October is National Women’s Small Business Month, a perfect time to highlight the many accomplishments of women entrepreneurs and small business owners across the nation, as well as right here in our own community. As CEO of a Women’s Business Center (WBC) located in this community, I want to highlight what the Women’s Business Center program does for entrepreneurs and share the impact that my WBC has had on our local economy.
The Women’s Business Center program is a public-private partnership founded more than 25 years ago and partially funded by the Small Business Administration, which is now led by Linda McMahon. WBCs represent a national network of over 150 centers throughout the United States, designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses. WBCs seek to empower and assist women entrepreneurs, leveling the playing field for a group that still faces many obstacles in the business world. WBCs provide training, mentoring, counseling and access to capital for one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy: women business owners.
The impact of the WBC Program has been profound. In 2016, centers like mine reached more than 145,000 clients and conducted over 93,000 hours of counseling and over 15,000 training sessions in over 35 languages. WBCs assisted with nearly $429 million in private capital infusion and helped to secure nearly $40 million in government contracts for women-owned businesses. The impact on job growth has also been extraordinary, with WBCs helping to create 23,471 new jobs.
Why are centers focused specifically on women important? Today, women own more than 35 percent of all businesses and are starting new ventures at four times the rate of men. The most recent data indicates there are more than 11 million women-owned businesses employing 9 million women and generating $1.6 trillion in receipts. Additionally, the WBC program has proven a good investment of taxpayer dollars. For every one federal dollar invested in the program, the WBC program returns $46 to the economy.
And this has been seen right here in our own community. In 2016, GROW provided business counseling or other technical assistance to over 750 individuals, 32 percent of whom are African-American, 6.5 percent are Hispanic and 56 percent are low to moderate income. Additionally, 68 new businesses were created, with over 250 jobs being created.
National Women’s Small Business Month is the perfect time to appreciate the amazing advancements women have made in the business world. It takes courage, ambition and ingenuity to start your own business, and all the women entrepreneurs out there possess these qualities. WBCs have helped many of these talented entrepreneurs turn their dreams of starting a business into reality. The WBC Program aided the undeniable progress women have made in this realm.
Small businesses are the engines that drive America’s growth, and women are increasingly leaving their footprint in this sector of the economy. With the continued support of WBCs across the country, their impact will surely grow.
Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW)