When Regina English needed more resources for her business, Yes M.A.A.M., a pageant-based program that trains young women of color to be ambassadors and community leaders, she turned to Leadership Pikes Peak and was accepted into the 2019 Women’s Community Leadership Initiative.
By the time she completed the six-month series in June, English had a list of connections and a lot of new ideas.
“I’m already very active in the community,” said English, who also mentors young people and provides scholarships through her nonprofit, Be You. “But it exposed me to have a larger reach now and to commit to some different people.”
According to the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, the Pikes Peak area is an epicenter for women who own and run businesses.
The number of women-owned businesses in El Paso County increased by 45 percent between 2002 and 2012, according to U.S. Census data. Many more prospective women entrepreneurs are seeking contacts, knowhow and guidance.
Organizations like the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center and Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce are well-known providers of networking opportunities, skills development and education. But several programs that have received less attention also seek to empower women in business. Here’s a look at three: LPP’s Women’s Community Leadership Initiative, the Women INformed (WIN) series and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Women in Defense.
English joined a class of 25 women who participated in the Women’s Community Leadership Initiative. They attended 12 three-hour sessions between January and June.
The curriculum focuses on leadership principles, development of personal and leadership skills, and civic engagement.
The series begins with classes on understanding oneself and others, and servant leadership, which encourages women to recognize their own personality styles and passions.
Then the sessions reach out into the community to introduce participants to leaders and decision-makers in education, business, human services, arts and culture, and local government, including a session held in city council chambers and a presentation by Councilor Jill Gaebler.
Besides attending discussions and presentations, the participants worked on community service projects proposed by local nonprofit organizations.
These projects, for Multiple Sclerosis of Southern Colorado, Inside Out Youth Services and Partners in Housing, gave the participants a way to practice creative leadership and apply the skills they were learning.
Leadership Pikes Peak offers the WCLI tuition free so that women of modest means can take part, said Keith Willschau, program manager for LPP’s Signature program. The Signature program, a community leadership series for established professionals, is one of three other programs LPP offers.
WCLI participants include women from diverse backgrounds and circumstances. Some, like English, have stable business careers or are looking to take the next steps. Others, Willschau said, are working through challenging life circumstances such as trauma or abuse.
A key component of the program for all participants is “instilling confidence so they can thrive,” he said.
The 2020 sessions begin Jan. 8 and continue through May 27, with a graduation ceremony on June 3. Applications for 25 spots are due Dec. 6.
English said the series was a great experience.
“It was the spark I needed to keep going,” she said. “I would do it again.”
More information and an application form can be found at leadershippikespeak.org/wcli.
SBDC WOMEN INFORMED
For the first time last year, the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center and Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce teamed up to present the WomenINformed training series, which features workshops, speakers, networking and Q&A sessions.
“We have a close partnership with Lola [Woloch, CEO of the Women’s Chamber], and we talked last year about how cool it would be to do a series for women in business,” Pikes Peak SBDC Executive Director Aikta Marcoulier said. “That’s where it came from.”
The center obtained financing from the Minority Business Office of Colorado and started the series in the fall of 2018.
The first series focused on certifications and government contracting, mandated by the terms of the Minority Business Office grant.
“The grant loosened up a little bit to allow us to do other topics as well,” Marcoulier said. “So we did a class that talked about confidence in business as well as other topics.”
In September, Tariq Collins Sr., financial representative with Northwestern Mutual, led a presentation on #IAmRemarkable, a Google initiative aimed at empowering women to celebrate their achievements.
October’s presentation featured Pikes Peak National Bank CEO Robin Roberts, who spoke about planning and understanding demand and numbers to manage business growth.
The next workshop, set for 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation, 2550 Tenderfoot Hill St., will examine state, federal and corporate small business certifications.
The final presentation in this year’s series occurs from 11:30-1 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Pikes Peak SBDC, 559 E. Pikes Peak Ave. It will feature Elizabeth Bacon, director of community development and engagement at the Women’s Business Enterprise Council–West, who will speak about the council’s national certification program, procurement opportunities and best practices.
Participants may register separately for each workshop, which includes a light lunch. Cost is $10; registration and more information are available at pikespeaksbdc.org/workshops.
“The real openness about talking about barriers in business, what they need to know and sharing stories has been a really nice result of having the series,” Marcoulier said. “The one about confidence building has opened the door to follow-up roundtable sessions on some of the barriers women have faced.”
WOMEN IN DEFENSE
Women in Defense is a national organization affiliated with the National Defense Industrial Association. It provides members with opportunities for education, professional development and networking within the defense and national security industry.
The organization gives members access to a nationwide, diverse network to assist in career development and transition.
It also celebrates achievements of women working in government and industry through annual Service to the Flag awards, invests in young women pursuing careers in defense and national security through HORIZONS scholarships and provides opportunities to coach and mentor the next generation of women defense professionals.
The Rocky Mountain chapter was established in May 2005 and has grown to almost 100 members. Board President Julie Veazey said membership has declined recently, and the chapter is working to grow again by getting the word out about the organization.
WID typically hosts several networking events each year, said Jaime Socotch, the organization’s director of programs.
“The defense industry, although large, can feel very small here in Colorado Springs,” Socotch said in an email. “Many connections can be made at these networking events, and we have had several folks receive interviews and job offers from connections made through WID events.”
Veazey said the chapter schedules events once a quarter. Recent events included a breakfast talk by leadership coach Mary Kelly on why leaders fail, and a lunch and panel discussion by several defense industry professional women on their career journeys.
“Some of our members are getting out of the military soon,” Veazey said. “To hear of other women’s journeys of starting and leading their own businesses serves the organization very well.”
Membership is free for government employees and active military, and $40 per year for members from industry and academia.
Members also gain membership in the National Defense Industrial Association.
“They’re much larger than we are, and we have access to all of their networking events throughout the year,” Veazey said.
The Rocky Mountain WID chapter raises funds and awards a $1,000 scholarship annually to a woman pursuing education in science, technology, engineering or math. Recipients can be entering college or obtaining advanced degrees to further their careers.
“I believe that is a great way to showcase the defense industry and encourage young women to pursue a career in defense or national security upon graduation,” Socotch said.
Additional information is at rockymountainwid.org.