Women’s Small Business Association provides opportunities

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As a member of the Women’s Small Business Association, associates receive some type of business announcement, meeting notice or request for service every day. It is one of the many ways the group strives to enable women to help other women in business.

Founded in 2007, the mission of the WSBA is to serve as a valuable resource for business women, by helping and stimulating small and start up businesses. Founder Susan Miller says its goal is to foster a woman’s economic independence by helping develop skills needed for entre­preneurial success through networking and education. Miller said the belief of the group is that self-employment is a viable and a needed option for all women.

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SHARING INFORMATION—Sarah Y. Spencer of Ardyss International and Deborah F. Hughes, financial adviser for Edward Jones, learn about Virtuous Academy from its founder, Iyana Tennon.

As a way to highlight and expose women and growing businesses within the organization, WSBA recently celebrated Women’s Small Business Week by sponsoring its signature summer conference, “Seven Steps to a Highly Successful You” and the annual awards luncheon, “Honoring Extraordinary Women.” Free webinars conducted by accomplished national speakers were also a part of the celebration. “The weekly webinars provided tools to educate and empower small business owners in the area,” said Linda Handley, a WSBA, representative. She said they will be replayed on the WSBA website by mid-August.

Honorees included Best Business Woman of Pittsburgh Georgette Pascale; president and CEO of Pascale Communications, WSBA Businesswoman of the Year, Lee Drozak, My Office Assistant, WSBA Member of the Year; Monica Ramanathan, GreetingsFromMonica.com, WSBA Board and Director Leadership Award, Linda Handley; WSBA, executive assistant director and the Community Services Award of Pittsburgh went to Iyana Tennon, president and CEO of Virtuous Academy.

“I like to serve,” said Ramanathan, after receiving her award. “It has been fun building up the organization and I have benefited greatly from the resources it provides. I’ve made good friends and met people such as Iyana, who are doing great work in their community.”

Tennon, a strong believer in the WSBA, concurs that resources provided by the group are rewarding. Appreciative that the members have taken her under their wing she pointed out that their services have been a tremendous help to Virtuous Academy. “It is very encouraging to see so many women entrepreneurs and the services they provide.”

Tennon, a native of Duquesne, operates a private school in her hometown. The school’s mission is to motivate students to achieve academic excellence and a positive citizenship through a focus on biblical values and a concentration in the arts. With the goal to rebuild a community through academics, art and integrity, VA’s four- point plan is for students to score proficient on standardized tests, to maintain a “B” average on all report cards, to apply biblical values to real life situations and to explore genres of art as a hobby and vocation.

Its objectives are to implement a one on one and small group tutoring program for after-school and summer, to differentiate lessons to accommodate learning style and ability, for students to study and role play known parables of the Bible and for students to visit off-site museums and businesses that involve students in the arts.

“To me, Virtuous Academy is more than just a private school, more than a non-profit organization,” said Tennon. “Virtuous Academy is hope for the hopeless in a proud yet poor neighborhood.”

With more than 600 members, according to Miller, the WSBA offers several ways for involvement. Membership includes general and premier member levels. General membership is free with benefits consisting of full member profile on the WSBA Meetup website, including live links, business description and contact information. Members with complete profiles on the site have access to the extensive membership e-mail database. Sponsorship opportunities are available for WSBA-hosted lunches and events and she said advertising opportunities in WSBA produced publications, including the quarterly newsletter, monthly e-newsletter, event programs and placements on the WSBA website.

For a small yearly fee, the premier members receive all general benefits plus a profile on the WSBA website with live links; business description, image and contact information; free advertisement once a year in the quarterly WSBA Networking News, distributed at all WSBA networking events; preferred reservations and pricing for exhibition/vendor tables at WSBA events; free advertisement once a year in the WSBA E-Newsletter distributed to the WSBA membership and the WSBA off-site e-mail list; preferred opportunities for speaking and presentations at WSBA events; special business introduction highlights e-mailed to the WSBA membership; preferred pricing to all WSBA events; recognition in each quarterly WSBA Networking News; recognition and a business link in each issue of the WSBA E-newsletter and the opportunity to host free webinars.

Handley said major events of the organization provide educational and inspirational speakers, a productive networking environment and promotional opportunities for WSBA members and professionals. In addition to the day-long Women’s Small Business Conference and WSBA Best of Pittsburgh Awards, their events include annually partnering with a local organization for the WSBA Community Service Luncheon.

The group is also noted for their monthly luncheons hosted throughout different regions. The afternoon networking events provide attendees the opportunity to exchange business information and self-promote with a 60-second commercial presentation. They sponsor monthly centrally located After-Work Network sessions that offer a relaxing and productive atmosphere.

WSBA also has a policy to give back to the communities that supports its members and their services. It has provided support to Dress for Success, the Twilight Foundation, Susan G Koman Race for the Cure, Operation Shoebox and the Children’s Institute.

“We strive to create numerous opportunities for our membership,” said Miller. “I started this organization because as a business owner myself, I felt the need for resources. The WSBA is my way of helping women entrepreneurs at all levels gain support that they need while serving as a support base and connector themselves.”

(For more information on WSBA, call 1-888-834-3545 or go to http://www.WSBA.ws.)

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