Annual conference to highlight women entrepreneurs

Published on Sunday, 16 February 2014 16:55 - Written by Casey Murphy,

New this year at the 16th annual Women Entrepreneurs Conference, a local business owner will be named the Emerging Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.

The award will focus on women entrepreneurs in their first five years of business.

The event, put on by Tyler Junior College’s Small Business Development Center, is planned for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 25 and will feature a guest speaker, exhibitors and workshops.

Kay Bookout, staff coordinator for the Tyler Small Business Development Center, said the idea of giving an award came from Mayor Barbara Bass, who is emceeing the event.

She said they had several nominations for the award but narrowed it down to three — two businesswomen from Tyler and one from Lindale — who will be highlighted at the event. The recipient will be selected by an independent panel of three judges.

The criteria for choosing the recipient include being a new business owner who has operated a business for five years or less and have succeeded in the growth of sales, profitability, number of employees, expansion of territory or innovation of product. She said next year, they could possibly add more award categories.

“Gettin’ Back to Business & Gettin’ Business Back” will be this year’s theme and Mayor Bass will proclaim it Women Entrepreneurs Day.

Don Proudfoot, director of the center, started the conference 16 years ago to help support women-owned businesses because they are vital to the economy.

Women own more than 10 million businesses in the U.S., and are growing at 1.5 times the rate of all U.S. businesses.

Ms. Bookout said 40 percent of the center’s clients are women, who seem to be the most dedicated in getting a company started. Types of businesses started locally by women run the gamut, she added.

The event is held every year to help women business owners, providing them with an atmosphere to network to build new business relationships, learn new skills to succeed and celebrate a featured woman speaker who has founded or grown a business in the area.

Martha Dunlap, owner of Divide & Conquer, will be the guest speaker, and will speak about her business and how she got started.

Ms. Bookout said there will be 40 to 45 vendors, including businesses of all kinds that sell products or services to women.

She said this year’s event also will focus on saluting products that are made in America. They will show a video highlighting the economy and jobs going overseas, as well as information on how to purchase products made in the U.S. She said it would include local companies.

Lorrie Gazette, owner of Creative Order & Design, will give the workshop and talk about “Gettin’ Business Back in Order.” There also will be a fashion show by Chico’s.

The deadline for tickets was Saturday and they expect about 250 people to attend, Ms. Bookout. For more, visit or call 903-510-2975.


If you know of a professional woman or business service in Tyler you think should be highlighted in this column, contact me at or 903-596-6289.