05/06/2013 04:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Confidence Helps Women Business Owners Take Flight

Nell Merlino

A female friend of mine who teaches people how to fly told me years ago about the big difference between her male and female students. The male students almost always need to get their skill level up to their confidence level, while the female students inevitably need to get their confidence level up to their skill level.

Most recently, at Count Me In's Business Growth Competition and Conference, we met women who defy these expectations -- their confidence level is up to their skill level.

Vernice "Fly Girl" Armour, was a speaker at our conference, and proclaimed that she is a hugger. She made this disclaimer as she was being introduced to John Finneran, Chief Counsel, Capital One Financial Corporation. As she dispensed with the usual business handshake and reached around to give the pleasantly surprised Chief Counsel a big hug, Vernice said she learned to announce her intention after she went to hug Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his security detail started to reach for their sidearms. A former police officer herself and the first African-American female fighter pilot, Vernice is now a powerfully, disarming business owner who helps women step into their power and earning potential.


I met Vernice four years ago when we both spoke on the same stage. She was unforgettable, standing there in her flight suit talking about being a Marine fighter pilot in Iraq. As she spoke, she stepped out of her flight suit on stage to reveal a business suit as she described her new civilian life. I decided then and there that I wanted to work with her. Her confidence level was contagious. When David Brooks of the New York Times was searching to understand why women lack the self-confidence Sheryl Sandberg describes in her book, Lean In, he would have done well to talk with Vernice and women like her who exude self-confidence.

Kristina Guerrero is another pilot from the Air Force who is brimming with confidence as she brings her new product to market called Turbo Pup. An avid hiker, Kristina takes her dog everywhere. The dog food was the heaviest thing in her backpack until she invented TurboPUP, a nutritionally dense snack bar for dogs. Last week, Vernice was an inspirational speaker and Kristina was a competitor as Count Me In and Capitol One launched the Women's Veteran Entrepreneur Corps., a program dedicated to helping military women business owners thrive.

Kristina was able, along with 40 other vets and military spouses like Jennifer Pilcher of Military One Click, a one-stop information site for military families, to stand up and speak in front of a panel of judges and describe heir business with great confidence. Both Kristina and Jennifer have won the pitch competition along with 24 other women. What are they most excited about?

"Being part of the joining together two communities, women entrepreneurs and military women entrepreneurs which has never been done before" said Jennifer. Together, we will be pioneers in the Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps highlighting the strengths of women veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs.

I am looking forward to seeing how these military women will add to the Count Me In brand. I truly believe working together is going to create awareness for the strength of women entrepreneurs as a whole while strengthening the small business community.