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New Small Business Series Aims to Encourage Female Entrepreneurs

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by Jeremy Peppas

Martha Londagin, a lawyer, banker and teacher, is passionate about the state of entrepreneurship in Arkansas.

She currently serves as an executive consultant for Fayetteville-based Startup Junkie and wants to continue its mission to “inspire entrepreneurs and innovators through no-cost, one-on-one consulting, events, workshops, and programs.”

To accomplish that, Londagin and Startup Junkie started a new series for small businesses dubbed, “Her Entrepreneur Journey” that starts in October in Springdale.

Londagin says the series was started to “encourage the specific growth of women entrepreneurs in Northwest Arkansas and to provide a network for women business owners to connect.”

She adds, “Women historically have had many barriers placed before them regarding the business world that men did not have to face, and so we want to provide extra encouragement and support to foster the growth of women entrepreneurs in Northwest Arkansas.”

Martha Londagin

Londagin says the reaction to the program has been positive so far.

“We have had many women signing up weeks in advance, and we have been receiving many positive comments from promotions so far, thus we feel like there is a need for the inclusive message and title to the series,” she said and that the program joins others in the area like Hustle in Heels, Woman-Run and The Company Club. “There is obviously a growing desire by women in Northwest Arkansas to come together and support each other in business and entrepreneurship.”

Londagin said working with women entrepreneurs is also important for the state.

“Arkansas still ranks 23rd in the United States for number of woman-owned businesses,” she says despite the fact that, “Women are 50 percent of the population … in Arkansas only 25 percent of all small businesses are currently owned by women even after an 88 percent increase in the last 20 years to get us to this 25 percent share of ownership.”

Londagin says the tides of history are partly to blame.

“Historical and documented societal gender bias in the United States has held women back, from acquiring capital and opportunities to open businesses,” she said and added, “in all areas from banking to contract awards to societal ideas about what career and businesses women could operate.”
This is in spite efforts in the 1970s and 1980s to level that playing field with legislation.

More recently, Londagin says, “Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission announced that the state’s Minority Business Enterprise Program would now include women-owned businesses.”

That happened in 2017.

So now, “the AEDC’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise division now promotes the growth and sustainability of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises by providing them with real-world technical and professional assistance, certification, procurement, networking, capital and contracting opportunities utilizing partners in state and federal government, higher education, and lending institutions the private sector,” she says.

Startup Junkie’s program offers, “women these supportive, educational and networking events.”And the numbers show an uptick.

Since 2017, Startup Junkie has 732 documented engagements with businesses or individuals that are led by a woman or women Londagin say. Of the businesses currently in Startup Junkie’s client database, 41 percent of the businesses and individuals are women.

Given the interest, Londagin says Startup Junkie plans to continue the series in 2020.

And that’s good news for entrepreneurs.

READ MORE: Connecting Northwest Arkansas: Jerra Nalley and Leisurlist

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