Oxygen Inflates New-Biz Dreams

For the second straight year, Oxygen will breathe life into three women's new-business dreams.

This year, the women's network will double the funds available to the three chosen businesswomen in its "Oxygen's Build Your Own Business" national grant program to $10,000, said Oxygen Media CEO Geraldine Laybourne.

The network has also doubled its number of participating affiliates to 50 operators, according to Oxygen vice president of consumer marketing Tricia Melton.

The initiative, due July 2, will be supported by more than $2 million in marketing elements, Melton said. Components include taggable cross-channel spots in each of the participating markets, exposure in the August issue of Oprah Winfrey's O Magazine
and "heavy online" promotion, she said.

New York Life has also signed on as the national sponsor of "Build Your Own Business," she said. The company will receive "brought to you by" plugs during the cross-channel spots and in entry brochures, and impart small-business insurance advice to the winners.

Affiliates have been armed with five cross-channel spots: one 60-second unit and four 15-second versions. The longer promo features several businesswoman saying separately, "I built it with handbags, I built it with food … tugboats … with curls … with a camera," before a voiceover adds, "Oxygen gives you the tools to make it happen."

The 50 participating systems reach 7 million subscribers, or half of Oxygen's subscriber base, Melton said. The program runs through Sept. 10, with the three winners to be selected by a six-member advisory panel on or about Oct. 9.

In addition to the grant money, Oxygen will award each of its winners a home-office/computer "suite," plus 10 days of entrepreneurial mentoring from ka-Ching.com's small-business expert, Jennifer Kushell.

The winners will also benefit from national exposure on Oxygen's finance show, Laura Pedersen's Your Money & Your Life, and appearances on Pure Oxygen, the network's live daily news and information series. They'll also be featured in profiles at Oxygen.com and related Web sites.

Aspiring businesswomen can enter the contest by submitting an application either online at Oxygen.com, or in person at participating cable systems or retail stores in the contest's markets. Affiliates in each market will award one woman a handheld organizer, Melton said.

Last year's winning trio used their seed money to start a sportswear-design firm in Atlanta, open a makeup boutique for women of color in Albany, N.Y., and add a brick-and-mortar extension to an online yarn-sales business in Vermont.