From the October 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

When Chicago native Rosita Arvigo moved to Belize in 1982, she had lofty goals: to seek "medical freedom and racial harmony."

Actually, the alternative physician ended up with results even more lofty than the goals she had set. Arvigo has persuaded the Belizean government to set aside 6,000 acres of rainforest, which she calls Terra Nova, the world's only tropical reserve specifically dedicated to the preservation of medicinal plants. She has also combined efforts with ethnobotanist Michael Balick, in cooperation with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, to search the plant world for possible cures for cancer and AIDS by collecting and cataloguing more than 3,000 plants for testing. And she educates what could be the next generation of healers, providing tours for students, pharmacists and doctors, as well as sponsoring a camp for at-risk youth, who help workers identify and rescue trees.

In the United States, Arvigo's research has been translated into a line of nine traditional healing products called Rainforest Remedies. The products, including Belly Be Good for indigestion and Clearing Support for internal cleansing and blood purification, stem from her years studying with one of the world's oldest Mayan healers, who died at age 103 last year. Twenty percent to 50 percent of all sales go to help save the rainforest.

"I went to Belize for medical freedom. I didn't have a big plan. Everything else just happened," says Arvigo. "I wouldn't say I started out to make a company or save Mayan medicine. I just followed my heart."

Daughter Knows Best

A recent survey shows more than 25 percent of family businesses plan to choose a woman as their next chief executive officer. This figure is especially significant considering it's more than five times the 4.7 percent of respondents whose businesses are now headed by female CEOs.

The 1997 Arthur Andersen/Mass Mutual American Family Business Survey reflects the trend of more women being raised to consider a career in business, says Wayne Reid, an associate director of the Arthur Andersen Center of Family Business LLP in Houston.

The study also found that 42 percent of respondents expected their businesses to be run by co-CEOs in the next generation, and that 42 percent of those indicated one of their chiefs might be a woman.

Will women leaders turn the tide of family business? "There are strengths that women bring to business in their management style," says Reid. "And family [members] are realizing they could use those strengths in their own businesses."

Behind Closed Doors . . .

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, on the Senate floor, regarding the Women's Business Centers Act of 1997:

"Mr. President, I want to once again go on record that I am dissatisfied that the SBA has not given appropriate attention to the women's business program. It has failed to provide sufficient professional personnel to the Office of Women's Business Ownership in order to carry out its important tasks. It has repeatedly requested less funding than authorized for the program despite the fact that this is one of the most successful of all SBA programs. To my knowledge, it has never come to Congress and requested additional monies for the program; instead, it has expected Congress to do SBA's work in trumpeting the successes of this small but vital program. I find it most discouraging that while we in Congress are well aware of the outstanding work of the women's business centers, there appears to be minimal support within SBA for expanding the work of this very small program. This is a loss to the agency, and it is most assuredly a loss to countless thousands of women entrepreneurs, let alone a loss to our overall national economy."

Response by Aida Alvarez, SBA Administrator:

"In my six months as Administrator, I have devoted major efforts to strengthening SBA's already strong commitment to women's business ownership. It is noteworthy that Betsy Myers, director of President Clinton's Office of Women's Initiatives and Outreach, has joined my SBA team as a senior advisor. While I am Administrator, SBA will take a back seat to no government agency when it comes to promoting women's economic empowerment."

Contact Sources

Arthur Andersen Center of Family Business LLP, 133 Peachtree St., N.E.,Atlanta, GA 30303-1846, wayne.d.reid@arthurandersen.com

Rainforest Remedies, (847) 438-4327.