Female business owners use the 'princess' network to gain support

Published: Monday, Feb. 9 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Founder of Startup Princess, Kelly King Anderson, center, talks with attendees during a seminar at the Provo library in January.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

In the background, you can hear a little voice shouting for attention: "Mom, turn on my music!"

"Can you hold on a second?" asks Kelly King Anderson.

There's a pause in conversation as she sets down the phone and asks her daughter to be patient while she finishes talking to a reporter. Seconds later, Anderson is back on the phone, a mini-meltdown temporarily averted.

"She's wearing her princess dress right now," said Anderson, who explains her daughter wanted music to dance.

As a "mompreneur," it's not uncommon for Anderson to juggle both job and caring for three children. Just over two years ago, she launched a business called Startup Princess to help women entrepreneurs share advice, network, and also receive mentoring about how to start a new business.

It's a business based around her experiences trying to start a children's retail store while working full-time as a mother.

"We truly believe that every woman can create her dreams, but she needs mentors and she needs a community of support," said Anderson, the founder and managing director of Startup Princess. "There are some really great resources for women at the corporate level, but from the home-base, not as much."

Over 800 women worldwide are part of the Startup Princess network and at least 2,000 people visit Anderson's Web site, www.startupprincess.com, each day. Over the past six months, membership has more than doubled. Anderson is unsure if it's because more women are starting businesses as a result of the economy, or if she's marketing her site better.

Either way, women-owned businesses are becoming a powerful market force, even exceeding the growth of companies owned by men, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2004, Utah was listed by the Center for Women's Research as the No. 1 state in the nation for growth of female-run businesses.

There are a total of 102,194 women-owned businesses in Utah, according to the Salt Lake City chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. That doesn't include some of the smaller companies run in-home by mothers.

"With what's available today with the Internet and social media, there's no excuse not to be great," said April Atwater, owner of the Utah County blog, sweetlifeinthevalley.com. "There's so much available and the costs are next to nothing."

Just two weeks ago, Atwater was at a Startup Princess networking lunch at the Provo Academy Library in Provo. They listened to speakers and then had a chance to chat and exchange business cards and ideas.

Atwater was at a table with six other women, who, after grabbing some lunch, waved a reporter over to talk. Some at the table said they blogged for a living. One woman said she had just launched an online clothing business, while another said she did in-home personal training.

Allison Czarnecki, founder and editor of www.petitelefant.com, talked about how the Internet has not only helped her to market her business but to also make friends. Her Web site is designed to be a resource for parents to get tips about things such as craft ideas, decorating and various other parenting-related issues.

"The Internet just connects us all on a basic level," said Czarnecki, who is a mother of two. "Nine to 10 years ago, this wasn't there and I felt so isolated."

For Czarnecki, one of her greatest challenges as a "mompreneur" is juggling her dual roles as mother and businesswoman. Czarnecki jokes her daughter keeps a daily tab of every time she gets on the phone for work.

"It's so hard to balance," she said. "I just tell my daughter it's either this or I'm at Wal-Mart working until 10 p.m. at night."

Other women echoed the challenges of being moms and business owners. But they said they appreciated the opportunity to network with others in their situation at the Startup Princess luncheon.

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