Yvonne Ballard learned a lot about decorating from her mother, most notably how to make a beautiful home on a tight budget. It’s a skill that is foundational to her interior design firm based in Cincinnati.
As a certified minority woman-owned business, Yvonne is ready to expand beyond private clients into the world of government contracting. She attended a ChallengeHER workshop in September to learn more about contracting and to meet with other women business owners who have successfully navigated that competitive marketplace.
“It was incredibly useful—I could talk to people directly who could help guide me through this process,” Yvonne said. “I was able to make some connections that will help me build relationships for the future.”
The event took place at the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority office she had visited numerous times growing up. She found herself dreaming of helping CMHA with design services for its subsidized housing units.
“The majority of my life we lived in poverty,” Yvonne said. “I want to take part in being able to give back to my community by elevating subsidized living environments.”
Held throughout the year in cities across the nation, ChallengeHER events are designed to be a one-stop-shop for women business owners who are either breaking into government contracting or are already serving government clients and want to keep up-to-date on the latest strategies. Sponsored by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), the Small Business Administration and American Express, the free workshops provide resources and support, as well as expert panelists and networking.
Yvonne plans to register her business, which is called “NOVE home&body décor” on government contracting vendor lists to begin exploring opportunities. She opened her business in 2013 with the mission of blending interior design with fashion, and has been nominated for 2017 Women of Influence by Venue Magazine & Lead Cincinnati.
“Initially people didn’t understand how fashion and design could be married. But really, a space and a body are both canvasses,” she said. “My goal is to help clients transform and solidify their brand through style and design concepts to create an exclusive look.
Yvonne is the sole owner of the company, which has four employees and looks to hire another eight workers in 2018, as well as partner with architectural firms and pursue government contracts.
“That’s why ChallengeHER was so beneficial, because I was able to ask a lot of questions of people who have been through the process,” she said. “I could go on a website and read about contracting, but getting the chance to speak face-to-face with women from other companies is much more informative.”
Yvonne would recommend ChallengeHER events to other women entrepreneurs.
“We definitely need more programs like this, mainly because by being a woman you already face so many obstacles,” she said. “For women who were thinking about contracting, attending ChallengeHER will encourage them to actually take the initiative to get started. There is strength in numbers.”