From the March 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

Women may finally be reaping the accolades they deserve in the business world; however, those organizations that helped women get where they are today still remain vastly underappreciated. North Star, a new awards program offered by the National Association of Women's Business Advocates (NAWBA), aims to change that.

"NAWBA recognizes there is an overwhelming commitment to women's business development, and that's been demonstrated by more than 300 service providers across the nation," says Mollie Cole, immediate past president of NAWBA. "We also know that their efforts are rarely acknowledged by economic development agencies, corporate entities or the government."

The North Star Awards will be granted in four categories, honoring women-boosting programs at the local, state and national levels, as well as in the private sector. "We want organizations to demonstrate a collaborative approach, to show they're not doing this by themselves, that they've brought together all the resources possible for this particular program or project," says Cole.

The North Star Awards, so named because, explains Cole, "whenever we're lost, we can always look to the North Star for guidance and direction," the program won't just pay lip service to the winners. "We hope to provide the [organizations] with cash awards so they can leverage that cash to deliver more services to the women's business community."

In the spirit of the nominees' contributions, Cole already has high hopes that the North Star Awards will be not mere window dressing but a springboard for future progress. "As people start sending us word of their best programs, we can take that information and combine it into a document of collaborative approaches to women's business development," she explains. "That way, people who are starting a new program
or attempting to fine-tune their current program can use this document."

The judging panel consists of representatives from NAWBA, business development companies, Entrepreneur magazine, and other sponsors from the public and private sectors. Applications are due by August 9; the awards will be presented at NAWBA's fall conference in late October. Call (312) 814-7176 for more information.

Go Figure

Considering the inroads entrepreneurial women have made and the support they've gained since being armed with powerful statistics, you can imagine the panic that arose upon word that the Census Bureau, due to budgeting constraints, would not sponsor the 1997 census of women-owned businesses. Fortunately, the Census Bureau quickly reversed its decision, thanks in part to thousands of letters and e-mails from women business owners and women's organizations, says Amy Millman, executive director of the National Women's Business Council.

"The impact of the '92 census of women-owned businesses has been phenomenal, resulting in billions of dollars of loans for women," Millman says. "Banks don't [change like that] on a whim--it's because they've pored over the data and realized this is a hot market. And we need consistent data for comparison purposes, to see the next level."

In a clear show of power, the feedback from these women may have saved this from becoming what Millman calls "another fall-through-the-cracks situation." She points to the bigger lesson learned: "The federal government makes decisions every day that impact your life. Women business owners have to be vigilant and become educated about the government's priorities. It will ultimately help their businesses."

Contact Sources

National Association of Women Business Advocates, (312) 814-7176;

National Women's Business Council, 409 Third St. S.W., #5850, Washington, DC 20024, (202) 205-3850.