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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2004

Women entrepreneurs find networking, training valuable

At the first meeting a decade ago of Women Mean Business Inc., the founders had a clear vision.

"We wanted to have a good ol' girls network," said Linda Bowyer an associate professor of finance at the University of Toledo.

Yesterday, at the annual meeting of the group that does business as the Women's Entrepreneurial Network, it celebrated 10 years of providing regular networking events as well as training programs. The session was attended by many of its 224 members and had a keynote speech by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).

"We wanted to help the people that other people weren't helping," said Dr. Bowyer, director of the group's training center. "This is a neat way to meet other women entrepreneurs."

James Duffy, an assistant district director in the Cleveland office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, said women-owned businesses are starting at two to three times the rate of men-owned businesses, making the Toledo organization essential.

"There are a lot of women who are very serious about starting a business and they're looking to access capital," he said.

But members interviewed yesterday said the support of other female entrepreneurs and a chance to network with them are the main reasons that such an organization is important.

"We all have similar businesses issues to deal with .●.●." said Marilyn Fox, owner of the Barney's Convenience store chain and 360 Fitness, for joining the nonprofit organization.

Jennifer Alford, a local financial adviser with New England Financial, said, "It helps boost your confidence and I've gotten a lot of help with marketing, for example," she said. She consulted fellow members before starting the HMH Wellness Center, which offers massages and other services.

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