Founder of Women Presidents’ Organization expects growth in Central Pennsylvania

Marsha Firestone can now look around the globe and find 127 chapters of the Women Presidents’ Organization, a peer advisory organization for women-led businesses that she founded nearly 20 years ago.

The latest chapter launched yesterday in the Harrisburg area.

The local chapter, which will be based at the PNC Bank regional headquarters in Hampden Township, is the fifth WPO chapter to launch so far this year. A sixth will open next week in Wisconsin, Firestone said.

“We’re trying to grow at a reasonable rate,” she said.

The goal is 10 per year. She said she doesn’t want to do more than a dozen in a year.

“One of the things that kills many organizations, for-profit and nonprofit, is over-expansion,” Firestone said. “And it takes dollars to do this.”

About 20 percent of the organization’s chapters are international. The WPO is operating on six continents, she said.

The WPO surveys its members each year. Half report revenue growth on those surveys, Firestone said. “It can vary from 2 percent to maybe 50 percent.”

WPO membership requires annual revenue of at least $2 million, or $1 million for service-based companies, and an ownership interest in the company.

However, there also is a platinum level for women-led businesses with revenue above $10 million, plus a zenith level for companies with gross revenue of more than $50 million.

Firestone said a level for companies with revenue in the $5 million to $10 million range is in the works for next year.

“The organization is maturing. We can provide more in the various areas,” she said.

An area considered for a chapter must have at least 300 women business owners that meet the basic revenue requirements.

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