Our PowerLink Connect the Dots Series will highlight those individuals we honored at our 25th Anniversary Party last week
Where it all started 25 years ago...
the story of PowerLink...
two women got together, saw a need,
and found a way to address it - together!
After ten years of working for the family business, Barb bought her family trucking company from her widowed mother. Because she was surrounded by men in the trucking business, she enjoyed mentoring women business owners. She was named Women’s Business Advocate of the year by the SBA in 1991. On the day that she was featured in the Pittsburgh Business Times, she received a phone call from a female management consultant at Price Waterhouse who read the story. Over lunch the two women compared notes on how small and emerging women-owned companies were isolated from good advice and did not have access to really-sharp and insightful executives who could help them grow. The Price Waterhouse consultant had the same drive - to help women become more successful business owners. Barb did some research and discovered that at that time, only about 7% of women who started businesses had a degree in Business. So few women had taken business classes, that years later when they started their businesses, they didn’t have college friends who were now the experienced accountants, bankers and consultants who could advise them in their growth. Barb and the consultant agreed that a possible solution was to match 4-6 advisors in a corporate board structure to meet with the business owners for at least a year. The advisors would help the business owners to increase sales and profit, solve problems and become stronger owners. “You find the business owners and I’ll find the corporate executives to sit on the boards,” the consultant offered enthusiastically. Barb and the consultant developed a strategic plan and structured PowerLink’s program like corporate boards that each learned about in MBA school. They recruited two business owners and two boards of advisors in 1992, and the experiment began to help women owned business grow profitably. Both companies grew into multi-million dollar companies, thanks to them and a team of PowerLink volunteers. Barb and the consultant traded paying for the expenses of running PowerLink for the first few years. Since then, the organization has served more than 300 companies in Western Pennsylvania and more than 300 companies across the US through a licensing agreement with ATHENA International in 1998. “When you find a problem, you do research, develop a plan, work the plan, revise and improve, then repeat; and stay true to your mission,” states Barb. Thank you, Barb!