Norma Rist

According to her own estimates, consultant Norma Rist has helped more than 500 women start their own businesses. With the publication of her new book, Small Business Savvy: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Business (with Katrina Jones), that number should increase enormously.

Rist came to the field of consulting after a long career in management. She was the first controller of a $200-million division of a public corporation and first female vice president and general manager of a $40-million manufacturing and wholesale company. For more than 20 years, Rist was with General Cinema and in charge of its lucrative PepsiCola franchise. When General Cinema sold its beverage division, Rist was released and started looking for new challenges.

That’s when she started her marketing and business consulting business, Norma Rist CEO Consulting. That Akron-based business allowed her to apply her practical management/, marketing and business experience to a population that needed her expertise — women. Her company helps aspiring entrepreuneurs to create a plan for business growth. As she explained, “women entrepreneurs want independence, flexibility, the ability to develop new ideas, and the freedom to follow their own values. What they need is to understand profitability and how to achieve it.” Rist provides those skills.

Through her presentations, coaching, newsletter, books (Small Business Savvy, Avon, Mass: Adams, 2002 andTarget Marketing for the Virtual Assistant, Virtual Assistants Network, 2001) and website (, Rist offers the practical information that aspiring entrepreurs need. “Starting a business is not magic — it is a series of steps. When an entrepreneur is provided with the right start-up materials and information…, they can move much more quickly toward their goals,” Rist explained.

This second career as a consultant has brought her many accolades. Northern Ohio Live named her one of Northeast Ohio’s Top Women Professionals; Crain’s Cleveland Business named her a Woman of Influence; The U.S. Small Business Administration named her 1999’s Woman in Business Advocate of the Year; the National Association of Women Business Owners named in her one of the Top 10 Women Business Owners of Northeast Ohio in 2002.

Rist has also been active in Akron’s women’s community. While president of Women’s Network, she created the Susan B. Anthony Society, which brought many business and professional women together for the first time. She is also one of the founding members of the Women’s Endowment Fund — and its treasurer.


–Kathleen L. Endres