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The Chamber Inc. offers courses to help women in business

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.

There's excitement to be found in starting a small business ... and trepidation.

To reinforce the former and minimize the latter, The Chamber Inc., located in Wexford, is offering another set of courses to assist women who have become entrepreneurs.

The chamber's Women in Business University program was launched in 2011.

“This fills business niches not being offered elsewhere,” Susan Balla, executive director of the chamber. said.

“Business owners were asking for it, and this focuses on the nouveau women business owners.”

Level I of the year-long program is designed for the 2- to 5-year-old business with an average annual revenue of $100,000 to $250,000.

After six-months of classroom instruction on marketing, finances, networking and sales, a four-month mentoring program is featured with one-on-one coaching.

Level II is designed for the women business owner in the second stage of business growth, after 3 to 7 years of operation, with an annual revenue of $250,000.

Class topics will include goal setting, business strategy, building strategic partnerships, human resource compliance and work/life balance.

Classroom instruction will be followed by several months of working with an individual business coach.

The cost for either level is $250.

In 2011, 35 business owners attended the initial luncheon, where the program was explained and the opportunity to apply was presented.

Candidates were selected for the Level I course, which began in January of this year.

Members of the class included franchise owners, Terry Anderson, of College Nannies and Tutors; and Nicki McGee of Sincerely Yogurt.

Both businesses are located in Wexford.

“This business spoke to me,” said Anderson of her new career in the educational sector after being downsized from her work in banking and finance.

“This one tripped my trigger.”

With 20 months in business and 20 to 25 nannies now in her ranks, she's enjoying the less stressful days compared to her former corporate life.

Much of the information explored during class time was familiar to her, but the four or five months spent with the business coach were invaluable.

“We talked about everything and anything to do with business,” Anderson said.

As they discussed business development and sales, she thought strategically.

In class, she found the mix of perspectives helpful.

While they shared their “troubles and tribulations,” she learned that “perseverance is most important.”

“We reinforced each other,” she said.

“It was a collaborative and nurturing environment.”

Nicki McGee celebrated the one-year anniversary of Sincerely Yogurt, her first business in the Pine Tree Shoppes.

At 42, she left her medical field career behind and launched her retail hopes.

She joined the chamber to make connections and get exposure for her enterprise.

When the Women in Business University program was offered, she came on board.

“Each month was a different topic, and I took something from each of them,” McGee said.

When banking was discussed, she learned how to take out a second loan in order to buy another franchise.

Although that didn't happen, she did benefit from the banking pointers and confidence she gained.

“It was completely foreign,” she said, “and 98 percent male inhabited.”

McGee was able to add to her marketing repertoire and with the exchange of ideas, she found the group to be supportive.

“Once a month was not a huge amount of time. I really enjoyed it.”

Keeping the classes at 10 to 15 people allows the participants to become “a network of people,” said Balla, who has led the organization for three years.

With chamber business owners as members of the faculty and business coaches and consultants acting as mentors, the young entrepreneurs of Women in Business University can benefit from hands-on experience.

“In the end, it all means better business and a better community for all of us,” Balla said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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