Women-owned businesses have become one of the fastest growing segments in the nation's small business economy, creating jobs and building wealth from the national to the local level. Looking to further impact the US small business economy and add to the growing trend of women entrepreneurs progressing in the realm of small business, Count-Me-In for Women's Economic Independence and OPEN from American Express recently awarded Colleen Bonniol, owner of Seattle-based Mode Studios, Inc. and seven other women entrepreneurs from all corners of the country mentoring, money and marketing resources needed to grow their businesses and shatter the million-dollar barrier.

Mode Studios, in business since 1997, is a design firm, specializing in live production design, branding environments, and permanent architectural installations. The company’s aesthetic is based in the central use of multimedia technologies, custom lighting, and interactive elements.

Throughout her career, Bonniol has been working her way through the entertainment industry. She has been rock-touring with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and U2, helped design and set-up opera houses to epic stadium shows and even worked on film productions in the Pacific Northwest and Hollywood including: Disclosure, Free Willy, Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and River Wild. These experiences have propelled Colleen to where she is today, president of Mode Studios. Mode is behind the lighting for the Pacific Science Center Arches in Seattle, WA. The international firm has also designed events and installations ranging from technology and content for the world’s largest flat screen (820 feet long by 100 feet wide) in Beijing, to sizzling concert design for recording artists like Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, and Cartel. Branding clients currently include Nokia, Victoria’s Secret, and Old Navy.

Mode takes great pride in being a Seattle-based company and they boast that it is a wonderful place to explore the forefront of technology, to drink the world’s best coffee, and to accomplish production. There are a plethora of video and film resources in Seattle, as well as extremely close proximity to Los Angeles and Las Vegas…It’s location on the West Coast provides them with a working day that is appropriately placed to speak with clients from London to Beijing.

The eight awardees, chosen out of a pool of over 500 original applicants, were given vital business growth resources including one-on-one mentoring, marketing assistance and money in the form of Count Me In loans and a line of credit from OPEN at an event held this past Thursday and Friday in Boston. Last week’s event was held as part of the Women’s Congress Business Conference.

A panel of judges, women entrepreneurs, and an audience at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center selected the awardees based on elevator pitches designed to explain why their business plans had million-dollar potential. Boston was the host of the first 2007 Make Mine a $Million Business event. Six more events will be held throughout the US this year.

“The Make Mine a $Million Business program supports local communities in New England and across the country by enabling women to build successful enterprises in their own hometowns,” says Nell Merlino, founder and president of Count-Me-In. “The program helps women realize a deeper confidence and belief in themselves and their businesses.”

“OPEN firmly believes helping women-owned businesses break the million dollar mark isn’t just a great idea; it’s an idea whose time has come,” notes Susan Sobbott, president of OPEN from American Express. “Make Mine a $Million helps women adopt a ‘million dollar mindset’ and focus on working ‘on the business’ rather than ‘in the business’, which is essential for growth.”

The following eight women were Boston awardees:

· Colleen Bonniol, of Seattle, WA, is president and principal designer of MODE Studios, Inc, a company specializing in the application of multimedia and lighting design.

· Zuni Corkerton, of Powell, OH, is president of RefCheck Information Services, Inc., the only human resource-based reference checking/background-screening firm in the industry.

· Claire Evans, of Winter Garden, FL, is president of amaZulu, Inc., a natural architectural company dedicated to developing new innovations and sustaining higher service standards.

· Lori Laviolette, of Bradford, MA, is president of North Shore Athletic Club, a health club and fitness center featuring “ageless exercise” for its aging clients and other amenities.

· Pauline Lewis, of Alexandria, VA, is president of oovoo Design, an e-tailer of hand-embroidered handbags from Vietnam.

· Wendy Pease, of Sudbury, MA, is executive director and owner of Rapport International, LLC, specializing in professional translation and interpretation services.

· Alison Rhodes, of Wilton, CT, is founder of Peek-A-Boo BabyProofing, a company dedicated to providing products and services that ensure toddler safety.

· Ilene Segal, of New York, NY, is Founder and Creative Director of baby idesign, a chic, stationary design division created especially for babies.

The next stops for the 2007 Make Mine a $Million Business program are Wisconsin on May 21st, Atlanta on June 2nd, Austin on October 4th, New York on October 23rd, and Burbank on November 14th.