Those handprint Thanksgiving Turkeys young children have made for generations may warm the hearts of some mothers, but they sent chills down the spines of Phyllis Brody and Evelyn Greenwald. "They were presented to children as creative experiences, but in reality, it was somebody's initial creativity that children were expected to repeat," says Brody. "We felt children needed more room to express their own creativity rather than being handed these carbon-copy [art] assignments."
To defeat what they dubbed "the turkey syndrome," Brody, 59, and Greenwald, 55, started Creativity for Kids in 1978. The Cleveland company, which Brody says was introduced without fanfare "in the last booth in the furthest, darkest corner" of the 1978 International Toy Fair, now offers about 90 creative play products. The kits, which teach kids everything from jewelry-making and gargoyle carving to multicultural crafts, are sold in specialty toy stores and major toy retailers such as Imaginarium.
While their kits have sparked creativity in children nationwide, Brody, a former family counselor, and Greenwald, a former lawyer, have also sparked creativity in the traditionally stodgy toy industry. And the partners hope to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurial women. "Creativity is more than making things," says Brody. "It's having a vision and figuring out how to make something happen-whether you're painting, making a craft or figuring out how to make something work in the business environment."
While other programs come and go, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is one of the granddaddies of government assistance to small business. Now SCORE is increasing the number of services designed for women.
Besides offering networking groups and workshops for women, SCORE does for them what it does best: one-on-one mentoring. "Women entrepreneurs are more eager to talk with other women," says Florence Alberts (below, right), national director of women's business ownership for SCORE. "They have unique problems that may be difficult for male counselors to understand."
SCORE is exploring new ways to reach women entrepreneurs, including the Women's Business Ownership Program, which provides individual counseling, networking groups and informative workshops. For more information, call (800) 634-0245.
A contingent of small-business advocates convened in November for the singular purpose of getting just the facts on facts. The National Research Agenda Strategy Conference, sponsored by the National Women's Business Council, attracted almost 100 leaders of entrepreneurial research, government, academia and the private sector to determine which women's entrepreneurial issues were most in need of substantiation.
"Numbers, data, statistics-those are the only things that are going to change perceptions," says Mollie Cole, conference participant and president of the National Association of Women's Business Advocates. "Decisions about programs, whether [they're] entrepreneurial training or financing, are based upon good data."
The conference covered a range of issues, including access to capital and credit, state and federal governments' support of women's entrepreneurship, and women business owners' economic performance. Yet, according to Cole, one particular issue kept surfacing: the need for an archive of women's business research. "There's no one place where you can get good, current data on women entrepreneurs," Cole says.
The purpose of the conference, says Cole, was "not to present any answers but to really get at the questions and the methodology for answering those questions." Cole characterizes the project as "definitely long term" and hopes that eventually it will inspire not just more studies but more tangible studies. "We know a lot about women business owners' characteristics and problems," she says. "But we don't know very much about women-owned businesses overall."
Chances are, we may know a lot more very soon. "It was exciting to see all these [influential] people expressing a commitment to women's business ownership," says Cole. "This is a commitment no one is taking lightly."
Creativity for Kids, 1802 Central Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 589-4800;
National Association of Women's Business Advocates, 100 W. Randolph, #3-400, Chicago, IL 60601, (312) 814-7176;
Service Corps of Retired Executives, 409 Third St. S.W., 4th Fl., Washington, DC 20024, (800) 634-0245.