After winning an Oscar for Best Short Film and an MTV Video Award, Laura Groppe decided a career transition was in order. So in May 1994, she left the Hollywood limelight, took her $75,000 life savings, and started an Austin, Texas-based media company, Girl Games Inc.
"It made perfect sense to stay in the entertainment industry and yet move in the direction I saw entertainment going in, which is interactive," says Groppe, 33. "I saw there was nothing for women and girls and decided this was the perfect niche."
Though the medium is indeed hot, Groppe's first project, a CD-ROM series called Let's Talk About ME!, is "focused more on the girl than on the platform," she says. "We're entering an era where nine out of 10 of these girls will be income earners. We have an opportunity to feed these girls, give them the tools, and tell them to go for it."
Offering everything from a diary with a "panic button" for privacy purposes to in-depth interviews with 23 role models, the series takes on the considerable task of trying to make adolescence fun. "It's a treacherous zone," Groppe admits. "I want to say, `You'll make it--you'll get to the other side and be all the better for it.' "
With the second version of Let's Talk About ME! due for spring release, Groppe reflects on entrepreneurial moments that rival the thrill of receiving an Oscar, like "seeing the box on the shelves, knowing this was just an idea a year and a half ago. And, at a [computer store], when a 12-year-old girl played with the game, bought it, and said to me, `Thank you so much for doing what you do,' that was a very cool moment."
Look Whos Cooking
Women are stirring up the restaurant industry: They now own approximately one of every three restaurants. According to the Census Bureau, the number of eating-and-drinking establishments owned by women increased 41 percent between 1987 and 1992. In the same period, the number of restaurants owned by men decreased 6 percent.
Women restaurateurs also outpaced men in total sales, doubling receipts over that five-year period, while men's establishments grew by 29 percent. Where women restaurateurs lag behind men is in average sales, which were $215,400, almost 40 percent lower than the $343,100 average earned by men.
The National Restaurant Association confirms women entering the industry is a long-term trend. "There aren't as many barriers to entry in this business. You can start a small restaurant, which may attract women who traditionally haven't been able to get large loans," says the asso-ciation's Caitlin Storhaug. "It's one of the last industries where you can really fulfill the American dream."
If you were president, what would you do?" That was the question posed to top businesswomen in a recent study by The Executive Committee, a San Diego-based organization of entrepreneurs and CEOs. Among the responses:
"Balance the budget immediately. No one would go on vacation until it was done."
"Privatize many government services and stress alternative education."
"Have the courage to say `I don't know.' "
The study found the female political figures respondents most admired were: 1) Elizabeth Dole, 2) Rep. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), 3) (tie) Hillary Clinton and Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ), and 4) Margaret Thatcher. Almost half the women believed there would be a woman president in 12 years; the rest said a woman wouldn't hold the office until after 2008. Only two respondents answered "Not in my lifetime."
Even if a woman doesn't take the Oval Office soon, respondents aren't complaining. About 68 percent rated the U.S. economy either excellent or good, and 53 percent said it's doing better today than when President Clinton was first elected.
The Executive Committee, (800) 274-2367;
Girl Games Inc., 221 E. Ninth St., #302, Austin, TX 78701, (http://www.girlgamesinc.com);
National Restaurant Association, 1200 17th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036, (800) 424-5156.