By John Bush The Lima News, Ohio
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A quick look at women entrepreneurship in Ohio. The article takes a quick snapshot at the 3 finalists for the Woman-Owned Business of the Year Award. From healthcare to tax preparation, even a butcher business....these women are leaders in every way. Congrats!
Three woman-owned businesses in the region have experienced success since their current owners took over, and now they're being recognized for their accomplishments.
The Dough Hook, Prestige Tax & Business Service and Women's Health for Life are finalists for the Woman-Owned Business of the Year Award, which is handed out by the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce each spring.
To be considered for the award, each business must be financially strong and profitable, demonstrate a history of growth and be at least 51 percent woman-owned.
The Dough Hook Marlena Ballinger owns 100 percent of her company, The Dough Hook, 117 N. Main St., Bluffton, but she said she doesn't focus much on the fact that she is a a female business owner.
"I know there's people out there who think it's great for me to be a woman business owner and a meat cutter, which is not a traditional woman's job, but I don't feel any different than if it were a man running this business," said Ballinger, whose business specializes in fresh meat, produce and baked goods.
"I just try to focus on growing my business, providing the best, freshest products I can, and doing the right thing for customers."
Since taking over for her parents in 2013, Ballinger said she's been able to implement some of her own ideas. In 2015, the company added a produce line, where customers can order a box of fresh fruits and vegetables once a week. The box is designed to feed a family of four.
In addition, The Dough Hook now assembles full, uncooked meals that will feed families three nights a week.
"People are busy, so if we can make it easier for them to provide their families with good, healthy foods, I think that's a bonus for everybody," Ballinger said.
Ballinger's emphasis on providing fresh, healthy food and expanding the business has allowed profits to rise. Sales and profits in 2015 are up from the previous year, she said, and 2016 sales are projected to be even higher.
Prestige Tax & Business Services Prestige Tax & Business Services, 1751 N. Main St., Lima, has also seen consistent growth in the last few years. President Cheryl Brayton, who purchased the company with her husband in 2004, said sales have increased every year except for 2014.
"Prestige Tax purchased another tax preparation business at the beginning of 2013, which made our annual sales increase 68.3 percent," Brayton said. "It is expected that there will be attrition when a business changes hands. That is why 2014 annual sales were less than 2013."
Brayton said the company's assets had a "huge increase" from 2011 to 2012, when they purchased and renovated an office building in Lima. The company also purchased an office building in Findlay.
"Assets increased almost 100 percent in 2012, and now remain steady," she said.
In 2004, Brayton said they took on a client base of approximately 1,500 people. Today, they prepare tax returns for more than 2,600 clients annually.
"Our business plan is to consistently retain our client base by establishing personal relationships and maintaining competitive pricing," she said. "Our business is unique because of the sincere interest we take in each client that walks in the door."
Women's Health for Life At Women's Health for Life, 1005 Bellefontaine Ave., Suite 175, Lima, Jennifer Niesen and Michelle Coates each own 50 percent of the company. They specialize in providing health care services for women during pregnancy and throughout their entire lives.
"The goal is not to just take care of them during pregnancy, but to continue from the time of adolescent development until becoming elderly for all of their gynecological and obstetrical needs along the way," Niesen said. "This is how the name 'Women's Health for Life' was chosen."
When Women's Health for Life was established by Marilyn Kindig-Stahl in 1998, the practice employed one physician and two staff members. Today, the health care provider employs 30 people, including three physicians, one nurse practitioner and a physician's assistant. Niesen said they plan to add another physician in 2017.
The practice also offers extended office hours "to provide a much needed service for those women who work outside the home during the day or are home with young children and can't come to the office during normal business hours." Women's Health is now open until 8 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays to accommodate these patients.
As the owner of a business that continues to find success, Niesen is looking forward to what the future may bring.
"We are very excited for the growth potential that 2016 and beyond brings to our practice," she said, "and we hope this will be our most successful year to date."