Doyenne Group Debuts New Programs For Women Entrepreneurs

By Judy Newman The Wisconsin State Journal

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The Doyenne group was founded in 2012 to support women entrepreneurs. Right now the organization is unveiling several new programs to expand their goal of supporting women in business.

The Wisconsin State Journal

Women entrepreneurs: The Doyenne Group in Madison has all sorts of new programs and activities to help you along the way.

--The Founder Series, a yearlong program to mentor a small group of young businesses, began two weeks ago, with seven participants.

--The Doyenne Spring Showcase will be held March 22 to show off five local businesses run by women.

--The Doyenne Mentor Match, an evening of networking, will be held March 30 as an extension of a program that's been held in August as part of the Forward Fest tech and entrepreneurial week of events.

Founded in 2012 to support women entrepreneurs, the Doyenne Group raised $1.2 million in 2016 to help fund its programs. The nonprofit is growing and so are requests for assistance, co-founder Heather Wentler said.

"We're seeing more and more women coming to us with 'I have an idea' ... or they just want to talk to someone to see if it's possible to turn (an idea) into a successful venture," Wentler said.

The Doyenne Group has about 130 members, three-fourths of them entrepreneurs and the rest offering business support services. Attendance at Doyenne's events last year totaled nearly 700 -- up about 20 percent over 2015.

"There is more engagement at an earlier stage," Wentler said. "That's super-encouraging because now we're starting to see success stories coming out of our members."

For example, Karen Tardrew, founder of a mobile boutique business, Grasshopper Goods, one of the seven startups in the Founder Series, attended Doyenne's retreats and eventually landed funds through the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corp. to buy trucks to carry the clothing and accessories, made by local artisans, that she sells.

The other six women entrepreneurs and their companies are Angie Stone, HyLife Oral Care; Amber Swenor, Strategic Partners Marketing; Gillian CB Fink, Pussyfoot Tape; Sandra Eugster, Westside Psychotherapy; Miranda Rochol, Lifebook Builder; and Sarah Best, Sarah Best Strategies.

Doyenne co-founder Amy Gannon, an assistant professor at Edgewood College's School of Business, is the facilitator. The group will hold five workshops during the year to "learn from each other and get into the nitty-gritty of what it is to lead a company," Gannon said, tackling issues such as managing employees, negotiating with customers, and building a business that is sustainable over time.

The workshops are for education and peer coaching, she said. In between, the seven businesswomen are encouraged to meet informally, over coffee or wine.

It's a bit more genteel, perhaps, than the typical beer-driven get-togethers among mostly male tech entrepreneurs.

"The beer-and-pizza environment does not attract these kinds of women," many of whom also juggle family responsibilities, Gannon said. "Creating spaces -- this can be done over wine and yoga pants."

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