David Sillick is the president and publisher of the Jacksonville Business Journal and a champion of the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center (JWBC).
The Business Journal, one of a national network of 40 print and 43 digital markets delivering more than 40 million page views per month, has offered a significant media sponsorship to the JWBC each year since 2004. The two organizations partner each year to present Women of Influence, an annual event that honors women for their career and service accomplishments. 2013 marks the event’s tenth anniversary; over 200 area women have received the honor.
The Business Journal is also a sponsor of the Women in Business Awards, the premier event of the Women Business Owners of North Florida. We recently sat down with David to ask him how and why he developed such a strong connection to women entrepreneurs.
“Until you asked me, I’m not sure I had thought about it,” he muses. “I moved here in 1997 after having spent time in both [Washington] DC and Raleigh-Durham. I’d been very connected there to the Council of Entrepreneurial Development, an organization that promotes an entrepreneurial culture in the Research Triangle. I guess I was looking for a similar cluster of entrepreneurs here. I found a lot of energy around entrepreneurship; it just happened to be in women’s organizations.”
Sillick says that in his role as publisher of a business journal, he is often asked to judge contests: design contests, engineering contests, and others. He says he enjoyed the process, but never felt really engaged. But the first time he was asked to judge the Women in Business entries, he got a sense of passion and excitement from them that was transformational. “The stories that these women told, of starting their business around the kitchen table, were so inspiring,” he says. “I realized that I wanted to be a part of something that helped them succeed.”
When Sillick was asked by the JWBC to serve on an ATHENAPowerLink® panel, he was hooked from the first interaction with the women business owner. ATHENAPowerLink® one of 27 in the nation, “links” a woman-owned business with a panel of unpaid advisors who agree to work with her for one year to meet her business goals and objectives. He now serves as co-chair of the Athena Governing Body, a group that oversees and selects the women business owners for participation in the program.
“The way women approach their business, the way they tell their stories, and what they need for support is different from the traditional male business owner. It makes sense to have an entrepreneurial center dedicated to women,” Sillick says. He thinks that it also makes business sense to support them, as they comprise the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs in the nation.
Sillick’s experience with women business owners has also helped him with his daughter Samantha, now 18 and thinking about college and career choices. “Not only did I learn from my experience as a mentor how to be a better coach to her, but the network of women I have met over the years has been very generous with their time and advice for her.”
And that may be one of the best business lessons a daughter can learn from women in business: to be the kind of person you want to meet.