Women had a significant impact on the recent presidential election
and they will continue to play a more significant role in the state and
national economy, according to speakers at the Annual Business Breakfast of
the Women's Business Development Council (WBDC) held Thursday at Stamford
"We showed in this election that women have a voice -- probably a greater voice than ever," Cathy Malloy, First Lady of Connecticut and honorary chairwomen of the event, told the 500 people in attendance. "You will see that in business, too."
WBDC's mission is to "help women achieve economic self-reliance" through education and counseling. Open to both men and women, it is based in Stamford and has training sites throughout the state, including Norwalk and Fairfield.
Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State, said women-owned businesses in Connecticut have an employment rate of more than double the national average. That number rose 17.3 percent from 1997 to 2011, Merrill said.
"Women-owned business growth is an opportunity like nothing we've seen," she said. "Women can be the backbone of what's going to happen in business in the state."
Fran Pastore, CEO of WBDC, welcomed the crowd and said the importance of women-owned businesses in the country is too great to overlook.
"Now more than ever, corporations, federal, state and local governments need to participate in the ongoing national dialogue and pay attention to the fact that investing in women owned businesses is a strategy for job creation and economic growth," she said.
Women's increasingly important role in the economy was also the major talking point of the panel discussion that included moderator Chrystia Freeland of Thomson Reuters; Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN; Barbara Kasoff, president of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP); Lisa Price, founder of Carol's Daughter beauty company; and Amy Davis, founder and CEO of Kiss-u Corps.
Kasoff said the recent election was a "watershed moment" for women entrepreneurs.
"People are starting to see that empowering women makes a significant impact on our communities and economy," she said. "If there was a winner in this election, it was women. The world has changed for women entrepreneurs. Women should be part of every economic discussion that goes on."
Kasoff added: "If we work together in the public and private sector we will change the entire country."
Price talked about the fears she had to overcome to turn her beauty business, originally operated out of her kitchen, into a multi-million dollar empire. She now has more than 80 staff members and nine stores.
"It was scary, but each advance was necessary. Some of those fears get removed as you move forward. As you get bigger, the decisions impact more people," she said. "The biggest obstacle was myself and my own fears. How you react to difficulties is what makes it positive or negative, not the difficulty itself."
Sobbott reacted to a question about women lacking a "killer instinct" in the business world.
"Just believe in ourselves because we have it. We just have to bring it out," she said. "The more you do it, the more our daughters will, too."
To conclude the discussion, Freeland asked the panelists for quick words of advice.
Sobbott encouraged entrepreneurs to get someone to help with their businesses. Many new business owners think they can "do it all."
Price said: "Always have the phone number and email of an accountant and lawyer you trust. You can't afford to not have that."
Kasoff told the crowd to "be informed and know your stuff," and "if one of you succeed, all of you succeed."
"Join WBDC today," Davis said.
Peg Sheahan, board chairwoman of WBDC, presented the 2012 Deb Ziegler Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence to Liz Gilbert of Gilbert's Gourmet Goodies.
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