ASU, NAWBO celebrate Phoenix female entrepreneurs

May 17, 2016 | Uncategorized

May 4, 2016

Arizona State University

After five years of running her own digital-photography studio in Gilbert, Arizona, Elaine Kessler realized she needed some help in taking her business to the next level. She joined the SparXX 20 women’s entrepreneurship program at Arizona State University and has found it to be instrumental in the continuing success of her business.

“Learning some tricks of the trade from a panel of experts was a valuable investment of time,” said Kessler, who was nominated for the 2016 Small Business of Year Award by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce since completing the program. Gilbert business owner Elaine Kessler found herself in need of expert advice to take her digital-photography business to the next level. Kessler recently completed ASU’s SparXX 20 program for female entrepreneurs and was nominated for the 2016 Small Business of the Year Award by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of Elaine KesslerDownload Full Image

Kessler and fellow female business owners, who have successfully completed ASU’s SparXX 20 women’s entrepreneurship program or the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) – Phoenix chapter’s Business Mentoring program, will be celebrated at a jointly held ceremony on Thursday, May 12. 

“The SparXX 20 program exemplifies ASU’s commitment to advancing diversity in entrepreneurial ideas and individuals, bringing together public and private partners to develop a supportive ecosystem,” said Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of strategic partnerships and programs at Arizona State University.

Arizona is one of the top states for women-owned businesses and ranks fifth in the U.S. for growth of women-owned businesses. Nationally, however, women own only 30 percent of all U.S. businesses even though they make up half of the country’s workforce. Programs such as SparXX 20 and NAWBO’s Business Mentoring aim to address this gap in women-led entrepreneurship and innovation.

“All of the participants made great strides in their businesses and were successful in meeting the goals they had set,” said Nancy Sanders, president of NAWBO – Phoenix chapter. “When we tallied all the figures from the past two years, the economic impact was quite substantial — participating companies reported the creation of 33 new jobs and receiving more than $250,000 in external investment.”

Supported by JPMorgan Chase, the SparXX 20 program is tailored to female entrepreneurs who own businesses with revenues of less than $1 million annually. Participants engage in faculty-led, in-depth workshops and have access to networking opportunities with other female business owners from various sectors and across the Phoenix metropolitan area.

“Chase values the opportunity to support the ASU SparXX 20 program that helps women entrepreneurs grow their businesses, and we celebrate the program participants for the impact they are having on their communities,” said Noreen Bishop, region executive for Chase Business Banking.

The NAWBO Business Mentoring Program, directed for the past two years by NAWBO member Paula Wittekind of CDQ Learning for Results, includes training by local experts on skills that are critical to business success. Participants attend nine program sessions ─ one each month ─ to cover a specific topic and apply what they learned to their own business. In addition, mentees and mentors meet individually during the month to work on tasks specific to the mentees’ needs.

“I was in a leadership executive role for the last 15 years of my corporate career, so I felt I was very confident in my people-managing skills,” said Wendy McClellan, a NAWBO-Phoenix Business Mentoring program graduate and owner of Structured4Success, a consultancy firm focusing on human resources, business development and communications. “This program has truly helped me figure out a way to manage my firm without the giant corporate structure behind it.”

For registration and more information regarding the SparXX programs, visit To learn more about and apply to NAWBO’s Business Mentoring program, visit


Written by Susan Beauchamp

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