By Jim Martin
Erie Times-News, Pa.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to Athena International, participating businesses in the “Athena PowerLink” progam see sales grow an average of 88 percent while profits typically rise by 37 percent.
Erie Times-News, Pa.
Jessica Yochim and Christina Vogel run completely different kinds of businesses, but they have a couple of important things in common.
Both have found some success — 28-year-old Yochim as the co-owner, along with her husband Nick Taylor of MenajErie Studio — and 42-year-old Christina Vogel, owner of AED Group, which operates Donatos Pizza in Erie.
But both women believe that with the right guidance from the right people that they can do a lot better.
And both believe the key to improvement arrived last week when they were named the 2019-2020 Athena PowerLink recipients.
Led by Linda Stevenson, the program, now in its 19th year, provides the owners of women-led businesses with the services of a professional advisory panel for one year. The panel, which typically includes a lawyer, accountant, marketing expert, IT professionals and others with track records in the world of business, provides its services free of charge.
Erie’s program, the third created in the nation, has worked with 48 businesses to date.
Vogel, who employs 16 people at Donatos, which opened in October 2016, said she’s been told the monetary value of what she’s been given is in the neighborhood of $60,000.
“A lot of past Athena recipients have told me it’s an overwhelming year, but it’s a good year,” she said. “I want to see how we can make this better and take it to the next level.”
Vogel wasn’t new to the industry when she and her husband moved to Erie for his job at Erie Insurance. She had worked for years at a regional pizza chain.
But as a first-time business owner, “I feel like I had challenges in places I didn’t expect,” she said.
The track record of the Athena PowerLink program shows past participants have been able to meet many of those challenges.
According to Athena International, participating businesses see sales grow an average of 88 percent while profits typically rise by 37 percent.
“We are proud the program continues to grow and is drawing a diverse number of women business owners and professional advisers,” said Linda Stevenson, chairwoman of Athena PowerLink. “This is a true testament to the community’s support for the Athena PowerLink program and our belief that these women are positioned to take their businesses to the next level with increased revenues and jobs.”
Yochim, who has four employees at her video production and aerial photography studio in Erie, hopes to grow that number as she and her husband break into other markets outside Erie.
“I am really excited about this year and being a part of the program,” she said. “It makes me really grateful that there is something like this in Erie. I am looking forward to hearing from other business owners who have been in it longer giving me advance and pointing out areas where we could grow.”
Yochim is confident she knows the ins and outs of her business, which includes commercial production and documentary film making.
She’s open to the possibility, however, that there’s a lot about business she doesn’t know.
“I feel like this is a really opportune time in our business trajectory for something like this to come up,” she said. “I think the only way to grow is to be able to take other people’s advice and be able to use it.”