University of Pittsburgh
October 29, 2010

Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence Welcomes Center for Women in Business

Contact:  412-624-4147

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PITTSBURGH--Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business is the new home of the Center for Women in Business, led by director Lee Ann Munger. The center, housed in the Katz School’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, grew from the success of the once-independent PowerLink, founded in 1991 with the goal of helping women-owned businesses grow profitably through the use of professional, volunteer advisory panels.

“Women are choosing to start and build businesses at greater numbers than ever, and the ability to be self-sufficient allows women to balance the competing demands of their lives,” said Ann Dugan, director of the institute. “Although people today are better prepared for the start-up phase of a business, they often stumble in the growth phase. The institute’s new Women in Business Center provides the resources and services to ensure that women-owned businesses soar to the next level of profitability and success.”

During its first 10 years, PowerLink was operated entirely by volunteers. Its first client, Anita Brattina, CEO and founder of Direct Response Marketing, wrote about her experience with having a PowerLink Advisory Board in her book Diary of a Small Business Owner (AMACOM, 1995). The book was an Inc. Magazine cover feature and garnered significant national interest. Female business owners from across the country clamored for PowerLink programs in their communities, and in 2001, a licensing agreement with the ATHENA Foundation led to PowerLink programs being established nationwide; PowerLink now exists in 25 U.S. cities.

Munger, the former executive director of PowerLink, has been an advocate for women in business throughout her career: She has managed PowerLink Advisory Panels for more than 40 woman-owned businesses, managed the work of hundreds of volunteer business advisors, developed programs and procedures, and directed the organization’s marketing and recruiting. She is a past president of the PowerLink Board of Directors.

Prior to her work at PowerLink, Munger was president and cofounder of Graphics & Artworks, a graphic design and marketing firm. In 1996, she was honored as the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year by the Pittsburgh chapters of YWCA and the National Association of Women Business Owners. A graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh Year XII, Munger has served on the Leadership Pittsburgh and Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA selection committees.

“We are very excited about our association with the institute,” said Munger. “As a stand-alone nonprofit, PowerLink had a limited capacity to grow. The added resources now available through the institute will allow growth and the innovation of additional programs to meet a wider range of needs of women-owned businesses.”

As an independent entity, PowerLink worked with 154 companies and 184 women business owners in Pittsburgh. The Center for Women in Business is currently in the process of accepting about 10 more companies.

Success stories in PowerLink’s history are numerous, and with the new collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, there are certainly many more on the horizon, said Munger. Some examples follow:

•    Brattina’s marketing firm was generating $260,000 in revenue the year she received a PowerLink Advisory Board, and in 18 months the company hit $1 million in sales.
•    Lami Grubb Architects had a PowerLink Advisory Board in 1996 and has been on the Pittsburgh Business Times list of 100 fastest growing companies for 10 straight years.
•    In the five years since first working with their PowerLink Advisory Board, Rampart Hydro Services has tripled gross revenues and has increased net income by 10-fold.

Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence works to grow Western Pennsylvania’s economy by supporting, nurturing, and promoting commercialization, entrepreneurial activity, new business creation, and established business growth. Its mission is to provide educational and consulting services that support the continued growth and success of the business sector. Today, the institute is the largest membership-based entrepreneurial support organization in the region.

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10/28/10/amm/lks

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