By Locke Hughes
Growing up during the gender equality movement of the 1970s, Nell Merlino watched women thrive in male-dominated fields like politics and business. "When I was a child, my father would take me to his office in the New Jersey State Senate and I remember being so inspired by the successful female senators that worked alongside him," recalls Nell, now 58.Photo courtesy of Count Me In for Women's Economic Dependence
In 1992, the Ms. Foundation for Women asked Nell, who was working as an entrepreneur in New York City, to create an event to help raise young women's self-esteem. The result: Take Our Daughters to Work Day. "I wanted girls to have the same learning experience I did with my father," she says.
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In 1993, Nell founded a communications firm in Manhattan. "I was fairly successful, but then I suddenly found myself at an earning standstill-I didn't know how to take my business to the next level," she says. Speaking with colleagues and peers, Nell realized many female business owners had encountered the same obstacle. "When I learned that women own 40% of small businesses in the U.S., but only 2.6% of those make $1 million or more in revenue, compared with 6.7% of male-owned businesses, it shocked me," Nell says. "As women, we've come so far, yet we still aren't making as much money as men."
Thirteen years after creating Take Our Daughters to Work Day, Nell established Make Mine a Million $ Business (M3), a program that is part of Count Me In, an organization Nell founded in 1999. M3 challenges women to grow their businesses to the million-dollar mark-and provides resources to help them get there. M3 sponsors meetings and competitions around the country in which participants give a 2-minute pitch to explain their business objective.
"Entrepreneurs should know exactly what they're selling and whom they're selling to," Nell explains. The women who succeed in the pitching competition are then offered professional coaching, marketing tools and financing, as well as entry into a support network of fellow entrepreneurs. They also receive a $1,000 gift card from American Express OPEN.
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So far, M3 has helped 57 women reach a million dollars or more in revenue- and Nell isn't stopping there. "If one million women each make a million dollars in revenue, together they'll create 4 million jobs," she says. Through her work with M3, Nell has also realized the importance of believing in yourself. "Women have just begun to scratch the surface of our earning potential," she says. "If we help each other, the possibilities are practically limitless."
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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