WomenVenture Honors Local Female Entrepreneur During 40th Anniversary Celebration

Shirley Wikner, owner of Aviation Charter, to receive Social Entrepreneur Award

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — For 40 years, WomenVenture has been helping Twin Cities women start and grow sustainable and profitable businesses. Each year, nearly 1,000 business professionals, community leaders, and individuals come together to recognize these efforts and invest in the economic success of women at WomenVenture’s Women Mean Business Luncheon & Marketplace. This year’s event will be held on October 13 at The Depot Minneapolis and will feature a keynote address from Anne Hed, founder of Hed Cycling, whose innovative bike wheels have kept her rolling on an inspiring entrepreneurial journey. In addition, three local women-owned businesses will be honored with Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained awards in three categories: Emerging Business, Expanding Business, and Social Entrepreneur.

The Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Social Entrepreneur Award is presented to a WomenVenture client with an innovative product or service whose business has benefited from our assistance and seeks to solve a social issue. In addition, the business must show consistent growth in sales and financial performance. This year’s recipient of the Social Entrepreneur Award is Shirley Wikner, owner of Aviation Charter, the largest on-demand air charter company in the Midwest and the primary carrier for LifeSource’s organ transplant teams

Shirley Wikner has been serving the aviation needs of the Upper Midwest for 30 years. Her business, located at Flying Cloud Airport, has weathered its share of turbulence, from local airlines declaring bankruptcy to the untimely passing of her husband and business partner, Roger. Shirley persevered, seeking out recession-proof niche markets to fuel her business. Lacking a background in finance, Shirley joined WomenVenture’s Scale Up! program to help take her business to the next level. Of the experience, Shirley says, “The program gave me the tools I needed to talk to my banker and obtain financing. It truly has enabled me to increase the business’ bottom line.” It has also enabled Shirley to channel a portion of her business profits into her advocacy work for LifeSource, a nonprofit that promotes organ and tissue donation. In the last year alone, Aviation Charter flew nearly 700 transplant flights for LifeSource and that number continues to grow. Shirley was recently recognized by the SBA for her business acumen and charitable contributions as the 2017 Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year.

“I can think of no better example of a social entrepreneur than Shirley,” says Elaine Wyatt, WomenVenture Executive Director. “She has been a tireless advocate for LifeSource for over 25 years and her business has positively impacted the community in the thousands of lives that have been saved as a result of Aviation Charter’s transplant flights and the generosity of the organ donors and their families. Her work truly inspires me! And thanks to the generous supporters who come to Women Mean Business, WomenVenture is able to assist hundreds of women just like Shirley as they work to build and grow their own profitable and sustainable small businesses.”

Guests at the event will learn how WomenVenture helps women entrepreneurs by providing them with the training, consulting and capital they need to be successful. They will also have the opportunity to support local, women-owned businesses by shopping and networking in a marketplace with over 40 vendor booths featuring unique products and services.

WomenVenture’s Women Mean Business Luncheon & Marketplace will be held October 13, 2017 at The Depot Minneapolis. The Marketplace will be open from 11:00 am – 12:15 pm for shopping and again from 2:00 – 3:00 pm. The pavilion will open at 12:00 pm and the Luncheon will take place from 12:30 – 2:00 pm. Well-known gospel singer Jearlyn Steele will emcee the event, which will feature a keynote address from Anne Hed, founder of Hed Cycling. Tickets for the Luncheon are $160 per person or $1,500 for a table of 10. Tickets for the event can be purchased at www.WomenVenture.org/WMB.

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About WomenVenture
WomenVenture is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit dedicated to helping women attain economic self-sufficiency through the creation and growth of profitable and sustainable businesses. For four decades, the organization has provided more than 100,000 women of all ages, cultures, races and income levels with the tools and resources to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality. Last year, WomenVenture helped start or expand 185 businesses that created and/or retained 1,050 jobs and paid an average wage of $27.49 per hour. These businesses generated $44.6 million in revenue and contributed $5.9 million in tax revenue to the state of MN. WomenVenture also distributed and facilitated $11,120,000 in capital to our clients.

WomenVenture client businesses are fueling Minnesota's economy. They help communities grow by paying taxes, by supporting other local businesses, and by creating jobs that pay living wages. For more information about WomenVenture, visit www.WomenVenture.org.