COVINGTON, Ky. — When Cheryl Coy Stamm launched her career in technology, she had to get used to being the only woman in the room.
“Even in college doing programming,” she said. “As I went through my career and began working a lot in sales and sales development, I’d be in a board room working on multi-million-dollar contracts and always there just weren’t that many women in the '80s when I started and in the '90s in the tech space.”
When Stamm left corporate life to start her own consulting business in 2010, she got the opportunity to help other women make their mark in business, no matter what the industry. She was “person number two” at a nonprofit now known as Aviatra Accelerators.
Aviatra helps women start and sustain businesses, and Stamm has played a key role in the organization from the beginning. She learned about the world of nonprofits to help form the organization’s board and – like all the board members in the early days – did hands-on mentoring with women taking part in the program’s classes.
“Over 2,500 women entrepreneurs have gone through the class,” Stamm said. “Of the women that did start businesses – because it’s also important to help women not start the business if it’s not going to be feasible – 80% of the businesses are still thriving, which is amazing.”
Those businesses have created more than 15,000 jobs and more than $240 million in revenues, Stamm said, and all have built their success on a foundation of kindness.
“The thing that I see and that just warms my heart is women helping women,” she said. “They truly help each other. They do business together. It’s amazing to me.”
‘Being a woman business owner is extra lonely’
Mavis Linnemann-Clark is one of those business owners.
She started The Delish Dish Catering & Events in 2012 and went through Aviatra’s program in 2013, back when the nonprofit was called Bad Girl Ventures.
“I had been in business for a year and a half, and I was kind of drowning because I was working full-time at the same time,” she said. “I went through their class, and it was like getting my MBA in eight weeks.”
Linneman-Clark wrote a formal business plan, got connected to banks so she could get a line of credit and connected with a mentor who still advises her today. She now owns three businesses all together and has grown from a one-woman team to a staff of 12 full-time and 20 part-time employees.
She’s on track to have revenues of roughly $800,000 this year, she said, and expects to hit $1 million in sales in 2022.
“Aviatra is a big reason why I was able to be successful,” she said. “Being a business owner is lonely, and being a woman business owner is extra lonely. So for me, it was being able to connect with other women who were going through the same thing I was. Because my husband saw me doing it, but he didn’t know what it was really like to try to work full time and launched this business.”
Aviatra now offers three distinct education programs.
“Explore” is for early-stage business owners to help them figure out whether their companies are feasible. “Launch” is for women who have viable businesses that are generating money. And “Grow” is for all business owners and offers personalized workshops and programs on strategies to help women expand their companies.
Reaching greater heights
Participants in the program compete for grants, but Stamm described the competition as “healthy” not “mean.”
“It isn’t like, I’m gonna claw over you so I can get this or I can get that job,” Stamm said. “No, it’s like, you know what, I might be able to use your product or service. Or I know somebody else who does.”
Stamm said she loves seeing that – and seeing business owners like Linnemann-Clark grow their companies.
“Mavis went through our class in 2013,” she said, “and now she’s a caterer that everyone knows in the Tri-State. I mean, that is so rewarding.”
Linnemann-Clark said treating employees with kindness and giving people grace has been key to keeping staff in the food service industry.
Kindness shines through Aviatra and Stamm, too, she said.
“Her kindness shows itself in her generosity, I guess, with her time and her attention to detail,” Linnemann-Clark said of Stamm. “Things that she puts into Aviatra that someone needed to do it for this organization to fly.”
Stamm said she envisions Aviatra reaching even greater heights.
“What I’m excited about is how we take this across the United State – if not beyond,” Stamm said. “From day one, that’s always been the goal: How to have a business incubator that can help women in access to capital across our country.”
And while Stamm continues to run her own consulting firm, she still serves as chair of Aviatra’s advisory board and said she’s happy to do it.
“I love it. I love it. And you know what, it’s just so rewarding,” Stamm said. “It is my passion.”
Information about The Delish Dish Catering & Events is available online, too.
Acts of Kindness stories appear weekly on WCPO 9 News and WCPO.com. If you know about an act of kindness that you think should be highlighted, email email@example.com.