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Supporting women entrepreneurs in S.C.

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Table of Contents

Five female entrepreneurs to watch in Columbia (plus what S.C. is doing to create more)

By: Lynn Luc, SOCO’s Community Engagement Manager, + Shannon Franklin, SOCO’s Chief Storyteller and Partner. Lynn helps facilitate conversations, throw fun events and spread the word on how awesome SOCO is. Lynn also freelances in social media and marketing consulting, photography and is a huge cheerleader for Columbia, S.C. Shannon crafts stories, celebrates SOCO’s community of creators and keeps the knowledge and awesomeness inside the SOCO community flowing outward.

DYK? Women-owned businesses rack up ~$1.7 trillion in sales and employ ~9 million people in the U.S. Nationally, the time of the woman has arrived, and women-owned businesses are on fire – thanks, in part, to national programs like Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women.

The Palmetto State is no exception, coming in hot at #5 on the list of fastest-growing states for women entrepreneurs.

While women are outpacing men in the creation of new businesses, they are struggling to grow and scale them. Only one in five “million-dollar companies” is owned by a woman. We have a long way to go.

There are thousands of women entrepreneurs in Columbia doing incredible things, and our home base/coworking space, SOCO, is home to a bunch of them. In fact – out of SOCO’s 150+ members 42% are female.

To help drive support for up-and-coming female creators in Cola, SOCO is crowdsourcing $1,500 in donations from the SOCO community to support the new, local Women’s Business Center of South Carolina and challenging Soda Citizens to match that amount between now + Sept. 30. The center, launched in May + HQ’d at Columbia College, is building the state’s first women-sourced, women-driven network focused on a common purpose to add jobs, increase revenue, and achieve economic independence.

Women from across the state can benefit from the WBC of SC, learning via workshops, mentoring programs like 12@12 lunch series, office hours and small group coaching with local thought leaders – and maybe even become the next class of leading entrepreneurs in Columbia.

In honor of this new effort to build up local women leaders of the future, meet five women creators in the SOCO community you may not know. We’re watching them, and we think you should, too.

Laura Boccanfuso | Vän Robotics

Laura Boccanfuso Headshot

Industry: Education/Robotics (see the robots in our startups to watch story)

Founded: 2016

Vän Robotics is an educational robotics startup currently piloting in 6+ school districts across the country. They using proprietary software, machine learning and artificial intelligence to develop smart robot tutors that adaptively deliver academic lessons for K-8th students. Laura Boccanfuso and Marilena Mademtzi were post-doctoral researchers in the Yale Technology and Innovation Lab when they co-founded the company in 2016 to provide an effective platform for teachers/parents to improve academic achievement.

Starlitt Miller | Star Accounting and Business Solutions

Starlitt Headshot

Industry: Process Improvement/Consulting

Founded: 2017

Star Accounting and Business Solutions is an early-stage company that helps small businesses save time, money + grow by assessing/creating the workflow systems that will automate their processes and provide the quantitative data needed to make crucial business decisions. Founder Starlitt Miller noticed a gap in the market for operational process improvement and has been working to help companies save time and money while fueling growth.

Fiona Martin | FGM Internet Marketing

Fiona Headshot

Founded: 2011

Industry: Web/Digital Marketing

FGM Internet Marketing was founded by Fiona Martin in 2011 to provide top-notch digital marketing services for businesses who don’t have a marketing department. Fiona brings her 10+ years of digital marketing experience to the table, working with a team of media professionals to execute effective digital marketing campaigns. In addition to crushing digital marketing, Fiona is a competitive triathlete (...she just qualified for team USA in the 2019 ITU Standard Distance Triathlon World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland).

Jeannie Sullivan | Jeannie Sullivan Consulting + Luminary Hustle

Jeannie Sullivan

Founded: 2010

Industry: Business/Growth Coaching

Jeannie Sullivan is an entrepreneur, strategist and coach whose expertise in learning, passion for adventure and endless optimism inspires clients and classrooms with a sense of possibility. Jeannie believes that there is a learner and a teacher in all of us if we are willing to leverage our genuine interests and unique strengths.

Kristen Ziesmer | Elite Nutrition and Performance

Kristen headshot 2018

Founded: 2012

Industry: Health and Wellness, Coaching

Kristen Ziesmer, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN is a registered dietitian, board-certified specialist in sports dietetics and certified personal trainer. She founded Elite Nutrition & Performance in 2012 to teach athletes and active individuals how to fuel and train their bodies for optimal performance and health. She received her undergraduate degree in dietetics from University of Maryland and graduate degree in nutrition and dietetics from SUNY at Oneonta.

As part of the SOCO team, we love big ideas and narrative about our city. And our friends at the WBC of SC are doing just that for thousands of women across the state. If you can’t give funds during our donation match period, consider giving your time as a mentor, coach or volunteer.

Lynn Luc + Shannon Franklin

This is a contributor-submitted Voices piece. Want to join the conversation? We invite you to write for us. Learn how to share your voice here.

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