Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence named Sarah Stevens of Charlotte, NC the grand prize winner of the Make Mine a Million $ Business RACE (M3RACE), a year-long business growth competition for women entrepreneurs at the American Express OPEN® Women's Business Summit in Houston.
Stevens' company, Stevens Technologies, achieved the greatest year-over-year increase in gross annual revenue, growing 131% to reach $1,544,262. During this same time, the company also increased the number of employees who have health benefits, 401k packages and paid leave, from 12 employees in 2008 to 21 people in 2009. Revenue and employee growth are the two chief criteria for the highly spirited competition. Stevens Technologies creates reports on how to strengthen information security within organizations, especially with management and operations divisions. Her company serves as a subcontractor to Federal agencies like NASA, Langley Research Center.
In surpassing $1 million in annual revenue, Stevens demonstrated the hallmark of Make Mine a Million $ Business, an initiative launched by Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence and American Express OPEN to inspire and support one million women entrepreneurs growing million-dollar businesses. In addition to the prize money, Stevens will also receive a year of growth-focused resources such as marketing, advertising and media opportunities as part of the grand prize.
"Sarah's story of entrepreneurial achievement in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is a testament to her as a leader as well as our collective will as a movement," said Nell Merlino, founder and CEO, Count Me In. "Together, the entrepreneurs of Make Mine a Million $ Business are helping to right the ship that is the U.S. economy by driving revenue and creating jobs on the way to economic recovery."
"The resources and contacts I made over the course of the M3RACE proved invaluable," said Stevens, who prevailed over the 1,543 competing entrepreneurs. "I could not be prouder to be associated with such an inspirational group of self-starters and resilient business owners."
Make Mine a Million $ Business is the only national initiative committed to helping post-start-up women entrepreneurs grow million-dollar enterprises. Since its inception in 2005, the movement has empowered women to grow their entrepreneurial ventures, providing more than 75,000 women entrepreneurs nationwide with vital business growth resources.
In 2009, Make Mine a Million $ Business brought its successful growth methodology to the Web through the M3RACE, a business growth marathon designed to support women entrepreneurs and help them realize their revenue goals while connecting them with like-minded women entrepreneurs. M3 Racers' progress was tracked online through a business growth platform developed specifically for the M3RACE. To help track the M3 Racer's progress, a national Leaderboard announced top performers each quarter. Leaders received business-boosting coaching and publicity consultation, all made possible by Count Me In and American Express OPEN.
"The conventional bootstrapping philosophy that you can go it alone no longer applies in the new normal created by the Great Recession," said Michelle Thompson-Dolberry of American Express OPEN. "All business owners, men and women, need to know the rules have changed, and to thrive in the post-recession economy, they need to employ the strategies and tactics that the Make Mine a Million $ Business preaches every day."
Regular counsel via weekly webinars with business experts in finance, strategy, marketing and human resources proved to be critical to Stevens' success.
On the heels of Sarah's victory were two runner ups, each strong contenders who were named as second and third place winners in the 2009 M3RACE. Gabrielle DeSantis, the second place finisher, is the owner of Gigi Hill in Yorba Linda, CA. Gabrielle's company designs bags that are high quality, stylish, and functional for a mom's everyday life. Participating in the M3RACE compelled DeSantis to internally track her financial goals and aspirations and in doing so, she took advantage of the Web blogs, videos and stories that were provided through the M3RACE platform.
Laurie Myers, owner of Coupon Sense in Chandler, AZ came in with a competitive third place finish in this year's M3RACE. Coupon Sense is a website that organizes the many manufacturers' coupons that come in the Sunday papers. The subscription based site was first launched in 1998 and features several tools to help subscribers save. Coupon Sense also provides alerts to users about specific products so that they never miss an opportunity to save on those items. Laurie's performance in the M3RACE portrays how innovative, successful and productive entrepreneurs can help rebuild the nation's economy through their products and services.
About Count Me In
Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence is the leading national not-for-profit provider of resources, business education and community support for women entrepreneurs seeking to grow micro businesses to million dollar enterprises. Count Me In launched Make Mine a Million $ Business® to inspire one million women entrepreneurs to scale their businesses to a million dollars in revenue by providing tools, skills and the support of a nation-wide community of peers.
About American Express OPEN
American Express OPEN is dedicated exclusively to the success of small business owners and their companies. OPEN supports business owners with exceptional service. With tailored products and services, the team delivers purchasing power, flexibility, control and rewards to help customers run their business. Specifically, business owner customers can leverage an enhanced set of products, tools, services and savings, including charge and credit cards, convenient access to working capital, robust online account management capabilities and savings on business services from an expanded lineup of partners. To obtain more information about OPEN, visit OPEN.com, or call 1-800-NOW-OPEN to apply for a card. Terms and conditions apply.
American Express Company americanexpress.com is a leading global payments, network and travel company founded in 1850.