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Is Gender an Issue in Your Business?

It might be. But advocating for your business is still the bottom line.

( - Women race car drivers? Men who run dance studios? It can--and is--happening today. The gender lines have definitely blurred, as both sexes are choosing careers and businesses that, not so long ago, society seemed to reserve strictly for men or women--not both.

Better Than Ballet
Courtney and Erica Enders are proof that racing cars isn't just for guys anymore. Erica, now 18, got interested in racing at the age of 8 by following in her dad's tracks.

"I'd always go to the races with him, and I always wanted to be a driver," she says. "I was reading one of his magazines and found an article about kids' races. I asked him if I could do it, and he said, 'Sure--this could be better than ballet.'" Better than ballet? You'd better believe it!

Since then, as a junior racer, Erica has won 37 titles, including 1995 Junior Drag Racing League Driver of the Year. She has also earned enough scholarship money to cover her tuition at a private college and still have some left over to spend.

Two years ago, she moved up to the SuperComp category, which is only two levels below the top racing level. At her first national competition, Erica was first runner-up, just missing the top prize, but earning more than $5,000.

Since the girls are winning in a male-dominated sport, they've become really popular with fans. Their mom (Janet Enders) recalls the crowd's reaction to Erica's near-victory at the nationals, which has seven elimination rounds and a final race for the title.

"When you think of drag racing, you think of guys with rolled-up T-shirts and tattoos," Janet says. "We knew she'd go a round or two, but every round she kept winning. The crowd was going wild, especially the women. She lost in the finals by .003 second to the 1998 World Champion. It was heartbreaking, but we were all thrilled. She won money; there were cameras all over her car. It was awesome!"

Because what they're doing is a bit unusual, Erica and Courtney have drawn a lot of attention. They have been guests on ESPN's Scholastic Sports America, Hard Copy, Extra, and The Donny & Marie Show. They've also been featured in numerous magazine and newspaper articles, including a three-page story in People magazine.

Wanna Dance?
When it comes to choosing a business, James Carpenter might take issue with the Enders sisters. For the 19-year-old Carpenter, ballet--or at least dance--is better than race car driving!

The Louisville, Colorado, 'trep founded Athletic Dance Studio International in 1996. His company's main business is choreographing routines for members of competitive dance and cheerleading teams at local high schools.

It all started when Carpenter helped his sister, Jamila, choreograph an audition for her high school dance team. When she won, word got around that her brother was the creative force behind the dance steps. People began calling on Carpenter for his help, and soon a business was born.

Carpenter is working to not only build his business but also spread the word about choreography. "In Colorado, most people still don't know what cheerleading and dance teams are all about," Carpenter says.

To promote his business, Carpenter and his camp instructors performed routines at area malls and shopping centers. After each performance, Carpenter answered questions and passed out fliers with information about dance and cheerleading camps and training events.

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