Category Archives: Small Business

What is a Coworking Space?

The first time I saw one, I was intrigued, and inspired and became a believer.

The Shift 2

There were people working independently at their desks, groups working together in clusters or on a marker board, people standing and talking with each other, and others eating lunch or taking a break. All in one room. All of whom it was somehow clear did not work for the same company, or perhaps even in the same industry.

I watched, and could feel the energy in the room, as if the creativity and collaboration occurring was a tangible thing that I could touch, and if so, wanted to absorb and be a part of.

I had seen a coworking space, and it changed my life so much that 1 year later, I started my own.

The Shift, located in Uptown, Chicago.

The Shift, located in Uptown, Chicago.

As someone who had spent years in traditional office environments, I was used to cubicles and seating arrangements by departments, working with lowered heads and hushed voices.

Conversely, I had recently transitioned to outside sales and consulting, and had quickly become a cafe-hopper, settling for a crowded table, hunting for an outlet, and killing my back on uncomfortable chairs. Or worse, making calls and writing emails from my car.

Both environments had left me feeling isolated, working hard but alone, and confined to my own industry associates.

The core concept of coworking is simple: its a style of work, where independent activity is performed in a shared environment.

Isnt that a cafe?

No, and that’s the beautiful part of a coworking space, it’s so much more than just sharing a physical space. It’s the magic that happens when people of varying professional backgrounds, each with their own knowledge, experience, and networks, come together.

People start to talk, as humans inevitably do, and people start to learn from each other, help each other, and many of them trade professional services, contacts, or better yet, collaborate.

So how do I start coworking?

First, write down your individual needs for a work environment. Then, read this extremely helpful article “How to Pick the Right Coworking Space For You” written by Jamie Russo, founder of Enerspace Coworking, and an industry expert on the topic.

Then, just like we do for almost everything else:

– Perform a Google search, or

– Ask someone who works out of a coworking space

You can also conveniently search coworking space listings on sites like DeskTime where you can view photos of the space, send an inquiry, or request a booking, all in one place.

I recommend everyone visits a coworking space (most of them provide free, and regularly scheduled tours), and furthermore, try one that looks like it could work for you. At the very least you’ll enjoy a change of scenery, and they’re usually really cool looking too.

Written by guest blogger:
Nicole Vasquez, MBA, is the Founder and President of
The Shift, A Local Coworking and Community Space in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. For more information please visit http://www.TheShiftChicago.com, or, contact her directly at: info@theshiftchicago.com

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Filed under Coworking, Small Business

Government Shutdown and Your Small Business- 5 Things You Need to Know

  1. There are several functions of the U.S. Small Business Administration that will be affected by the recent government shutdown. Click here for SBA’s Plan for Operating in the Event of Lapse of Appropriations packet.  Business functions such as applications for business loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will be halted until the agency returns to its normal operations. The agency will, however, still administer disaster loans for businesses, such as those affected by droughts or Hurricane Sandy.  Existing loan guarantees will remain in effect.  For a complete listing of loans you can and can’t get, please click here.
  2. Contractors can find a listing of the contingency plans of the Federal agencies with which they do business on the White House’s websiteThis includes agencies such as the General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Defense (DoD) and the SBA. You can find a list of full and partial agency shutdowns here.
  3.  Many Federal call centers and help desks will be closed at this time, but some will remain open. The Federal Service Desk – a call center designed to respond to questions regarding your System for Award Management (SAM) registration will remain open.  Additionally, SAM will remain operational; registrations can be updated, managed and processed throughout this time.
  4. Several Federal government websites will not be updated until funds are appropriated to their respective agencies.  Others, however, will currently remain operational, for example, Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps), the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
  5. Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) and Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) like the PTAC/SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center are here to provide information as it becomes available regarding how your business may be affected.  Please do not hesitate to contact your local PTAC or SBDC.  If your business is located in Illinois, please click here to schedule an appointment with our PTAC/SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center.  If your business is located outside of Illinois please click here to find a PTAC in your area or here to locate an SBDC in your area.
Kristin Travis Pic

Kristin Travis

 

by: Kristin Travis, IL PTAC Associate

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Filed under Business, Procurement, SBA, Small Business, Uncategorized, WBDC News

Gear Up for Growth – WBDC’s Child Care Business Expo Boosts Business in Chicago

Did you join the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) for our 15th Anniversary Child Care Business Expo on June 1st?  If you missed it, here’s a rundown of the inspirational and educational day:

Over 500 attendees…

Child Care Business Expo

visited 55 Exhibitors ranging from Illinois Action for Children to Dominick’s…

Exhibitors CCBE 2013

 and heard from 5 Deserving Award Winners.

