Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research
1996 Edition

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Maryellen Kelly

The Ph.D. Program in Management and Entrepreneurship
Emphasizing Women Business Owners and the Organizations that Represent Them
The Union Institute Graduate School
Cincinnati, OH

c/o 470 Herbst Manor Road
Coraopolis, PA 15108-3616

Telephone/ Fax: (412)331-0524 / (412)331-0524

Principal Topics

The author profiles "Steps to Success: A Business Management Program," co-sponsored by the Small Business Administration and the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and offered through Chatham College's Continuing Education Division. The only program in the Greater Pittsburgh area specifically designed for women business owners by college faculty members, the curriculum was developed to provide insights and tools to prospective or current business owners in the process of writing business plans. 107 students were served during four 1994-95 academic year rotations.


This paper is based on archived program data, observations from the program administrators, and survey data completed by the program participants. The history of this training program and its strategic fit with the three participating organizations is shared. The curriculum components are outlined and the original investments in this program are described. Selected components of the survey data completed by 41 participants are reviewed for information on participant profiles, their prior training, and their major reasons for selecting this particular program. A preliminary model to quantify this program's contributions to the Pittsburgh economy is noted. Teaching insights and recommendations are included. The future of the program is discussed.

Moajor Findings

While the 1987 Census documented over 4 million women business owners in the United States, only 167,362 were found in the state of Pennsylvania. The state's rate of business ownership was 3.47 per 1000 adult women, earning it a rank of 45th of the 50 states. The six country Pittsburgh area of Western Pennsylvania could claim less than 33,00 women business owners.

Although there were a variety of small business training programs available within the Pittsburgh area during the 1994-95 academic year, only one (The National Education Center for Women in Business) was specifically targeted at women. None was taught by college faculty.

The Steps to Success program attracted both current and aspiring business owners. The module content, the evening class schedule, and the ability to reschedule classes were the primary reasons participants enrolled in this program. Additional important factors included the eight week schedule, the class location, the program cost, and the faculty, 51% of the respondents had no prior small business training at the time of enrollment.

The absence of representative and accurate financial data from program participants (both current business owners and new business owners )handicaps any ability to fully document the economic contributions made by this program to the Pittsburgh economy beyond details of the program administration.

The use of Women Business owners as guest speakers, the inclusion of networking activities within the program's structure, and the recognition of participant expertise are three positive teaching insights gathered through completion of four, eight week class rotations.

Four events within the major organizational sponsor led to a strategic review of the Steps to Success program. A subsequent detachment from SBA funding and elimination of the program staff caused a program hiatus during the 1995-96 academic year. The program's future is currently in discussion with representatives from the two remaining partners.


Training programs associated with volunteer-led, not-for-profit organizations present special challenges to the program participants, to the instructional staff, and to the interested researchers. While there is a real opportunity to provide small business training to potential women business owners in the Pittsburgh area, the administrative demands of program management are stressful to membership driven groups, such as the local chapters of N.A.W.B.O. Start-up monies should be distributed with great care to potential grant recipients who submit a business plan.

Those factors that influence enrollment in and satisfaction with women's business training programs may vary from those associated with other programs and should be considered for future research.

Although representative data from program participants and existing women business owners would assist in gathering funding for such programs, Pittsburgh area women appear to be reluctant to provide proprietary financial and business information. Special attention should be paid to designing projects and collecting data which will benchmark and substantiate the status of women's business ownership in the Pittsburgh region.

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