This year, GIRLS’BIZ will be celebrating 21 years of molding the next generation of Madison’s entrepreneurs and philanthropists with a new group of Madison-area young women.

GIRLS’BIZ is a Madison-area community program that empowers middle school girls to start and run their own business and spend the profits from that business on a group trip and a contribution to charity. The program will kick off Wednesday, Sept. 6, with an introductory session for girls and parents at Keller Williams, 200 River Pl #130, in Monona. There are still available spots to join the group.

“We can accept 15 girls into the program,” GIRLS’BIZ Program Director Sally Hestad tells Madison365. “We meet weekly on Tuesday evenings during the academic year. The lead teacher this year is longtime Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs member Janelle Higgins.”

Each year, the girls in GIRLS’ BIZ choose a new company name and work with a designer on their logo. They create a product survey, learn to network and then administer their survey at a Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs meeting. “Based on the survey results, the girls and the GIRLS’BIZ teachers choose products, price the products, learn how to sell and then actually sell to Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs members in October, and then to the general public at the girls’ own booth at the Women’s Expo in November, and at several other sales venues,” Hestad says. “They especially love to sell their products using Paypal!”

GIRLS' BIZ working on a project
GIRLS’ BIZ working on a project

The GIRLS’ BIZ program started in 1995 to empower middle school girls whom Hestad says that many were seen at the time as disadvantaged in the classroom. Every year, the girls come into the group usually very with very little experience with business.

“The program has evolved since 1995 by the introduction of the concepts of fair trade, selling local products, and even organic products to suit the Madison market,” says Hestad. “We added charging through PayPal within the last several years and the girls love it. We also added the use of Charity Navigator so the girls can evaluate different charities.”

The program is sponsored by Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs and the Foundation for WWE, Inc.. Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs are an organization of women entrepreneurs, business owners and service providers in south central Wisconsin who offer an inspiring mix of networking, support, and business education at multiple meetings in Madison each month. Its members come from a variety of industries and backgrounds to share experiences and resources in a collaborative environment.

Last year's GIRLS' BIZ group with Sally Hestad (far left)
Last year’s GIRLS’ BIZ group with Sally Hestad (far left)

Last year’s GIRLS’BIZ 2016 cohort of 13 girls chose the name of the T.R.E.E. Company which stands for Tenacious Reliable Exquisite Entrepreneurs. GIRLS’BIZ members were presented with certificates for their year of work and then they presented checks from the money they earned made out to M.S. Society and Alzheimer’s Association. They also presented a check to the Fitchburg Tree Committee. The leftover money was used by the girls to play some laser tag and each of the girls also got a little cash for themselves.

During the school year, the girls meet on Tuesdays from 6:30-8 p.m. at Keller-Williams, which is on the corner of Monona Drive and Broadway in Monona. The girls also take field trips to women-owned businesses, learn to interview a business owner, brainstorm product ideas, take a product survey, make a business plan, take orders, produce and sell their product, and keep track of revenues and expenses. They determine their profit in the end and decide how much to give to the charity that they choose.


“The girls who join GIRLS’BIZ have an opportunity that is unique in Madison — they plan and run their own group business with the support of women entrepreneurs,” Hestad says. “They choose their own company name, work with a designer on a logo, choose products and learn how to price them. Then, they move from planning to execution when they sell their products to women entrepreneurs at Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs and to the general public at the Women’s Expo. They evaluate and make more decisions and use math skills to calculate their profit. They experience the power of money as they decide on the amount of their contribution to a charity of their choice.”

When they are done, GIRLS’ BIZ hosts a graduation ceremony party at the Concourse Hotel in downtown Madison to celebrate their successes.

Know a young woman who might be interested in entrepreneurship? GIRLS’BIZ is open to any girl in the Madison area. For more information e-mail