Watch the video playlist below to meet:

– Arabel Alva Rosales, AAR & Associates, LTD., Child Care Champion Award Winner

– Lindsay Cochrane, representing Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Friend of Child Care Award Winner

– Peg Dunne Pavelec, Little Inspirations, Fast Track Award Winner

– Teresa Gomez, Wonderland Day Care Center & Wonderland Home Day Care, Unsung Hero Award Winner

Dr. Latrice Walker, Pre-Fit, Hedy M. Ratner & S. Carol Dougal Legacy Award Winner

Child Care Business Expo Legacy Award

2 Shift Into High Gear Afternoon Workshops taught entrepreneurs effective marketing and business finance.

CCBE Afternoon Workshop

2 Stellar Expo Chairs – Patty Kryscha, Southwest Airlines & Kimberlee Burt, A Child’s Space welcomed guests.

Expo Co Chairs

2 Dynamic Honorary Co-Chairs

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle & Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon (not pictured)

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle opening the Exhibit Hall with WBDC co-president Hedy Ratner (w/ scissors)

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle opening the Exhibit Hall with WBDC co-president Hedy Ratner (w/ scissors) and Expo Co-Chair Kimberlee Burt (far right).

One powerful Luncheon panel shared their insights into the future of Illinois child care.

Luncheon Panel

(L-R): Kate Cozzani, Monique Draper, Janice Lopez and Arabel Alva Rosales

Did you experience the Expo with us?  Do you have any questions that didn’t get answered at one of the workshops? Ask them below!

To see more pictures from the event, check out the WBDC Facebook page.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Business Start-up, Child Care, Special Events, Marketing, Business, WBDC, Small Business

Business Finance: Anywhere, Anytime

As the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) continues to expand our Access to Capital Program we are focused on extending services through direct lending and the development of online/on-demand course offerings.  Whether your business is in the city of Chicago or throughout our nine state Midwest region, we strive to provide your business with a strong financial foundation.

The WBDC’s online/on-demand educational platform will be launched in spring 2013.  Ingage Partners, a Certified WBE company, partnering with TiER1 Performance Solutions has been selected to assist the WBDC in implementing this new system.  The first course, Take the Mystery out of Finance, will be offered in both Spanish and English and cover the basics of finance for your business.  The WBDC selected this course as the launching pad for our online education because we know how important business financial literacy is in running a successful business.

In the interim we have put together a list of useful, easy to use tools to help manage your financials from your computer, tablet or smartphone.  Take a look and let us know which ones you have used.

  1. Wallstreet Journal Excel Shortcuts: Simply put, these cheat sheets
  2.  help navigate running your finances through Excel, particularly useful when utilizing the WBDC’s Financial Projections Excel spreadsheet.
  3. InDinero: Access and manage your books, file your taxes and take care of payroll on multiple devices through a secure connection.  Plus, the company was founded by a woman – Jessica Mah.
  4. Intuit’s GoPayment: Allows you to accept payments anywhere, from anyone with no transaction fees.  Be careful to read the full details, as there are costs associated, but at least the app and cancellation are free.
  5. LightSpeed Retail Inc.: A virtual, portable hub to keep track of sales and inventory, create invoices and print receipts.
  6. MIT Entrepreneurship Open Courses: While this isn’t an app, it is a great resource for free online entrepreneurial education.

What do you use to manage your business finances?  Have you tried any tools that simply do not work?  Let us know!

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Filed under Business, Entrepreneur, Finance, Small Business, Technology, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women in Technology

WBDC Retail Business Clients Share Their 2013 Business Strategies

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday may have been a bonanza for many WBDC retail clients, but even before the December holidays were over, most had their eye on the New Year. Read their business-building strategies – and be inspired!

JulieJulie Horowitz Jackson, Owner

Virtu, 2034 N. Damen Av.

www.virtuchicago.com

One-of-a-kind gifts such as handcrafted jewelry and stationery are Julie’s stock and trade. In 2013, she’ll alter her buying plan by reducing inventory and adding new artists. In-store events will be bumped from six to ten. She still plans to write guest articles for gift and chamber of commerce publications, but her real focus will be on expanding her own blog, “Virtues,” with a precise editorial calendar.

