News Column

Texas State Program Puts Focus on Female Entrepreneurs

Sept. 17, 2012

Laylan Copelin, Austin American-Statesman

The arrival of Leslie Stiba's twin girls birthed the idea for her business startup, City Bebe, because the former Dell Inc. product manager couldn't find the right stroller.

Twins and the stuff they require -- let alone anything the parent wants to carry along -- require an expandable stroller than can be collapsed when it's not in use. But Stiba said she couldn't find a stroller to meet her needs.

Stiba was accustomed to taking an idea to market in the corporate world but not as a first-time entrepreneur: "This isn't my first rodeo, but there are still a lot of aspects that are new."

Today, Stiba has received the first round of "angel investment" for her patented stroller, thanks in part to RampCorp, a training program for would-be women entrepreneurs.

Next month the Texas State University program is starting another class at the Capital Factory, the downtown Austin accelerator, at the Omni.

Stiba, as many entrepreneurs do, is enrolling for a second year.

"These are powerful women in their own right, coming in to do something on their own," Stiba said of her classmates.

The program is looking for women who want to start a business, usually with a product or technology, that can be expanded into a multi-million-dollar enterprise.

"We want them to think big," said Terry Chase Hazell, the director of RampCorp.

Hazell founded two biotechnology-related spin-out companies for the University of Maryland before taking over RampCorp.

She is currently the chairwoman of the advisory committee to the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

RampCorp is not designed for home businesses or service companies such as consulting firms, but applicants don't have to have a product in mind.

"If they don't have an idea, we help them search the (available) technology," Hazell said.

Many universities have patented technology that an entrepreneur can license and take to market, Hazell said.

There are 25 sessions over 15 weeks.

The class meets every Monday for three hours and has an online seminar on Thursdays.

Each class member gets three hours of personal coaching per week.

The cost is $1,500 for the first term and $600 for returning students. Scholarships and payment plans are available. Applications at are due Sept. 30.

The curriculum includes identifying a need for a product, creating a business plan, raising money, employing the right marketing strategy and building a startup team.

Stiba said she tapped former Dell colleagues for two of her company's positions, but found an engineer with extensive experience designing strollers through Linked In, the online professional network.

Stiba, who lives in Round Rock, is working with M3 Design Inc., a product development firm in Round Rock, to finish her prototype stroller.

Networking is an emphasis at RampCorp.

"We introduce them to the people they need to know," Hazell said. "It's very important to know the right people when you are growing a business."

Stiba said RampCorp helped her get her company off the ground: "They give you a road map for what you need to do."

Source: (c)2012 Austin American-Statesman, Texas Distributed by MCT Information Services

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