Credit: House of Representatives
Credit: House of Representatives

Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, a Democrat who represents Ohio’s 3rd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, defines herself as a champion of women, minorities and small business owners. And during her next term — she is expected to win reelection in her race against challenger John Adams — she intends to expand on her work to help those groups flourish.

Since first elected to the House in 2012, Beatty has been a staunch advocate for women, just as she was during her time in the Ohio House of Representatives. She has also taken on numerous economic causes, including policies that advance small business — after all, before becoming a politician, she was an entrepreneur herself, running both a management-consulting firm and a small clothing boutique.

If given the opportunity to continue to serve her district and work with, and on behalf of, small business owners, she wants to hit the ground running in 2017.

She would begin by completing the reauthorization of the Jumpstart HOUSE Act. This legislation would, in part, provide an additional 8 years of funding to the State Small Business Credit Initiative, a program that helps entrepreneurs through lending programs. Business owners could then use some of that money to purchase, refurbish and utilize affordable housing units.

The law represents just the sort of policies that resonate with her — as a congresswoman, a business owner, a woman and an African-American. And she’s hopeful this type of work will “open up a world of diversity” among the entrepreneurial community.

Becoming a Businesswoman

Born, raised and taught in the Buckeye state, Beatty earned her Bachelor’s degree in speech from Central State University in 1972, and her Master’s degree in counseling psychology from Wright State University in 1974. After graduation, she found employment as a management consultant.

After decades of working for others, the desire to start a business of her own led her to launch Joyce Beatty & Associates, a firm that offered management and diversity training to employers, in 1992. She began with just one client on her roster, but had a clear vision for growth.

And grow it did — the firm soon attracted a diverse range of clients, from United Way and the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation for the State of Ohio to Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations.

While her firm was on the rise, another dream took root — one that tapped into her passion for fashion. Ever determined to achieve all of her goals, Beatty opened Pieces, a small clothing shop nestled in downtown Columbus, in 2005.

She closed the boutique’s doors just last year, due to the demands of serving in Congress. (Her management training company is still open, but dormant, she says.) But for most of her political career, Beatty has continued her entrepreneurial endeavors.

Answering Another Calling

Beatty’s political career began when her husband’s, Otto Beatty Jr., ended. He had served in the Ohio House of Representatives for 20 years, before he retired and she succeeded him. She won election to the state legislature with 82 percent of the vote in 2000, later shattering a glass ceiling to become the first female Democratic House Leader in Ohio’s history.

She served five terms in the Ohio House, and used that time to work hard for women, securing funding for cervical and breast cancer treatments for those without insurance. She also enacted legislation to improve literacy and increase STEM education opportunities in Ohio’s public schools. After reaching her term limit, she continued working in education, eventually becoming senior vice president at Ohio State University.

But public service still beckoned. So in 2012, Beatty ran for — and won — what was an open congressional seat in Ohio’s 3rd district, beating her opponent with nearly 69 percent of the vote.

Beatty says she brings her entrepreneurial expertise and drive to her current role, in addition to legislative know-how.

“What’s so exciting about actually having real-life experience is understanding the value of making a payroll and understanding how to finance your products and how to work with vendors,” she says. “It all transfers to me in Congress.”

Credit: House of Representatives
Credit: House of Representatives

Her Work Today, and Tomorrow

As a congresswoman, Beatty serves on the House Committee on Financial Services, the bipartisan body with jurisdiction over economic issues like banking and insurance.

Her work includes pushing hard to increase access to loans by helping credit unions, banks and other financial institutions offer more capital to small business owners. She also meets often with entrepreneurs, hosting community conversations in her district that allow her to interact directly with constituents on economic (and other) matters.

Beatty prioritizes the inclusion of women and people of color in entrepreneurship, too. She recently addressed Congress to raise awareness of the issues facing female and minority business owners, and has invited women business owners to Capitol Hill for educational summits.

“We certainly know women and minorities have had a more difficult time over the years getting larger contracts and being competitive in the marketplace,” she says. “I’m very honored and proud to say [that]… I’ve been able to reach out and do so many diverse initiatives to embrace small business owners and CEOs, especially those who are women and minorities.”

After all, she adds, everyone’s top priority is to grow the economy and create jobs. “How does that happen? Through government working together with small businesses and entrepreneurs.” Many entrepreneurs “are now women. They are now ethnic minorities. And they provide jobs.”