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Patricia Handschiegel

Patricia Handschiegel

Posted: July 31, 2010 12:31 PM

The New Power Girls: How Today's Women In Business Are Making Money And Change

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Lucques is one of the chic little restaurants that dot L.A.'s Melrose Avenue towards the west end. It's tucked next to other local classics like Taste, Comme Ca and Ago, with Cecconi's just a half mile or so ahead. As I take a seat across an old friend and entrepreneur in the social change arena, the scene is quiet and laid back. Couples and groups mingle and socialize over candle lit tables. A fireplace crackles despite that its August in the city. A few weeks ago, President Obama and his family dined here.

"So what have you been up to," I ask, digging into the basket of crunchy fresh bread. I'm as much of a carb-skipper as anybody but Lucques includes sea salt with the butter and its almost impossible to resist. My guest shifts in his seat and gets comfortable. He's been one of the most innovative people I know on the social entrepreneurship scene. It was just that which brought us together years ago. I had just owned my first startup, Stylediary, and was eager to use business to help drive causes and change, he had been working to do the same with his own endeavors. As he shares the details on his latest work, I'm again amazed. "Green" business seems to be everywhere. The business world is learning that it can make money and drive social change.

More than ever, women entrepreneurs are also tapping in.

In fact, studies show that women founders are more likely to work to benefit causes and charities in addition to the bottom line of their business. From using sustainable products and working to empower small and mid-sized farmers to creating programs that give empowerment or give back, today's new modern women entrepreneurs and executives are very active in using business to make a difference. It comes in companies and organizations of all shapes and sizes, from the Happy Baby Food company to Women 2.0. You name it.

Power Girls know there's value in giving back.

"The ratio of women owned businesses in the green industry is about 50-50," shared Eco Bold founder Steffany Boldrini, who creates and produces a web video show that helps consumers live green. Boldrini's a bit like a Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart of eco-friendly lifestyle. Her videos are informative, fun and entertaining, popular among the site's ten different video channels as well as ten different social networks.

"Women seem to be more and more worried about what kind of planet they're leaving their children. In fact, quite a few women that I've interviewed started their green companies right after having kids," Boldrini added.

It's a trend that's come a long way since the early days of sustainable t-shirt lines and companies using recycled goods. Today, green products are mainstream. Consumers can find and purchase items across dozen of categories and in most of the top stores both online and offline. It ranges from food to clothing to jewelry and virtually everything in between. Women-owned companies in the arena range from media and content businesses like Eco Bold and Your Daily Thread, to biomedicine and engineering. Most of all, they're seeing success.

More colleges and universities and government organizations are also supporting green entrepreneurship. They help aspiring founders cut through red tape, find financing and grants and business training on all aspects of running the business. Even female celebrities are starting to tap in. Stars like Alicia Keys, Barbra Streisand, Alicia Silverstone and dozens of others have cause-related efforts and organizations, all in the name of giving back. They join a growing number of male counterparts like Ed Norton and Brad Pitt. The new way of doing business is with an eye on the world -- in addition to revenue.

As I hop to make it to a friend's birthday party at the Roosevelt hotel following dinner, I'm reminded that in a world that seems in it for itself, there is a growing chorus of founders who want the brass ring to give back.

"I forgot how innovative you are with causes," I text my friend from the back of the taxi ride. "It's so inspiring."

With a greater ability -- and awareness -- that profit and good can be done together, more than ever business is.