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Breaking new ground

Madison’s Amber Swenor was the first American to participate in VV Grow, an international accelerator for women business owners.

Growing her business required Amber Swenor (left), founder and brand strategist for Strategic Partners Marketing, to take a step back from daily client work, a lesson she learned in the VV Grow business accelerator program.

Growing her business required Amber Swenor (left), founder and brand strategist for Strategic Partners Marketing, to take a step back from daily client work, a lesson she learned in the VV Grow business accelerator program.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Recorded human history spans about 5,000 years, which means most of the “firsts” have already been accomplished by someone long since passed. Credit Amber Swenor, founder and brand strategist of Strategic Partners Marketing in Madison, for nabbing one of the few remaining firsts by becoming the first woman from the U.S. to participate in the Vital Voices signature business accelerator program, VV Grow.

Vital Voices works with women leaders in the areas of economic empowerment, women’s political participation, and human rights. Swenor was chosen for last year’s VV Grow international cohort of 39 women business owners from a pool of almost 700 applicants based on her demonstrated business growth, commitment to serving her local, regional, and global communities, and potential for continued growth and prosperity.

Participants met for weekly webinars from January through April, attended a five-day training program in Dublin, Ireland, and then resumed biweekly web sessions from June through November before graduating in December. Training included visionary leadership, strategic networking, technology for business growth, and paying it forward.

A Shawano-area native, Swenor grew up seeing the value that local business owners and local businesses brought to both the economy and the spirit of community, and she wanted to help them succeed.

Her Madison-based business, Strategic Partners Marketing (SPM), works with companies of all sizes to provide brand strategy and tactical-level execution of those strategies, including digital marketing, social media, and media strategy and buying. In less than three years, SPM’s revenue has grown to over $1 million, and Swenor has grown her team to seven employees.

The biggest lesson she took away from VV Grow, however, was the importance of evolving as a leader. “My expectations going into the program were to organize and systemize the business so that it could grow more efficiently and without tasks becoming ‘bottle necked’ with me,” explains Swenor.

In order to accomplish these goals, Swenor needed to essentially become the CEO, which required mindset work and making the commitment to growth. Tactically, says Swenor, it required SPM to become more streamlined in its internal processes and remove tasks from her plate that were eating up too much time and weren’t engaging her top strengths. For Swenor, this meant backing out of certain tasks and accepting that she wouldn’t touch every task for every client. “I wanted to stop holding the company back from growth due to a lack of processes or lack of people,” she explains. “I knew that I wanted to utilize my talents in the places where I could make the biggest impact and get the best output for both clients and for SPM.”

Programs like VV Grow are essential for many reasons, notes Swenor, but particularly because women are major drivers of the global economy yet own significantly fewer businesses than men. “Bringing more women entrepreneurs into the marketplace,” she notes, “offers a chance for more successful businesses.”

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