Four women-led businesses share the spotlight at Doyenne Group Fall Showcase

Four women-led businesses shared the spotlight at a recent Doyenne Group event where they each had 5 minutes to present their business models.

“Any business can be presented in five minutes,” said Amy Gannon, co-founder and director of entrepreneurial development for Doyenne. She introduced the four presenters Wednesday at the Yahara Bay Distillery in Madison.

“I sometimes use the five minutes as a developmental tool,” Gannon said. “Getting to the five minutes makes you make decisions and get clarity in a way that you may or not have been doing previously.”

The four presenting companies at the Fall Showcase were:

*Strategic Partners Marketing/Amberdella Consulting, a startup marketing agency and consulting service for entrepreneurs run by Amber Swenor.

She founded SPM in April 2015 to act as the entire marketing department for small businesses that can’t afford to hire individual members for one of their own. Since then, the Madison-based company has gained five employees and works with over 50 local businesses and individuals.

“Marketing today is no longer a one-person position, with the proliferation of digital media and all types of marketing, it really requires experts and specialists to be able to do all the marketing a business needs,” she said. “This can easily get to a half-million dollars, which really isn’t feasible for a lot of small businesses.”

Through Strategic Partners Marketing, small businesses can get traditional and digital marketing solutions from the full team for between about $2,000 a month — “less than it would cost the business to hire one person,” she said.

“I also help entrepreneurs under my personal brand Amberdella,” Swenor said.

To serve the market of entrepreneurs who are still too early-stage to engage with a marketing agency, Swenor created Brand Camp, a group coaching program that spans four months. The program offers one-on-one coaching, group coaching, and access to online course content.

“What this allows me to do is work with entrepreneurs, giving them all the knowledge that you could get through an ad agency, but done in a way where it’s accessible for entrepreneurs at a price point they can afford, so I can help them grow until maybe they’re ready to hire their first employee or hire that ad agency,” Swenor said.

*Short Stack Eatery, a downtown Madison breakfast joint which upturns the standard structure for sit-down restaurants by serving food for 88 straight hours between Thursday morning and Sunday night each week.

“When we opened our doors in March of 2014, we had no advertising, no press releases, no signage,” said Alex Lindenmeyer, one of the restaurant’s two founders. “We had a line out the door and were completely full within 13 minutes.”

On that first day, Alex and co-founder Sinead McHugh had to shut down at one point because they hadn’t realized it would take off so quickly.

“We had been so fixated on the idea of our restaurant failing that we forgot to prepare for success,” Lindenmeyer said. “We opened our doors again later that day, and we’ve had lines out the door ever since.”

The customer base was there, but Lindenmeyer knew it was important to offer them “a new model, a new experience.”

Eighty percent of the restaurant’s staff are women, and 86 percent of the management and leadership are women.

“With 35 employees led by women, we’ve created a progressive new workforce where people, especially young men, get to have their first job by women-owned and women-led business,” she said. “We’re calling this the new normal.”

Lindenmeyer says Pearson Education has reached out to ask permission to use the ‘88-straight’ model in 2018 business textbooks.

“Only 4 percent of women-owned businesses in the U.S. make over $1 million in annual revenue,” she added. “We are currently averaging approximately $1.4 million and serving over 125,000 customers a year.”

*colorcoded, which aims to fill the IT pipeline with more women and more people of color.

“As a black woman in the IT industry, I’m pretty much a unicorn,” said Christina Outlay, founding director for the program and an associate professor of IT at UW-Whitewater. “I want to use colorcoded to change that.”

The program was originally a one-time initiative to attract girls of color to the summer Cyber Girls camp at UW-Whitewater, but Outlay realized she couldn’t stop with just one workshop.

“I wanted to do more, and so I expanded colorcoded to look at a set of broader issues,” she said.

She says by 2020, there will be over one million tech-related jobs available but not enough candidates to fill those spots. She points out that women, women of color, and men of color are all underrepresented in the IT industry.

“Combine this underrepresentation with the wealth gap that exists for people of color and you have several distinct problems for which colorcoded provides a potential solution,” she said.

This Whitewater-based initiative would provide IT skills training to middle school youth and create opportunities for older kids to lead or assist with skills workshops, while also connecting high school students to tech-related internships “for skill development and resume-worthy paid job experience.”

*Dwellhop, a successful startup alternative to the traditional real estate model.

Betsy Repaske, one of the founders and owners of the Madison-based company, calls Dwellhop “a new model” that helps clients “find a balance between how much they want to pay their realtor and how much assistance they need.”

“Most sellers are doing what we call home-hopping — they’re selling a house to buy a new house,” Repaske said. “In order to do that, you’re usually moving up or retiring, in which case you want money from your sale… in the current model, it’s hard to get that.”

Dwellhop customers get access to market analysis; representation in negotiations and valuations; sale prepping services like staging, cleaning, color consultations and handyman services; and a range of listing options with professional photography and 3D home tours.

The company earned $16 million in 2015 and $20.5 million in 2016, and Repaske says “this year is doing very well.” One deal alone netted the company $20,000 in commissions.

“We like to say that you can do it yourself, but you’re never alone,” Repaske said.

–By Alex Moe