What is your story? Or in other words, what made you your awesome self you are today?
I created Take Our Daughters to Work Day, with the Ms. Foundation for Women in 1993, in which over 25 million people participated in the first two years. I then expanded my strategic communications consultancy to develop winning campaigns, strategies, and events for dozens of clients, including the YWCA, Amnesty International, Gay Men's Health Crisis, The Sierra Club, Calvert, The Sister Fund, and the NGO Forum on Women in Beijing '95.
In 2000, I launched Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence, the first online microlender in the world. This grew to encompass the Women Veterans Entrepreneur Corp and the Make Mine a Million $ Business program with founding sponsor American Express and champions including Hillary Clinton, Suze Orman, Nely Galan, Valerie Morris (CNN), and Janet Napolitano.
Recently, I've revived the "Count me in" campaign to help female entrepreneurs in the wake of COVID-19, by offering $250,000 in grants, including four $25,000 grants and 15 $10,000 grants.
What message do you promote?
There has never been a better time for women to lead in business and to support one another. Together as a community, we have survived and thrived through 9/11 and The Great Recession. As we face these new obstacles, I have no doubt we will continue to innovate and grow our businesses with the help of community support through programs like Count Me In Revival.
In what capacity do you LEAD UP in your community?
I founded the Count Me In organization after noticing a gap in the market -- a lack of support for women business owners who had already passed the startup phase. While there is certainly nothing wrong with staying small, I felt that more opportunities and resources could help those who wanted to get to the next level.
Today, "Count Me In" supports women in business in a huge array of industries, from language translation services to companies that provide medical testing to patients, providing financial assistance through contests and grant programs.
In business and/or in life, share a struggle you overcame that other women can relate to
I went to work for a personal data ownership company in 2014. I knew in the first three months that it wasn't right, but I didn't listen to my inner voice stayed for another 16 painful months, lost 1/2 of my retirement savings and my way. Soon after that, my 25-year marriage ended.
Since then, I have been on an amazing journey of rediscovery that lead me to OK Cupid, falling in love again, making art, including working on a book called "Reflowered: Confessions of a Traitorous Feminist" and to the launch of Count Me In Revival.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
Helping women businesses go from a small side hobby to a multi-million-dollar business. It is rewarding and invigorating to support female entrepreneurs in reaching their dreams and goals. Not only do they become successful, but they support their families, hire employees, and drive the economy.
How do you SHOW UP?
I think people recognize that at this moment we have to help each other. As businesswomen, we already knew that — it's why a lot of us started our businesses in the first place. But I think that the same creativity and sensibility that we have about our products and services have to be shared throughout the business world.
The way we want you to pay it back is to pay it forward. It's important for participants to support others in their community — either through their business initiatives, charitable donations, volunteering, or social justice work.
If you could give one piece of advice for women who are entering the workforce or launching their own business what would that be?
You have to work on your business, not for your business.
Contact Nell Merlino