By Julia Parmley
The George Washington University
A breast cancer survivor whose nonprofit organization brings laughs to those battling illnesses. A single mom who dropped out of high school and now has a company worth $300 million. A woman from Egypt who owns her own global carpet and antiques business.
What do all these cases have in common? They are part of Kathy Korman Frey’s award-winning venture, the Hot Mommas Project, a free global database of case studies written by female entrepreneurs and housed at the George Washington University School of Business, where Frey is Entrepreneur in Residence.
“Research has shown that role models can help raise women’s sense of self-efficacy,” says Frey. “The women’s leadership community is working very hard to provide strong, well-publicized female role models. The Hot Mommas Project is part of the solution.”
The Hot Mommas Project has been featured in the Washington Post Magazine, NPR, Washington Business Tonight and ABC’s Working Woman, and is the recipient of a Coleman Foundation Case Award.
How Can I Get Involved?
Always a fan of getting right to the point, Frey says there are three primary ways of getting involved with the project:
- Be a writer and mentor: Apply and write about your personal and professional lessons at www.HotMommasProject.org. It’s a rewarding experience that changes lives.
- Be a connector: Not ready to write? Nominate a dynamic woman who is 18 or older. (It’s not just for moms!)
- Be an organizer: Are you part of a group interested in women’s leadership? Contact the Hot Mommas Project info@HotMommasProject.org or find Kathy on Facebook and Twitter.
The Birth of the Hot Mommas Project
The idea for the project came to Frey when she was an MBA student at Harvard Business School in the 1990s. One of her teachers, Myra Hart, was a founding officer of Staples and “the fairy godmother of women’s leadership,” but Frey says she did not fully comprehend the scope of Hart’s accomplishments until much later.
“I had always worked in a male-dominated environment so there was much that I did not understand about the fundamental differences between men and women and the way our personal and professional lives play out,” she says. “When looking at case studies, we tend to look at the trophy cases with blue suits. Those are just one part of the picture. Success comes in all shapes, sizes and career paths, and students need to see the other side.”
Frey began reading about businesswomen and was intrigued by the fact that although women were starting businesses in “record numbers,” they were not growing at the same rate as male-run businesses, nor were they as well-publicized. Frey learned that role-model and mentor figures—even in the form of case studies—could improve the confidence of women and girls and in 2002, she launched the Hot Mommas Project.
With angels and partners who support women’s leadership, Frey developed and launched a “case wizard” at www.HotMommasProject.org.. Women could now come online, and channel their own story and lessons into a teaching tool. Frey says the mix of personal and professional information in each study gives the project “a unique twist.”
What’s a Hot Momma?
Dynamic women aged 18 and older are eligible to write cases. However, women tend not to “toot their own horn,” says Frey. The project developed a nomination process; partnered with women’s leadership groups, entrepreneurial associations and the blogging community; and publicized the project on social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter. With close to 200 submissions, the project is now the world’s largest collection of women’s case studies.
Frey and her staff recently concluded their second annual case study competition. The winners will be announced this month in honor of International Women’s Day, and their cases will be published in a major Prentice Hall textbook.
Frey manages the case database with GWU student interns who were selected from a rigorous applicant pool. Frey says the students are constantly helping to promote the site by setting up television and radio interviews, reading the case studies via podcast, and working on grant and sponsorship proposals. Frey also created a blog for the project: “Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time.” She joined GW’s School of Business as a part-time faculty member in 2002, and now teaches a women’s entrepreneurial leadership class, which won a National Excellence in Education Award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Before she was the Chief Hot Momma
Frey, who grew up in Arlington, Va., has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Virginia, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She now lives with her family in Northwest Washington, D.C., and while she enjoys spending free time with her husband and their children—6-year-old Maxwell and 3-year-old Delilah—she finds time for her girlfriends, the gym, and to “consume some form of media” such as business books, movies, television, and social networking Web sites.
Next steps for the project include downloadable case curriculum packages for educators and business leadership groups; video case studies; a “Cool Daddies” project for male entrepreneurs; and “How to Be a Hot Momma,” a collection of best practices, case studies and exercises she plans to turn into a book. Frey says the Hot Mommas Project case authors are traveling from all over the world for the case study competition awards ceremony at GW’s Women in Philanthropy Forum, on April 28th. “These women truly care about helping the next generation and each other,” says Frey.
Are you a Hot Momma?
The Hot Mommas® Project is a mission-driven, for-profit venture housed at the George Washington University School of Business, Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence. The project produces award-winning, women’s leadership curriculum because role models are strongly tied to women’s success in business (and life).
“We gather and distribute the stories of role models – just like you or the women in your life – globally,” explains Frey. The case studies each year are permanently archived in the project’s online library, and winners are published in leading Prentice Hall textbooks.
About Kathy Korman Frey
Kathy Korman Frey is an Entrepreneur in Residence at the George Washington University School of Business and teaches the award-winning Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership class. She is also the founder of the consulting firm Vision Forward (www.VisionForward.com).
Since its inception in 2001, Vision Forward has become known for its unique approach to consulting, which combines planning and staff training in a one or two-day, “boot camp” format.
The firm specializes in helping businesses with female leadership. Clients include AARP, the U.S. Department of Justice, Entrepreneur’s Organization, Chief Executive’s Organization, Visa and the Federal Drug Administration.
Previously, Frey served as chief operating officer for the National Council on the Aging Development Corporation, where she worked with teams to develop, capitalize and manage entrepreneurial ventures in the health and aging industries. Frey also served as an analyst and in management at Markowitz & McNaughton, Inc. (later acquired by Citigate and partnered with The McLean Group) performing competitive and merger and acquisition analyses for Fortune 100 clients.
Frey is a featured contributor on Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference site, the author of the NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation blog, a Harvard Business School case author, and dubbed one of “America’s Top Business Bloggers” by the HSM World Business Forum. She is a regular speaker on the topics of women’s leadership and education, mentorship and work-life balance.
For information on the project, consulting, or speaking at your company or event, email info@HotMommasProject.org or find Frey on Facebook www.Facebook.com/KathyKormanFrey or Twitter www.Twitter.com/ChiefHotMomma.