Interview by Derek Grosso
Erika Gable is a community-minded collaborator with her finger on the pulse of the city. The Madison, WI native moved to Columbus in 2009 for grad school and quickly got to work making a name for herself in the non-profit world. She’s an approachable and modest – yet over-achieving and successful – young professional who has helped guide more than a dozen nonprofits toward success in fundraising and development, strategic planning, and research. Now she’s taking on a new role as Executive Director for the Women’s Small Business Accelerator, a nonprofit that is dedicated to the growth and success of women entrepreneurs. Erika’s wealth of experience in the non-profit sector has included positions with United Way of Central Ohio, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison, BBB of Central Ohio, The Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, KidsOhio.org, Enterprise Ireland (in Dublin, Ireland), and other non-profits along the way. And she’s just getting started!
What’s the “elevator pitch” description of your organization, and why is it important to the Columbus non-profit scene?
The Women’s Small Business Accelerator aims to close the gaps between women-owned businesses and male-owned businesses through education, mentorship, and meaningful business connections. In Ohio, about half of the state’s private workforce are employed by small businesses, and the majority of those have fewer than 100 employees. We focus on serving these women-owned micro-businesses to help them launch, grow, and thrive.
What is your role as Executive Director?
I have the privilege to lead an extraordinary nonprofit that is dedicated to the growth and success of women entrepreneurs. As a one-women shop, I work closely with my board and our Co-Founders, Mary McCarthy and Caroline Worley to serve our program participants and our partners.
You’re also an entrepreneur as well!
I also run my own consulting business [Gable Consulting LLC], which gives me first-hand experience with the entrepreneur’s journey.
Explain some of your work-life balance challenges and how you achieve success?
I don’t think there’s a thing called work-life balance. I believe it’s just a question of priorities and how to fit everything together in any given day, week, month, or year. We have a six-month-old daughter and my husband and I remain very active in the community, while still both working. Sometimes it is stressful, but when it comes down to it, I want my daughter to see that serving others and being active is important in life, while also spending as much time as possible with your family.
Tell us about some of your mentors and the advice you’ve received along the way?
I have had a few mentors along the way, all of whom happen to be women. Here’s some of the advice that has stuck with me over the years:
- “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.”
- “Lots of people find success; why wouldn’t you be one of them?” (rhetorically)
- “Be bold and daring, but always be kind to everyone you meet.”
- “Make sure you listen to how people talk about others when they are not around. It is a glimpse into their true character. Decide if that is the type of person who you want to be around and who you want to be affiliated with.”
- “Listen to your gut!”
- “Always do what’s right, even when (especially when) no one is looking.”
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
I love working with other driven, dedicated people who seek to do better in the world. Learning what makes other people “tick,” experiencing new adventures, and creating a caring community are what really drives me.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
I love hiking and being outdoors, and my favorite is to go on long hikes with my family and our dog. We also do a lot of cooking at home while listening to fun music.
Tell us about a couple Women’s Small Business Accelerator initiatives that you’re most passionate about:
Our two core programs are what keeps things going: The Inspired Entrepreneur and Mentor Match.
The Inspired Entrepreneur: Through this intensive educational program for startup and early-stage entrepreneurs, attendees meet for nearly 50 hours of education over six months. This program provides expert speakers, dynamic instructors, and complimentary resources for the women business leaders of tomorrow to build successful businesses.
Mentor Match: This personalized and tailored mentoring program connects growth-stage women business owners with entrepreneurs and corporate executives who have achieved success in their business. Mentorships focus on specific and individualized goals, exchange real-world business advice, and work to take entrepreneurs to the next level in their business. Mentees are typically women who have been in business three to five years.
What’s the coolest thing about Columbus right now?
I love the diversity of people in all of its forms and that, overall, people are accepted for who they feel like they are. Right now, our country feels like it’s unraveling at the seams, and it can be easy to feel like Columbus is an oasis away from the ugliness. It’s far from perfect but it feels like it’s getting a few things right!
What’s the coolest thing about entrepreneurship right now?
Being an entrepreneur is now the “thing” to be and it’s exciting to see people of all backgrounds take the plunge and start their own businesses. Social Enterprises are also super cool right now, even though they’ve been around for a long time. It’s a great blend of the private and public sectors to do good in the community.
Which organizations are you involved with around the community?
I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Columbus Early Learning Centers (CELC) as their President-Elect and Chair of the Development & Marketing Committee. Additionally, I serve on the Board of Directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Central Ohio (AFP) as their Secretary.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
The ability for anyone to achieve anything that they put their minds and hearts to. People here are so open to helping other achieve – truly a “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality. It’s great!