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Room at the Top

It takes more than a great idea to create a million-dollar business. You need passion, luck and drive, as these highly successful women have learned. Here are their secrets.



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Martha Stewart. Bobbi Brown. Mrs. Fields. They’re household names, and they represent a rapidly growing constituency in this country: successful, financially independent, entrepreneurial women.

Women own or control 41 percent of all privately held firms in the United States, and the number of female-owned businesses is growing at twice the national average. That translates to $1.9 trillion dollars and 12.8 million jobs.

In Rhode Island, there are more than 36,000 privately held, female-controlled firms that employ 48,000-plus people and do $7.8 billion in annual sales, according to the Washington D.C.-based Center for Women’s Business Research.

But success in business is elusive. Only three percent of female-owned companies generate revenues of more than $1 million, and most new enterprises close within five years.

These Rhode Island women, however, created businesses that either nudge that magic $1 million mark or far exceed it. Several attended all-girls’ schools. Four have advanced degrees. Two have distinguished themselves in athletics. One is a member of a world championship softball team. One is a former beauty queen. One advised a U.S. president. One designs for the Hollywood elite. Another owns one million square feet of commercial Rhode Island real estate. Their paths to success are varied, but they all share a passion for what they do and a commitment to seeing future generations of women succeed.

The Visionary
Pattie Garrahy-Robertson PGR Media

The Taste Maker
Leslie Montie  Wildtree

The Communicator
Christine Heenan  Clarendon Group

The Arbiter
Renee Evangelista Edwards Angell Palmer and Dodge

The Trend Setter
Carolyn Rafaelian Alex and Ani

The Competitor

Ann-Marie Harrington Embolden Design

The Builder and Shaker
Jennifer Cookke Blackstone Management, F.H. French Company

The Deal Maker
Chris Tanner RE/MAX Flagship
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 - January, 2008

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