be successful.
McIntyre advises entrepreneurs to remain true to their passion.
"First, follow your passion," she says, "Do not be discouraged by the naysayers, because there will be plenty. Keep the faith and embody your beliefs."
Security professional Tricia Smith recognized her business opportunity at age 24, when she started her full service pre-employment screening and drug testing firm, Secure Check Inc. In business for eight years, the company is thriving with offices in Columbus, Cleveland and Dayton.
Smith's volume discount business model allowed many companies to take advantage of important background screening. She concentrated on the retail and staffing markets, and the discounts allowed these organizations to work within their budgets and make their workplaces and their clients' workplaces safer.
Smith says the vision for Secure Check has grown as the company has grown. In the early days, she just wanted to work with great customers and give them great service. While that is still true, Smith also wants to make a true impact on her industry, effecting change in background screening policy to create safer environments for children and the elderly.
Smith's advice to those starting up a business is to set aside your fears.
"Take risks," she says. "Don't be afraid to put yourself or your company out there; the universe will reward you. I have always believed the greater the risks, the greater the rewards, and the best business owners are the ones that can turn their obstacles the quickest."