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Women’s History Month

Chocology Unlimited owner Linda Johnson hands out samples of fudge at last year’s Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach. Photo by Miranda Gatewood

By Elizabeth Malafi

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Entrepreneurs face many challenges when starting a new business. The challenges are even greater for women entrepreneurs.

While the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the number of women-owned businesses increased by 45 percent from 2007 to 2016, a faster rate than the national average, research shows there is still a significant gap between women-owned and male-owned businesses.

Linda Johnson. Photo by Miranda Gatewood

A report by SCORE, “The Megaphone of Main Street: Women’s Entrepreneurship,” published in spring 2018, shows that women-owned businesses still fall behind in revenue and financing. However, the same report shows that mentorship increases a business’s chances of opening and staying open. Networking and connecting with other women entrepreneurs can yield the same results. These outside perspectives help refine a business’s practices and decision-making.

Connections with other business women and entrepreneurs is invaluable and can really make a difference in the success of a business venture.

Linda Johnson of Chocology Unlimited knows the value of these connections. When first starting her business, she met a kindred spirit in Maria Camassa of Lucky Lou’s Gourmet Rice Pudding. Both were starting new businesses after previous careers and quickly realized that they had very similar philosophies. “Even though we have very different directions for our businesses we still bounce ideas off of each other. Sometimes all you need is a different perspective,” says Johnson. The two became business supports for each other.

As successful women entrepreneurs, the two are often too busy to physically meet, but they do keep in touch. Both women are early birds who spend a lot of time driving so phone calls from the car are their main way of communicating. And communicate they do. Johnson says these calls are often for sharing thoughts and getting input on new business ideas. “We laugh … a lot. Mostly at ourselves.” With the laughter comes true, honest and valuable feedback. Johnson says her connection with Camassa is so important, not only for her business but for herself. It is great to not only get an outside opinion but also encouragement and understanding.

Mentors, partners and role models are beneficial to the success of women-owned small businesses but not always easy to find. Women entrepreneurs should reach out to other women entrepreneurs and professionals.

Not sure where to find them? Join your local chamber of commerce. Or visit one of the many business networking organizations on Long Island. Some even focus on the success of women. SCWBEC, the Suffolk County Women’s Business Enterprise Coalition, is an organization whose mission is to support their members through networking with other women business professionals.

Each fall, the Middle Country Public Library’s Miller Business Center hosts the Women’s EXPO, a venue for women entrepreneurs on Long Island to market their products. But more importantly, this event strives to connect its participants with other women entrepreneurs and business professionals.

Women entrepreneurs have come a long way, but there is still a ways to go toward complete equity. Partnering and mentoring between women entrepreneurs is a good way to get there.

Elizabeth Malafi is the coordinator of the Miller Business Center at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach.

Margaret Hamilton received the Presidential Honor of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2016.

March is Women’s History Month, a time to honor the feminine icons who have left their mark on the world. However, when it comes to learning about accomplished women, in many ways, people need to educate themselves.

Hillary Clinton

A recent article from the Smithsonian Magazine cited a report from the virtual National Women’s History Museum released in 2017 titled “Where Are the Women?” The study examined the status of women’s history in state-level social studies standards seen in the K-12 curriculum and found only 178 women. This find was compared to 559 men found in the same scholastic standards.

Fortunately, while school systems catch up with including the countless impressive women in history missing in their curricula, many libraries and museums offer programs dedicated to Women’s History Month offering information about the lives of so many amazing and impactful women who may not be included in a high school textbook.

Of course, there are options to increase your knowledge, such as digging a little deeper on the library shelves or the internet to find out information beyond the frequently told stories of abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, civil rights activist Rosa Parks or 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Those women are out there and are not as hidden as one may think.

We’ve come up with just a few powerful women who may not be referenced enough, or not at all, in the history books.

Elizabeth Jennings Graham in 1895

Elizabeth Jennings Graham was an African-American teacher who in 1854, when Manhattan streetcars were mostly segregated, fought for the right to ride in any car. She won her case in New York courts in 1855, and by 1865 all New York City transit systems were desegregated.

Margaret Hamilton was the lead software engineer for NASA’s Apollo program. Along with her team, she wrote the code algorithms for the spacecraft’s in-flight software. Apollo 11 went on to become the first mission to successfully land humans on the moon.

Sonia Maria Sotomayor, born in the Bronx, become the first Latina and Hispanic justice in the Supreme Court of the U.S. when President Barack Obama (D) appointed her to associate justice in 2009.

Ching Shih

Digging even further into history and across the sea, there is Ching Shih, a female pirate leader, who lived in the late 1700s to early 1800s. History has remembered Shih as a fierce warrior who commanded more than 300 Chinese sailing ships, defeating Qing dynasty Chinese officials and Portuguese and British bounty hunters. She was so successful she managed to force the Chinese government to grant her a pardon. Unlike the careers of other famous pirates in the Caribbean, she died peacefully in her bed.

Stories like these and others of women’s impact on the world and our everyday lives are out there waiting to be discovered. We encourage our readers to go out and find those stories or perhaps even make history themselves.