NOSW graduates might see themselves in Janet Holloway’s story. Like them, Janet has achieved goals by working hard, believing in herself and uplifting other women.
“I do believe that education and mentoring in some form are the keys for women’s advancement,” says Janet, a former NOSW board member and the founder of Women Leading Kentucky.
Janet’s parents had a disruptive marriage, marked by several separations. She was raised in a hollow in West Virginia, in West Palm Beach and Tampa, Florida, and on her grandmother’s farm in southwestern Virginia.
“So my grandmother had a big hand in raising me and was a big influence in my life,” she says. “She had a third-grade education, but was very smart and straightforward with her advice. So I realized that I could get an education and did well in school.”
Janet earned a full scholarship to Marshall University in West Virginia. “That was really the beginning, and that gave me wings.”
Janet would go on to earn a master’s degree in social work from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and to complete all but dissertation (ABD) at Columbia University. She lived for 25 years in New York City.
She was running the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers when an acquaintance told her about a similar post in Kentucky. She applied and was hired. She directed the Kentucky Small Business Development Center, based at the University of Kentucky, for nine years. As she visited local centers around the state, she noticed she wasn’t seeing many women entrepreneurs and the local boards contained almost no women.
“The first thing I realized was that women do not have the networks that they need in order to thrive,” she says.
“So I left the University of Kentucky without a job and with my own credit card started Women Leading Kentucky because I believed so strongly that women could benefit from networking, education and connections with other women and men in the business world.”
Women Leading Kentucky, now in its 21st year, is a statewide network of professional women that advances leadership excellence through partnerships and innovative programming. The organization has an annual conference, luncheons with women speakers who share their own experiences and challenges, and a scholarship program that has awarded more than $200,000 in college scholarships to women.
Janet is now retired from Women Leading Kentucky, but continues to serve as a consultant. She has written two books—A Willful Child and Leaving: Sometimes You Have to Leave—and is working on a third.
Janet is among the supporters who have chosen to name NOSW in their will. “New Opportunity School is just something I feel in my heart. I care about it greatly,” she says.
She chooses to support NOSW because she admires the mission to empower women through mentoring and ongoing support.
“It just makes sense,” she says. “It just makes perfect sense to support this kind of organization.”