Women-Owned Businesses Continue to Help the County Thrive

Writer / Julie Yates
Photographer / Jon Ellegood

Vibrant Boone County is an environment where businesses can thrive. The support offered by three organizations, each with aBoone County female executive director, is a major reason the area attracts and keeps both small and large women-owned businesses. The Boone County Economic Development Corporation (Boone EDC), Boone County Chamber of Commerce and Zionsville Chamber of Commerce complement each other in the services they provide.

“Our role is to bring new business in and to help existing business owners grow,” says Molly Whitehead, executive director of the Boone EDC. “When a business is starting up, Claire Collett, economic development manager, offers an almost concierge type of support. She meets with owners one-on-one to facilitate what they need to learn and connections they can make. They may need to know how to write a business plan, how to use QuickBooks or how to get a mentor. She can point them in the right direction.”

Boon EDC Co.Lab is a small-group, eight-week program offered to educate members about the tools they need to sustain and grow. The course is designed by attendees. They are polled on what topics they would like to cover such as marketing or pitching to investors. Throughout the time the program has existed, 50% of the cohorts have been women.

“It helps to know someone is in your corner and you have someone you can relate to,” Whitehead says. “Both Zionsville Chamber of Commerce and Boone County Chamber of Commerce have many networking opportunities. One event sponsored by the Boone Chamber is especially for women.”

“Women Inspiring Women is for women who own or manage a business,” says Joslyn McGriff-Bensley of the Boone County Chamber. “The program meets quarterly and it focuses on topics such as finances and brand development. It facilitates learning, networking and insight sharing. In an all-women environment, women hear things differently.”

McGriff-Bensley feels that when women lead companies, they can be constructive voices and initiate needed change for the good of all, such as affordable child care.

Allyson Gutwein, executive director of the Zionsville Chamber, agrees. “All businesses are interconnected,” she says. “A lot of business owners are women doing great things. They have stepped up as leaders by taking board positions in organizations such as Zionsville Rise Foundation and Zionsville Education Foundation.”

Gutwein says women-owned businesses have changed traditional perceptions. Leigh Ann Akard took over a True Value Hardware business from her father, and opened a second store on Main Street to commemorate where it began. Watch Us Farm and Watch Us Weave employ young adults with disabilities.

By all accounts, the Zionsville Chamber is extremely active and supportive while garnering both state and national recognition. It was awarded Indiana Chamber of the Year for 2022 by the Indiana Chamber Executives Association. In addition, it was named one of three Communications Excellence Best in Show winners by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

“We encourage Chamber members to find out things about each other,” Gutwein says. “But rather than come to every networking event, there are online resources. If you can’t speak in person, members can connect through our blog, podcast and social media.”

“There is so much happening in Boone County with many opportunities for women to be a driving force,” McGriff-Bensley adds. “If you aren’t at the table, bring up a chair.”

Contact the Zionsville Chamber at 317-873-3836; zionsvillechamber.org.

The Boone County Chamber can be reached at 765-482-1320; boonechamber.org.

Contact the Boone EDC at 765-482-5761; betterinboone.org.

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