National Women’s Small Business Month
Tania D. Vanderlaan, Interim Director, Women's Entrepreneurial Resource Center (WEOC)
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. Did you know Fort Wayne is home to one of two U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) designated women’s business centers (WBCs) in Indiana and serves Northeast Indiana? The Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center (WEOC) is located at The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC), which is its host organization and provides funding, supplemental technical support and resources to serve women at all stages of their business ventures.
As WEOC Interim Director, I’d like to highlight what WEOC/WBCs do for entrepreneurs and share the impact our WBC has had on our regional economy. Although WEOC just completed its second year as a designated WBC, the WBC program was founded over 25 years ago. It is a public-private partnership, partially funded by the U.S. SBA. WBCs represent a national network of more than 150 centers designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses. WBCs empower and assist women entrepreneurs and help to level 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. In 2016, WEOC counseled 165 women and trained 700 individuals. WEOC also helped local women entrepreneurs access $530,000 in capital. This was achieved during WEOC’s first year of operation! National Women’s Small Business Month is the perfect time to applaud the amazing advancements these women have made in the business world. It takes courage, ambition, and ingenuity to start your own business.
The combined impact of the WBCs has been profound. In 2016, WBCs 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? Women own more than 35% 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 Americans and generating $1.6 trillion in receipts. Additionally, the WBCs have proven a good investment of taxpayer dollars. Every one federal dollar invested in the WBC program returns $46 to the economy. And this has been seen right here in our own community.
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.
If you are a woman and would like help building, launching or growing your business, contact us at InWEOC.com. We look forward to serving you.