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April 8, 2010

The Path Forward Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship forms to ACTiVATE® and accelerate the growth of women entrepreneurs

Newly-formed nonprofit takes on international expansion of UMBC program

April 8, 2010

Deborah Shapiro
Marketing Manager

The Path Forward Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (the “Center”), a Maryland non-profit organization, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) announce the execution of an exclusive license agreement for the ACTiVATE® program that will allow the Center to expand the program internationally. ACTiVATE, which was started by UMBC in 2005 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and was later supported by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) and a number of local companies, is an award-winning entrepreneurship program and community for mid-career women to start and grow technology-based companies.

“As one of the program’s inaugural instructors, I have seen over 100 women go through the program to launch dozens of companies in Maryland when other programs struggled to spin out one or two,” states Center co-founder and CEO Julie Lenzer Kirk. “Over the past 5 years we’ve developed and refined methods of facilitating, training, and networking that uniquely address the needs of mid-career women in starting growth-oriented companies. Our methods are proven, and now with the launch of the Center, we will be able to support partners across the county and the globe to implement and adapt these methods, replicating our success as they launch ACTiVATE programs in their region.”

The program’s first successful launch has already taken place at Texas State University, led by former UMBC ACTiVATE instructor Terry Chase Hazell, with early results that have exceeded expectations. According to Terry, “The ACTiVATE methods and materials provided what we needed to quickly launch our program last fall and already we’re seeing results and new businesses that are getting high-level attention in Texas. Based on our initial success, we’re working with the Center to open four programs in Texas later this year with aggressive expansion planned to 20 locations within the state by 2012.”

The goal is to bring together economic development groups, universities, and women’s organizations to continue to roll out the program across key locations in the U.S. and internationally.

“Having been part of numerous start-ups and entrepreneurial ventures, I was looking for a way to give back, which is why I joined the ACTiVATE program three years ago. I immediately saw the potential to reach an untapped and growing market with a unique approach,” shares Center co-founder and President Renee Lewis. “The fact that hundreds of smart women had been through the program was impressive, but it wasn’t enough. I knew there was more that could be done if the program was approached entrepreneurially and expanded globally where women represent enormous untapped economic potential.”

“Our goal in establishing the ACTiVATE Program was to develop a national model for women’s entrepreneurship, economic development, and technology transfer,” remarked Stephen Auvil, Assistant Vice President for Research at UMBC and also one of the creators of the program. “Now that we have demonstrated success at UMBC, we are excited about expanding the ACTiVATE Program nationally and internationally, and we could not be more pleased that Julie and Renee want to champion this effort.”

The Center is being “incubated” by nationally-acclaimed venture-catalyst, Springboard Enterprises, which since 2000 has helped more than 400 women-run businesses raise in excess of $5 billion in capital. Amy Millman, Springboard’s co-founder and President, has been a supporter for the local ACTiVATE program since its inception. “It was an easy decision to partner with the Path Forward Center because of our shared goals to increase the number of women succeeding in growth-oriented businesses,” she said. “The programs the Center will be offering are greatly needed and, from what I’ve seen, uniquely positioned for success.”

Additionally, the law firm of Shulman Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, P.A., who is consistently seen as a supporter of small business in the Washington metropolitan area, has partnered with the Center as a founding sponsor. “In the Path Forward Center, Shulman Rogers recognized a partner with a common vision to support and encourage the development of successful, diverse companies and pro-actively create opportunities for entrepreneurial business women,” confirmed Shulman Rogers law partner, Nancy Regelin. “We are very proud to support Path Forward Center in these exciting endeavors.”

The Center will be holding a celebration of the launch at the Potomac, MD offices of Shulman Rogers on Tuesday, May 25th at 5:30 p.m. The event is open to the public although RSVP’s are requested. It is free of charge with optional donations accepted. Please visit for more information.

Posted by dshapiro at April 8, 2010 9:50 AM