Articulate July 2016 On The Cover

In Gainesville, Women Mean Business

Written By: Susan Davenport

There is a current consensus among many national publications such as Forbes and organizations including the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) that in the current economy, the opportunities for female business owners and leaders to grow and succeed are abundant. Statistics support this assertion: In the U.S., more than 9.1 million firms owned by women generate $1.4 trillion in sales and employ nearly 7.9 million people. Capital investment in women-owned businesses is trending upward according to venture capital research firm PitchBook, which cites a 20 percent increase from 2012 to 2013 in venture capital deals going to women. Women are making more venture capital decisions, too, according to CB Insights, a venture capital database that reports an increase in women moving onto the investment teams of top venture capital firms.

In a region like Greater Gainesville, which boasts a dynamic, thriving, and supportive business ecosystem, these trends bode especially well for female entrepreneurs and business leaders.

In my opinion, a key reason for this is Gainesville’s abundance of stellar female examples of excellence in entrepreneurship, business and community leadership.

Our business ecosystem includes world-class business incubators, an innovative workforce board, a thriving entrepreneurial network and a nationally leading Chamber of Commerce — all of which are currently led by a woman or have achieved major success under female leadership. Consider:

• Under Patti Breedlove’s leadership, the University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator was ranked by Sweden-based research group UBI in 2013 as the world’s best biotech incubator and has been a catalyst for the success of femaleled companies such as AxoGen, led by CEO Karen Zaderej.

• Under the leadership of Jane Muir, the UF Innovation Hub has been instrumental in the success of many women-owned companies including NeuroNet, led by Nancy Rowe. The Innovation Hub’s second phase — funded by an $8 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration — will include a Women’s Entrepreneurial Center and is slated for completion by September 2018.

• Led for more than a decade by dynamic women — Angela Pate (2005-2012), Kim Tesch-Vaught (2012- Feb. 2016), and Anne Favre (current) — CareerSource North Central Florida (CSNCFL) is a demonstrated national workforce leader and innovator. The organization provides access to career opportunities, a high-quality talent pool, custom training solutions, and innovative entrepreneurship initiatives such as Startup Quest, which has been replicated in several state and national locations. Angela Pate — who now serves CSNCFL as its Chief Information Officer —was recently appointed to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Information Advisory Council, which will directly advise U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez on workforce issues. CSNCFL has been awarded more than $27 million in federal grants since 2011.

And of course, women business owners and leaders have access to the five-star accredited Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, which I have the privilege of serving as president and CEO. Our organization provides benefits and services to strengthen member businesses while also leading efforts to advance its vision of Greater Gainesville as a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity. We do this through a $6 million, five-year economic development strategy, Transforming Greater Gainesville.

In addition to a strong and supportive network of resources, women aspiring for entrepreneurship or business leadership have strong and visible examples of the level of success and impact that is possible for companies that are founded or located in Greater Gainesville. For example, AGTC — led by Sue Washer — has leveraged UF technology to achieve major financial success and address a health condition of global concern: blindness. Another example, Sinmat — co-founded by its president, Dr. Deepika Singh — is the leading global supplier of chemical mechanical planarization technologies. Dr. Singh represented Sinmat at a 2009 White House press briefing, during which President Obama recognized companies that grew during the recession by focusing on technology that addressed pressing needs such as energy efficiency, smarter technology and integrated systems.

Additionally, Greater Gainesville’s business ecosystem is growing and evolving against a backdrop of community advancement guided by a network of strong, women-led community organizations such as the United Way of North Central Florida, led by Deborah Bowie; the Community Foundation of North Central Florida, led by Barzella Papa; the Education Foundation of Alachua County, led by Judy Boles; the Alachua County branch of the NAACP, led by Evelyn Foxx; and the African American Accountability Alliance, led by Diyonne McGraw. Accessibility is a signature attribute of the Greater Gainesville region. While advancing our regional transformation, all of the women I have named — and more — continue to embody and demonstrate our community’s unique culture of access. If you are a female business owner or leader seeking inspiration or mentorship, or if you just want to plug in and help our community move forward, reach out to one of Greater Gainesville’s amazing female leaders. In fact, I invite you to start with the chamber.

SUSAN DAVENPORT is President/CEO, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

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