Contest hopes to make a million people millionaires

The Hands on Gourmet company is just that -- hands on -- everyone at an event pitches in to cook. The San Francisco-based business offers cooking class parties for celebrations and for corporate team building.

"They're learning how to cook, but it's more about the experience with their colleagues and their team than it is about cooking," said Hands on Gourmet Co-Founder Molly Fuller.

For Fuller, it all began six years ago from humble beginnings.

"Our first office was out of our home, the garage was the staging area. We started with $15,000 of our own money and then by '06, we had $650,000 in revenue, '07 we were over a million," said Fuller.

Hands on Gourmet made this huge revenue jump up over the $1 million mark after Fuller entered and won an award in the Make Mine a Million Dollar Business program.

"If you've got a business and you've gotten it to about $180,000 in revenue, we know we can help you get it to a million," said Count Me In President/CEO Nell Merlino.

Merlino's group gave that helping hand to Hands on Gourmet. She's the original founder of 'Take our Daughters to Work Day' and heads up the national nonprofit Count Me in for Women's Economic Independence, which provides resources for women to grow their micro businesses into million dollar-plus enterprises.

"There are 10.5 million women in business in the United States. The vast majority, 70 percent of them, are at $50,000 or less a year in annual revenue. And there are only 2.6 percent that are at a million, so there's a lot of room for growth," said Merlino.

Since 2005, the Make Mine a Million program has been helping women achieve economic success. To participate, women who apply must have owned a business for two years. Those selected then go to an event where they pitch their business to a panel of judges and live audience.

"It's sort of like 'Miss America,' meets 'American Idol,' meets 'The Apprentice,'" said Merlino.

The winners receive a package of business coaching, financing and marketing tools to help propel their business into more lucrative territory -- plus the confidence to make it happen.

"I started thinking big. I started thinking like a $1 million business, a $10 million business," said Fuller.

And helping accelerate women's business success may just be a key to this country's economic turnaround.

"A lot of women's husbands have lost their jobs, or the economic environment has changed so much that women just increasingly understand that they've got to step up and grow their business to take care of their family and to provide jobs in their community," said Merlino.

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