 

Deborah Kramer

Deborah Kraemer, Owner

Abbey Brown Soap Artisan, 1162 W. Grand Av.

www.abbeybrown.com

Deborah’s new year begins with a bang on January 4 when she plunges in to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. She’ll handle the intensive curriculum, which requires two full days of weekly classroom sessions and plenty of “homework,” by turning over more duties to her two managers. Deborah will expand the number of on-site soap-making classes and maintain her level of involvement teaching high school students small business skills in the After School Matters program. For Deborah, January also means taking a complete business inventory and manning a booth at the Chicago Gift Show at the Merchandise Mart. Oh, and she’s designing several new products. Did we mention this is all BEFORE she begins the Goldman Sachs program? Stay tuned!

Laurel Stradford

Laurel Stradford, Owner

What the Traveler Saw, 1508 E. 55th St.

www.WhatTheTravelerSaw.com

Coming off of a successful 2012, Laurel says she’s bringing “a new heart and hope” to the new year. Her popular store will be open more days and more hours. She will amp up her marketing and regularly post information on her new blog and Facebook page. Sadly, the “traveler” was only able to schedule one trip in 2012, but that will change in 2013. Jazz festivals in Europe and a return trip to Turkey, as well as many invitations from other travelers, beckon.

Oh, the excitement, hope and promise of creating those New Year’s business-related resolutions! What plans do you have to take your business to the next level? Share your strategies in the comment section below!

Contributed by guest blogger Chris Ruys of Chris Ruys Communications.

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Filed under Business, Entrepreneur, Goldman Sachs, Marketing, Small Business, Small Business Saturday, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women Business Owner

Small Business Saturday in Chicago’s Hyde Park

Below is an article written by the Women’s Business Development Center’s Kristin Travis reflecting on her experience with Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday, held on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was created by American Express in 2010 with the mission of bringing communities together to promote local commerce.  I celebrated last year’s event, on November 26, 2011, in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.  Hyde Park is near and dear to my heart; I lived there for a while after moving back to Illinois following a 5-year leave.  Hyde Park, as you may know, has a very vibrant small business community, filled with a cornucopia of gift shops, restaurants, book stores and many other wonderful places to shop.

One night, while taking a final sip of stale coffee – a last ditch effort to keep my senses alert after hours of studying – I heard a phrase in the background that perked my ears, “Small Business Saturday!”   A commercial on CNN explained the event, causing me to perform a silent cheer in my seat.  I was overjoyed to hear that this event was beginning to gain a national presence.

So there I was at 8 a.m., on a cool, damp November 26, with a larger, fresher cup of coffee in hand, patiently waiting for the day’s events to begin.  Chant, a Hyde Park Thai food bistro conveniently positioned on the bustling 53rd Street, was the setting for breakfast with Santa and a lively press conference featuring several home-grown elected officials.  In attendance were Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama; Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle; Senator Kwame Raoul; State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie; 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns; Mike Davis and Wallace Goode of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and a host of volunteers organized by the Chamber and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).

Despite the dismal weather, 53rd Street was abuzz with lights and the sound of honking horns in support of this community action.  Laughter glittered across the familiar faces that spoke at the press conference podium as fond memories were shared about life growing up in this close-knit neighborhood.   As the conference came to a close, Jarrett took a moment to reflect on the life of the late Maggie Daley, wife of the former Mayor Richard M. Daley and a great Chicagoan who championed for our youth and community.  It was in that spirit of community that Jarrett encouraged the audience to go out and support the local economy.

Now, just one year later, I am once again a proud resident of Hyde Park.  I relish in the fact that my fellow neighbors and I take so much pride in our local small businesses.  We know that it is shops like What the Traveler Saw, Wesley’s Shoe Corral, Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, Café 53, Hyde Park Produce and a host of other small and family-owned businesses that drive our community and communities like ours all across America.

Join me this November 24th, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, on Small Business Saturday and support the local businesses in your neighborhood that work hard to keep America going strong.  Please click here to learn more about Small Business Saturday and to participate in events in your local community.

Kristin Travis Picture (PTAC Associate)

Kristin J. Travis is the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) Associate at the WBDC. See pictures from her experience here.

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Filed under American Express, Business, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Small Business, Small Business Saturday, Special Events, WBDC, WIPP

Business Tips for Women in Small Business from the Women’s Business Development Center

Happy Women in Small Business Month!  Today’s post is split into two parts – one for women looking to start their business soon and one for those already in business.  Look through both sets of questions and refer back to them as you continue to build your business muscle!

