But as members of the National Association of Women Business Owners learn ways to grow their businesses, their hosts hope they’ll also learn that Columbus is a great place to start and run a business.
Organizers say the city was a natural choice for the women’s business convention: Columbus has the largest chapter in the country, with more than 250 members, and it ranked among the top 10 best cities for women entrepreneurs by Forbes magazine.
The obstacle to landing the convention was the usual one: The city’s blank national image.
“A lot of people were like, ‘Columbus where?’ ” said Kathy Warnick, found of Warnick Consultants, a professional services firm in Powell, and chairwoman-elect of the national group.
Experience Columbus helped show convention scouts what locals already know: “We have a hip little community here,” Warnick said.
Actually, we have a hip huge community. And women head successful businesses in Columbus that have a strong national image.
Among the local conference participants will be Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Cheryl Krueger of Cheryl’s Cookies, and Diane Ellis, CEO of The Limited. Speakers will include state Sen. Charleta Taveres, who has held executive positions in the nonprofit sector, and former Lt. Gov. Jennette Bradley, a former banking executive.
The group, known as NAWBO, will meet Sunday through Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency Columbus. The convention is expected to bring $400,000 in direct spending, but more valuable will be the opportunity to showcase Columbus.
The local chapter of NAWBO worked with Experience Columbus as part of the visitor bureau’s “Make It Columbus" initiative, which encourages central Ohioans who serve on national boards to bring those meetings to Columbus. Since its 2012 launch, “Make It Columbus” is credited with landing 125 meetings, conventions, trade shows and sporting events, bringing more than 650,000 participants who booked 340,701 room nights at local hotels.
Columbus is the nation’s 15th largest city and is blessed by a vibrant economy, a smart and diverse workforce and a friendly business climate. The city’s residents can be its best sales force. Central Ohioans need to brag a lot more.