The InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge recognizes and supports entrepreneurs who create a product or service that has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, has the potential for commercialization and fills a need in the marketplace. Two of our members – Lorie Nelson from Illinois and Vicki Kahn from Missouri – have won the competition in their states. This is how they describe their businesses:

Lorie Nelson, Signature Virtual Assistance: In August 2012, Lorie Nelson founded Signature Virtual Assistance, providing administrative and bookkeeping support to area businesses. As an entrepreneur, she quickly found success with the skills she’d honed during her nearly 40 years of experience. She built her business on her passion: freeing up business owners to do what they do best.  With an Associate Degree in Business Administration, MS Office and QuickBooks training, and her years of expertise, Lorie is equipped to take on the administrative and bookkeeping duties of any business from any location.  Throughout her years of work, Lorie has stood proudly behind the scenes, playing a supportive role to the success of each company with which she has worked. Her ability to be proactive and provide results her clients can count on led her to win the 2017 Southern Illinois SBDC InnovateHER ChallengeShe is anxiously waiting to hear if her venture will be chosen for the final round in Washington DC!

Vicki Kahn, Lifebinder: As the Founder and CEO of LIFEbinder LLC, Vicki Kahn laughingly describes herself as an “Accidental Entrepreneur”. Seven months after the birth of her son, Shea, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Webster University. Three years later, Shea was diagnosed with autism. With double-duty as a working parent of a child with disabilities, Vicki has spent the last 22 years creating opportunities with diverse populations for area non-profit and for-profit organizations. Her breadth of experience, combined with passionate advocacy for her son and others with autism, led her to create LIFEbinder: Keep It Together!: an organizational toolkit for parents to teach their autistic teens to manage their own support networks in the transition to independent living after high school. This new venture, borne from her participation in the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition (SEIC) at Washington University St. Louis, earned Vicki a semi-finalist position in the SEIC, as well as winning the 2017 St. Louis SBTDC InnovateHER Challenge. She encourages everyone connected with a person with autism to visit lifebinder.net, to join in the development of tools for supported decision-making and self-determination for people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Congratulations to Lorie and Vicki!

“Innovation arises from ongoing circles of exchange, where information is not just accumulated or stored, but created. Knowledge is generated anew from connections that weren’t there before.” 

Meg Wheatley

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