A look at the people behind the numbers in area business:
National Association of Women Business Owners
Marnie Ochs-Raleigh is working to help women business owners expand their companies and address public policies that affect them as the new president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). She also is seeking to more than double the chapter’s membership during her two-year term, from more than 100 members to 250 to 300.
“Women are collaborators, and, when asked, we’re more than willing to lend a helping hand,” she said. “NAWBO provides that for a lot of these businesswomen. It’s a safe environment to ask real questions that make a difference on your bottom line.”
The chapter is focusing on women whose companies generate $100,000 to several million dollars in annual revenue and have many employees and strong growth potential, she said. “Our key niche is that person who has some experience, who is looking to come to that second-tier level,” she said. “When you take into account that only 2 percent of women-owned business ever hit that million-dollar mark, we want to change that.”
The chapter has established a panel to boost membership and has revived its public policy committee to address access to growth capital for women business owners and issues related to the minimum wage and health care costs.
Ochs-Raleigh, a sixth-generation entrepreneur, is CEO of St. Paul-based Evolve Systems, which offers website development and credit card processing services. She and her husband, Donald Raleigh, launched the company 12 years ago.
Q: What are women business owners experiencing in trying to get credit?
A: It’s not that women are being discriminated against, but there’s a barrier … getting funding. We’re looking for women who want to be more angel investors or women who are supporting one another through the banking industry.
Q: Why did you join NAWBO?
A: Being a woman in a male-dominated industry (commercial construction services, at the time), I need to do a lot of networking. What I found was the men network on the golf course and I’m not a golfer. With NAWBO the women were very inviting and provided some mentorship.
Q: What prompted you and your husband to start Evolve Systems?
A: While we both cut our teeth in corporate America, we knew that to have the flexibility for our family — we have four kids — we needed to be able to create our own schedule. We hung out our shingle and have been going strong ever since.