Two Westerville entrepreneurs are looking to give other female business owners a hand up.
Attorney Caroline Worley and Mary McCarthy, co-founders of business consulting firm Your Management Team, have opened the nonprofit Women's Small Business Accelerator of Central Ohio at 403 W. Main St.
Women who are starting or growing their own businesses can rent office space within the business accelerator. As part of the all-inclusive rent, the women will receive meeting, kitchen and reception space, along with coaching, mentoring and peer support.
The Women's Small Business Accelerator currently can hold up to seven business owners, but as the space is built out -- something that McCarthy and Worley hope to have finished by the end of the year -- it will be able to hold between 30 and 35 businesses.
McCarthy said the idea for a small business accelerator came to her while she toured vacant space in the West Main Street shopping center.
"I looked at it, and I went, 'Oh, my goodness, this is an incubator.' It's a phenomenal space for shared office," McCarthy said.
She worked with Worley on the idea and came up with a workable plan for the Women's Small Business Accelerator.
In their own consulting business, McCarthy and Worley have worked with female business owners, and McCarthy said she saw the need for a support system specifically for women-owned businesses.
"A lot of women start businesses in their homes, and they kind of work it around their families. It's a great start, but it's hard to work into a full-time business," McCarthy said. "They're a little nervous about going out on their own and giving up their steady paycheck."
McCarthy said statistics show that women-owned businesses, in particular, need added support as they launch and grow.
"All business owners are very important, but women right now are still trailing men in revenue," McCarthy said. "We're still opening more businesses than men, but we're generating less revenue than men, and we have a higher failure rate than men."
The hope for the accelerator is that it will give women the confidence, support and tools they need to grow their businesses into successes.
"It's nice to work together. Women like to collaborate. It takes pressure off, and it's nicer and more enjoyable to work with others," McCarthy said. "Sometimes (women) need that support to know it's OK that we want to grow a viable business and just have the mentoring and guidance to get there."
Business incubators have been growing in popularity across the country, McCarthy said, citing Tech Columbus as an example.
While many incubators focus on technology, McCarthy said the Women's Small Business Accelerator is different, and she and Worley are hoping it will help spawn a new trend.
"We're hoping to create the model that everyone wants to emulate," McCarthy said. "That's what's going to help our economy grow the most, is this type of support."
Within the last year, the city of Westerville has worked with Tech Columbus and explored the possibility of creating its own business incubator as a way to encourage job creation within city limits.
The Women's Small Business Accelerator provides an excellent opportunity for businesses to start and grow locally, Westerville Economic Development Administrator Jason Bechtold said.
"It's important from a business development standpoint that we need to nurture great ideas to get businesses started and ideas started," Bechtold said. "Having these avenues for entrepreneurs to go and get the right resources is an essential part of this entrepreneurial ecosystem that we're part of."
McCarthy's and Worley's experience working with female entrepreneurs makes them the perfect champions of a business incubator for women, he said
"They have a history of engaging startup companies throughout the region," he said.