By Jane Applegate

Michelle Massman has been helping women succeed since 1993, when she created the first Women’s Showcase in central Minnesota. Two decades later the event is still helping women—the next one is October 26 at the St. Cloud Rivers Edge Convention Center.

In 2004, Michelle was appointed vice president of Tonic Sol-fa, L.C where her marketing strategy helped the a cappella singing group book international gigs. Michelle also attracted corporate sponsorships for Tonic Sol-fa with Blue Bunny, Schwan’s, Jostens, and Bose.

Building on the success of her work with Tonic Sol-Fa, Michelle founded MyVP (My Vice President) in partnership with Shaun Johnson, one of the founders of TSF. The company provides clients with a personal vice president to help address a variety of business problems. In addition, Michelle and Johnson recently launched the Shaun Johnson Big Band Experience

Jane Applegate: You have been producing the Women’s Showcase for more than 20 years. How did you came up with the idea?

Michelle Massman: After launching my company in 1989, I wanted to develop an event that we could produce and grow. As an advocate for women and women-owned businesses, I wanted to focus on creating something that would benefit women in our community. After researching women’s events around the country, we developed the initial concept and started pitching potential sponsors. The deal I made with myself is that if I could find one company willing to take a chance on the event, we would follow through. The first corporate sponsor signed on a week later and the Women’s Showcase has been going strong for 21 years.

Applegate: How has the Showcase changed through the years? What was your biggest challenge in growing it?

Massman: Over the years the event grew to hosting more than 7,000 women each year. Then, we made a conscious decision to reduce the size of the overall audience and shift from a trade show model to a more experiential style that serves the changing needs of both the audience and sponsors. We’ve dealt with many challenges over the years including our growth being limited by the size of our community’s largest venue and illness among key players—just to name a few. Having a supportive and creative team has helped us make it through every challenge…and find new ways to innovate.

Applegate: You recently sold the Showcase to a sponsor. Did you approach your buyer or did they approach you?

Massman: Our buyer, Leighton Broadcasting, has been a major sponsor and supporter for the entire run of the event. A few years ago, they contracted with our team to develop a women’s show in one of their other markets. When I was ready to discuss a sale, there was nobody else I wanted to consider.

Applegate: Was it difficult to consider selling ‘your baby”?  What persuaded you to sell it?

Massman: I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I started my company when I was 22. The best part has been the ability to work with many different types of clients across dozens of industries. For two decades, the Women’s Showcase was a fun and challenging way to use my skills. Now, my focus has shifted to a more regional and national arena. It’s a perfect time for me to hand off the future of the Women’s Showcase to a company that I know will add new creativity and give it the attention it deserves.

Applegate: How did you handle the transition? Was it a cash deal or a long-term pay out?

Massman: It’s a cash deal. We will produce this year’s event and the new team will shadow us. I’ll consult with their team in 2014.

Applegate: What advice do you have for another business owner thinking of selling her business?

Massman: Give serious consideration to both the business aspect (profit potential, timing and opportunity) and the personal aspect. Ask yourself if you have done what you set out to accomplish in the business? Are you ready to move on to a new challenge?

Applegate: Did you earn enough on the sale to start a new business?

Massman: Yes.

applegate_report_headerApplegate: So, what’s next for you?

Massman: Since I am the owner or co-owner of more than one company, I have plenty to keep me busy! I receive many requests from event producers and entrepreneurs seeking assistance in taking their efforts to the next level, [which] I’ve had to decline due to the time constraints from producing the Women’s Showcase. I’m excited to be in a position to consider new opportunities.

Michelle can be contacted: [email protected]

On another note, I was invited to a secret press event to preview the new Moto X phone due out later this month from Motorola (a Google company). The phone is very cool. If you are tired of buying cute covers to jazz up your smartphone, you’ll love the Moto X. Buyers will be able to go online and customize every aspect of the phone, from case to wallpaper with 2,000 various color combinations.

The phone has a 4.7-inch screen, a curved back and voice control features. If you are frustrated over how long it takes to snap photos, the Moto X (which will retail for about $199 with a two-year contract) has a feature that activates a super high-resolution camera with two flicks of the wrist.

Jane Applegate is the national correspondent for SmallBizDaily.com, author of four books on small business success and co-founder of the FabulousFemaleNetwork.com. The Applegate Group is a multimedia production company.