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Nell Merlino Bio

What makes you feel on top of your game? That’s a question Nell Merlino asks women who want to make a million dollars in business. She pushes women to figure out the answer and to use that self-knowledge to make themselves visible in the business world, which has no patience for the meek.As the founder and CEO of Count Me In, the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization for women entrepreneurs, Merlino has been helping women reach their business goals since 1999. While there are more than a million men running businesses earning a million dollars a year in this country, seventy percent of women-owned businesses earn $50 thousand or less each year. Women who do better usually get stuck at the $250 thousand mark. Part of Merlino’s mission is to unravel the logic that creates that situation.“Entrepreneurs are problem solvers,” she says. “That is one of the things that I am. And if you’re solving a problem for $250 thousand worth of customers, why not do it for a million dollar’s worth?”Count Me In provides strategic and tactical advice for women who are hungry for the challenge of growing their businesses. But the biggest stumbling block for many women is the ingrained expectation that their next revelation will happen to them, instead of making it happen for themselves.“They’re waiting to be struck by lightening, for someone who’s going to come along and make that happen,” Merlino says. “But we are responsible for what happens to us. It’s a hard thing for a lot of women to own because many of them are told to wait until they are chosen.”Apparently, no one told Merlino to wait. As the daughter of an artist and a New Jersey State elected official, she learned two key things that have helped her to become a million-dollar woman: how to visualize and how to speak up for yourself. “I think the combination of art and politics in my background has made my career very interesting,” she says.Success in business is not always about getting the money, Merlino says. That’s just a myth. “Once the business is together, it’s a lot easier to get the money,” she explains. “Women often think there’s more to it than there is. But it’s about stating what they see, figuring out how it can be solved, and not waiting for approval.”As Count Me In extends its reach beyond the U.S., Merlino is finding that confidence is a key issue for women everywhere.“It’s universal,” she says. “We need to recognize and reward women and make them visible. Women need somebody to say, ‘You’re on the right track.’ That’s my job. I see a lot in other women that they don’t necessarily see in themselves.”Count Me In provides a kind of sisterhood that Merlino believes is “paramount” for women’s success in business. Women share an experience that’s helpful, learning from each other’s missteps and triumphs. And this sisterhood starts early. When Merlino created Take Our Daughters to Work Day for the Ms. Foundation for Women in 1993, she felt it would raise self-esteem in young girls by making visible what mothers do to support their families.The girls also learned that women play by a different set of rules—and that’s OK.“The initial way for women to achieve success was to learn how to play by the boys’ rules,” Merlino says. “But it does not serve us well to keep trying to figure out what their rules are. Because of who we are, it’s going to be different. Men wouldn’t know how to answer some of the questions women have because it’s not their experience.”Contact a speaker booking agent to check availability on Nell Merlino and other top speakers and celebrities.

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