Women Starting A Small Business

It may come as no surprise to you, but being a small business owner can be a difficult and demanding enterprise.  Here at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) we see many clients when they’re first starting and weighing out the feasibility of their idea. So how do you know if it’s a viable concept?  Does it have lasting power?  Below are 10 questions from www.SBA.gov to help you assess if you’re ready to start a business:

  1. Why am I starting a business?
  2. What kind of business do I want?
  3. Who is my ideal customer?
  4. What products or services will my business provide?
  5. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?
  6. What differentiates my business idea and the products or services I will provide from others in the market?
  7. Where will my business be located?
  8. How many employees will I need?
  9. What types of suppliers do I need?
  10. How much money do I need to get started?

To read 10 additional questions from the SBA, please click here.  If you need help answering these questions, look no further than you local business center – find yours by searching here.

Women Already in Small Business

Have you been in business for a few years?  Do you feel like you’re an old pro at marketing your product or service?  Well maybe it’s time to take a new approach to your small business and try something new.  Here are 10 questions to ask yourself about your business and personal life.

When was the last time I…

  1. Attended a networking event?
  2. Attended a workshop?
  3. Updated my business plan?
  4. Hosted a customer appreciation event?
  5. Updated my LinkedIn profile?
  6. Updated my website?
  7. Used my own product/service?
  8. Explored new markets?
  9. Went on vacation?
  10. Hired someone new?

If you answer “I can’t remember” to any of these – it’s time to do it!  Go out, meet new contacts, learn new tricks of the trade, say thank you to your loyal clients and so on!  Don’t let your business stagnate! 

We want to know: What do you do on a regular basis to keep your business current?

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Filed under Advocacy, Business, Business Leaders, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Small Business, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Teaming for Contracts and Growing Your Business with the Federal Government

From (L-R): Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, American Express OPEN Advisor on Teaming; Freida Curry, PTAC Director, WBDC; Alexandra Ytuarte, American Express OPEN, Senior Manager, Customer Advocacy

American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement has done a fantastic job of creating a robust environment through its LinkedIn group, with discussion from group members, over 50% of who are either chief operating officers or business owners.  Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, American Express OPEN Advisor on Teaming, who recently spoke at the Women’s Business Development Center’s (WBDC) Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government event, provides insight.

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez’s responses in the group, along with feedback from an attendee of the Chicago event, will give you a jumping off point in navigating government contracting and tell you what the Victory in Procurement program can offer your business.

Q: What do you look for in a successful teaming relationship?

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez:

“When you are looking at a potential teaming partner, there are a lot of questions you need to answer:  Are they reliable? Do they have experience? Do they have a positive industry reputation? Are they solid financially? You need to be comfortable and trust who you team with. Once you have vetted them, think about what the “team” will offer [you]:  do their services/products complement yours and is there a demand for what the team may offer? Also remember that teaming does not necessarily have to be with folks you don’t know.  Don’t overlook former employers and businesses within your circle.”

Q: Are there any particular websites that are used to identify companies in search of teaming partners?

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez:

“Federal Procurement Data System www.fpds.gov; USA Spending www.usaspending.gov GSA E-Library http://www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov/ElibMain/home.do; central Contractor Registration System www.ccr.gov*; trade associations for certain certifications, such as the 8(a) Association etc…”

Join the American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement LinkedIn group here: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4214818&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

Joanne Cleaver attended the May 3rd American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government workshop. Below is her response when asked what she learned  from attending the May event as well as what attendees can learn from the Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government workshop in St.Louis on October 3rd?

“My key take away from the May OPEN [Marketing to the Federal Government] event was how to tailor my pitch to specific upcoming contracting opportunities. Denise Rodriguez-Lopez was an engaging and informative presenter, with well organized material and thorough answers to all our questions.

Based on what I learned, along with the ongoing coaching from the WBDC’s well informed staff, I have developed a ‘government pursuit plan’ that focuses on identifying the highest-potential opportunities, marketing my firm’s strategic communication services directly to small business advocates and hopefully to purchasing managers and customizing our materials to be most effective.  As a result of all this, I have been invited to respond to a proposal for a substantial subcontracting opportunity with another woman-owned business.”

-Joanne Cleaver, Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc.  Develops and delivers effective strategic messages.  For more information about Ms. Cleaver’s business visit:  www.wilson-taylorassoc.com.

Register for the St. Louis American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government here: http://goo.gl/I0Z1w

*Editors Note: As of July 29, 2012 ORCA and ccr.gov no longer exist. It is now www.sam.gov. If you have a prior CCR or ORCA account, it is possible to move data into www.sam.gov, once you have registered.


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Filed under American Express, Business, Established Business, Procurement, Small Business, St. Louis Small Business, St. Louis Women Business, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBDC News, Women Business Owner

Building a Better Business with Mentoring

The WBDC has been counseling, educating and assisting potential business owners and established business owners since 1986. Now we are expanding our services to include a mentoring program.  “Women helping women” is a common theme here at the WBDC.  Not only is “Women” part of our name (Women’s Business Development Center), but our staff is 96% female.

