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Girl Power

For these entrepreneurs, helping other women is more than just good business.
May 1, 2003
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/61076

Are you a social entrepreneur? We're not talking about being able to network effectively. Social entrepreneurship means looking at the way your business fits into your community and the world and making a conscious decision to contribute to the social good. These business owners did just that-and found ways to help women and girls by using their companies.

The Art of Helping
Lisa Hammond, 36, started her $6 million catalog company, Femail Creations, in 1996 "out of a passion to make a difference in the lives of women and girls." Says the Las Vegas entrepreneur: "Our catalog features handcrafted items made by, for and about women. Our goal is to empower and inspire females, to celebrate women in art, and to give shoppers the opportunity to make a difference."

Femail Creations works with the artists who contribute to the catalog to feature and promote the charities the artists work with. In each issue, a portion of the profits from the sale of certain items goes to affiliated organizations, which specialize in issues such as domestic violence, women's health and empowering girls.

Shaking Things Up
For Katherine Jones, principal and founder of $3 million-plus creative agency Milkshake Media, based in Austin, Texas, her strong belief in social entrepreneurship inspired her to offer pro bono services to GenAustin, a nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging and empowering girls.

"Milkshake has donated our time to rebrand the organization-renaming, new logo, new Web site, new business system, redesigned calendars and stickers--and we worked with printers and paper companies to get them to donate [their] services as well," says Jones, 34, who also sits on GenAustin's board. But what exactly does Jones get out of helping the organization? "Even [if] you can't solve the big problem, you can effect change. Touching lives is one of the greatest fulfillments there is."

On a Mission
After discovering she couldn't have children of her own, Patrice Tanaka decided to channel her energies into helping women and girls. "If you are fortunate to achieve success, you have an obligation to help other women and girls do the same," says Tanaka, who co-founded $5 million brand marketing PR agency Patrice Tanaka and Co. Inc. (PT & Co.) in New York City in 1990. PT & Co. helps major corporations develop programs that benefit women, including Avon's Breast Cancer Awareness Crusade and Liz Claiborne's "Women's Work" program to raise awareness of domestic violence. PT & Co. also represents the Girl Scouts of the USA, and Tanaka, 50, sits on their New York Council board. She has also served on the boards of the Asian Pacific American Women's Leadership Institute and the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

"Our role as women seems to be that of caretaker and caregiver. We can't hide behind the excuse 'It's not personal--it's just business,'" Tanaka says. "For women, business is personal, and we find it inexcusable for a person or a business to behave irresponsibly as a citizen of our community."

"As consumers, women survey a brand holistically, and it doesn't just come down to price," says Andrea Learned, president of ReachWomen LLC, a consultancy in Bellingham, Washington, specializing in understanding women consumers. "Women notice a company's investment in causes." If you're marketing to women, being socially responsible can be good for your business as well as your soul.

ALL'S FAIR
"Women in Business 2003: Sharing the Vision," the 4th Annual National Conference and Business Fair, sponsored by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, will feature workshops, panel discussions and special events, as well as a business fair where you can market your products and services to leading corporations and government agencies. Held June 24-26 in New York City; cost varies. For details, visit www.wbenc.org/WIB2003 or call (800) 644-7442.

Aliza Pilar Sherman is an Internet pioneer, netpreneur, speaker and author of the book PowerTools for Women in Business: 10 Ways to Succeed in Life and Work(Entrepreneur Press).