Monday, September 18, 2006

Two local women hope to make their millions

Marin Independent Journal 06/27/2006
By Carla Bova
Two Marin entrepreneurs are getting a helping hand to earn $1 million. Allison Evanow, a developer of organic spirits in Novato, and Linda Russell, a portrait photographer in San Rafael, have won the Make Mine a Million Business Program award. Recipients get one year of mentoring and professional coaching as well as marketing support. They are eligible for a line of credit from OPEN from American Express and for a loan of up to $45,000 from Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence.

Evanow has owned Square One Organic Spirits for two years with her first product, certified organic vodka, available in California, New York and New Mexico. It will be in 15 states by fall. "The overall vodka market in the U.S. is over $50 billion so, if you can even occupy a small niche in such a large category, it is a huge opportunity," Evanow said. "For me, the award will prepare me as business person and, from a marketing support perspective, to have a better chance to meet that goal." For 13 years, Russell has owned Mugshots Photography, specializing in school photography, offering multiple images of students, and in outdoor portraits. She said her business goal is to make school photography a "more value-added product." "The award will give me money to build the Web site I envision and help further make Mugshots scalable," Russell said. "I want to grow a different vision of school photography, which has become a commodity, and part of that is helping empower community-based photographers to do school photography by providing resources and marketing." Evanow and Russell are among 20 women entrepreneurs who were presented the award at a National Association of Women Business Owners conference in San Francisco. By November, an additional 20 business women nationwide will get awards at a similar event in New York.

The program was founded by Count Me In, a national nonprofit lender based in New
York, and by OPEN from American Express, the company's small business division. "The Make Mine A Million Business program meets a critical need for the 'missing middle' of the population of women entrepreneurs who are neither starting up their business nor running multi-million dollar firms," said Susan Sobbott, president of OPEN from American Express. "Many of them have plateaued short of the million-dollar mark, and OPEN is helping women entrepreneurs access new resources to drive even greater success." For Evanow, the most important piece will be learning from professionals and the long term benefits in helping to expand her company.

"The business coaching will help me learn to run my business better and I will seek financial mentoring to assist me in understanding how to scale my business nationally," Evanow said. "Even though I have a public relations agency helping us, the marketing support will supplement that and takes us that much faster into the market in terms of media exposure." In addition to committing to grow their businesses to a million in revenue by 2010, recipients agree to help other women.

"We have to give back as much as we will get," Evanow said.
Contact Carla Bova via e-mail at


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