TOY STORE OWNER GAINS CONFIDENCE AND STRATEGIC PLAN FROM WOMEN’S BUSINESS MENTORING PROGRAM
Claudia Towles, owner of aMuse Toys, was honored as the first Baltimore graduate of the ATHENAPowerLink® program, a yearlong mentoring program sponsored by PNC Bank. The program provides business guidance to help women-owned businesses meet their goals and objectives to achieve the next level of success.
aMuse Toys is a family-owned, Baltimore-based independent toy store that carries well-designed, developmentally appropriate toys which stimulate children’s imaginations. Towles opened aMuse Toys in Fells Point nearly 10 years ago and her second location recently expanded into a larger space at Quarry Lake. Towles and her husband Tom, had built a profitable company, but she quickly recognized the value of being surrounded by a team of professional advisors who could help grow her business.
A volunteer panel of business advisors, chosen specifically for their expertise and ability to assist aMuse Toys, worked with Towles on bringing her vision for the company forward. The panel, led by Lauren Kronthal, chief marketing officer, ConnectYourCare Baltimore, offered expertise and free guidance on strategic planning, business plan development, financials, leadership, marketing and networking and served as a sounding board for ideas.
“This was an invaluable experience, for me and for the growth of my business,” said Towles. “I was able to do something small business owners rarely have time to do – step outside the day-to-day operations, look at the big picture and create a comprehensive strategic plan that will help me navigate my business going forward.”
“Claudia has remarkable business instincts, but she needed a long-term view of her business and a disciplined approach to managing financials,” said Kronthal. “By going through this program, she now has a good line of sight into her finances and clarity around where she wants to take the business and how to get there.”
“It’s given me the confidence to forge ahead. I was trying to light the way with a match, now I have a powerful LED helmet and am no longer making decisions in the dark,” said Towles.
According to Laura Gamble, PNC regional president in Greater Maryland, PNC launched the program in 2013 because Baltimore lacked a business mentoring program of this caliber.
“Women are the fastest-growing segment of business owners and mentoring and coaching programs like this are playing a key role in their success and strengthening the local business community,” said Gamble.
“The advisors had my company’s best interests in mind and invested their time and energy in helping me run the business more effectively,” continued Towles. “I strongly urge women business owners to take advantage of this tremendous resource.”
The Baltimore ATHENAPowerLink® program accepts applications on a rolling basis. For information on how to apply for the program, visit www.athenapowerlinkbaltimore.org.