Let’s take a look at some facts about women entrepreneurs:

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, “male entrepreneurs in the United States outnumber their female counterparts 3.5 to 1.”
  • 2010 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Study that showed that “less than half the women surveyed (47.7%) believe they are capable of starting and running a business (compared to 62.1% of men.)”

These statistics are the reason women’s business centers continue to be relevant and necessary, and why the WBDC is launching a business mentoring service.  If we can close that gap by even a tenth of a percent by directing potential entrepreneurs/start-ups, and even established business owners, towards competent, qualified mentors, then we have successfully brought businesses into fruition and spurred economic development.

Need more reasons to get involved in a business mentoring relationship?

From a recent Forbes article:

Here are some of the key reasons to become a mentor, from the viewpoints of several different female mentors:

  • Better understand the business: “My mentee helped me see issues in the company that I didn’t know existed.”
  • Better understand how people perceive you: “I was able to see the perception others held of me, through the eyes of my mentee.”
  • Create a larger network: “By helping others I’ve also created a network of allies I can rely upon when I need help.”
  • Help solve issues: “I’ve been able to step out of my own shoes and help my mentees see things from other perspectives. This, in turn, has helped me in resolving issues within my own department.”
  • Personal satisfaction: “I have been able to watch and actively help younger women succeed in our industry – and it’s such a wonderful feeling to help another person succeed!”

Learn more at the WBDC’s mentee and mentor webinars on September 7th and September 11th, respectively.

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Filed under Business, Business Mentoring, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Small Business, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBDC News, Webinar, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Women’s Business Development Center Announces Panelists for Women’s Forum Breakfast at Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference in Chicago

The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) is pleased to announce the panelists for the Women’s Forum Breakfast at the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference (EWC) taking place September 20, 2012 at Chicago’s McCormick Place – West.  Register now to take advantage of the early bird rates!

Sue Bhatia, Chief Executive Officer
Rose International, Inc.

Ranked 13th on Fast Company’s list of the Top 25 Women Business Builders in North America, Bhatia founded Rose International in the spring of 1993.  Under her leadership, Rose emerged as a force in the IT and Business Services arena, and is a leader in providing innovative end-to-end technology services to both commercial organizations and government agencies from branch offices, Centralized Recruiting Centers and development centers in 21 U.S. cities and India.  With 6,000+ associates and steady revenue growth, Rose International is recognized as one of the country’s fastest-growing and most successful companies, and the largest woman-owned business in St. Louis, MO.

Christie Hefner, Former CEO, Playboy Enterprises, Inc.
Executive Chairman, Canyon Ranch Enterprises

Christie Hefner serves as Executive Chairman of Canyon Ranch Enterprises, a new company leveraging the brand and knowledge of Canyon Ranch via media and business partnerships.  From 1988-2008 she served as Chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, Inc. overseeing global expansion of Playboy’s legendary brand to a wide array of new platforms and markets, transforming a domestic publishing-based business into a global multi-media and lifestyle company.  She was the longest serving female CEO ever of a public company, and she was named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World by Forbes magazine for three consecutive years.

Laura Ricketts, Director of Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball
Chairman of the Board, Chicago Cubs

Laura Ricketts is a Director and part owner of the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball club as well as Chairman of the Board for Chicago Cubs Charities.  Much of her work with the Cubs is focused on community relations, government relations and philanthropy.  Ricketts is involved with several organizations in the Chicago area community and beyond, currently including serving as the Co-Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Leadership Council, and serving on the National Leadership Council for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a national non-profit organization that litigates, educates and engages in public policy work on behalf of LGBT civil rights.

Richelle Shaw, Chief Executive Officer
RTS Publishing, LLC

As the only female African-American public utility owner in the nation, Richelle Shaw’s story of entrepreneurial success is one of true tenacity, hardship and hard work.  A featured expert and leading authority on building successful million dollar businesses, Richelle’s expertise comes from building her first business to $36 million, losing it after the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedies, then, successfully rebuilding the company in five months.  Since 2007, Richelle has been committed to helping entrepreneurs avoid the mistakes she made in her business, and has successfully mentored over 12,000 men and women, in 98 different industries, through her international coaching programs, and currently serves as the featured Money Expert on FOX5 local affiliate, The MORE Show.

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Filed under Business, Business Leaders, Certification, Entrepreneur, Small Business, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBDC News, Women in Business