The NIIC receives $420,000 U.S. SBA Grant to EmPWR Women-Owned Small Businesses through COVID-19 Pandemic

Tammy Allen, Director | Marketing & Programs, The NIIC

For immediate release 

May 7, 2020, Fort Wayne, Ind. — Pre COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana was in great fiscal shape. Strong technology, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors led the way. Then, COVID-19 struck. It is no longer business as usual. Small businesses struggle. Projections say upward of 25% to 50% of small businesses are at risk to close within the next year. The SBA is providing relief through a new award opportunity to U.S. Women Business Centers (WBCs) across the United States. Recently, SBA announced an award of $420,000 to the NIIC WEOC (Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center) to expand service offerings for small businesses during COVID-19.

During COVID-19, all WBCs have met weekly with the SBA to discuss and assess small business owners’ needs. Leslee Hill, WEOC Director, stated, “It has been heartbreaking to hear stories from our local business owners and highly affected areas. WBCs are stepping up to help meet needs across the country. Small business ownership is not for the faint of heart. Small business owners’ innate grit and scrappiness will help them persevere. Current business conditions have gotten many of them down but will not keep them down. I am in awe watching the support they give each other and seeing them pivoting to allow the masses to support them through their biggest time of need.”

Congress and the SBA acted swiftly to address small business needs during COVID-19. “We appreciate their leadership to marshal financial resources to enable WBCs to provide a cadre of value-added services and support to our most vulnerable small businesses in Indiana. This grant will allow us to offer targeted reset and reimagination services to meet small businesses where they need us most. Capital access, innovation services, and addressing critical supply chain gaps and dislocations,” said Hill.

Funding enables the launch of a new 12-month program called EmPWR (Equity & Prosperity for Women Reimagining Their Businesses). EmPWR will extend resources to provide education, training, and business advising to small businesses who have experienced supply chain disruptions, staffing challenges, a decrease in gross receipts, a decline in customers, or a closure as a result of COVID-19. EmPWR services will be available to 83 counties in Indiana. Visit theniic.org/empowr/ for program details.

“What we have seen with the emergence of COVID-19 is Indiana small business challenges fall into two categories: near term and longer-term,” said Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC. He explained as the initial shock of the pandemic wears off, small businesses need to reset. “They need to redefine their new normal and focus on liquidity and cash flow. This will improve their chances of survivability. Longer-term, they need to reimagine how to address major business issues, customer acquisition gaps, logistics issues, new solutions, new methods of working, and reinventing themselves.”

Stacey Poynter, SBA Indiana District Director, said, “Since 1953, the mission of the SBA has been to help small businesses start, grow, expand, and recover. We are honored to fund initiatives through our resource partners like WEOC at The NIIC that will help entrepreneurs get back on track by reimagining and building their businesses for the future.”

The NIIC is recruiting dedicated staff for the EmPWR Program, including a project manager and a community outreach coordinator. These are all part-time positions for the twelve-month duration of the program. These individuals will focus on accessibility, partnerships, and reducing friction for EmPWR participants as they build their businesses. Visit theniic.org/about/careers/ for more information and to apply.

About WEOC

2,354 women and immigrants served, trained, and counseled—since WEOC’s formation five years ago. The Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center (WEOC) serves Northeast Indiana women at all stages of their business ventures. WEOC responds to the unique needs of women entrepreneurs through business growth coaching, training, and entrepreneurial education, connectivity, and access to capital. WEOC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. As the Host organization, The NIIC also provides supplemental funding and complementary resources. WEOC is an SBA designated Women’s Business Center—one of two in Indiana. For more information, visit www.inweoc.com.

About The NIIC

467 new products launched, 189 patent applications submitted or granted, and 2,290 jobs created—that is what entrepreneurs have achieved through The NIIC since its inception two decades ago. The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to attract $91 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community designed to advise entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures. The NIIC bolsters innovative companies to move ideas into action. The NIIC is located in a designated U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone. In April 2018, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb designated The Northeast Indiana Innovation Park Campus as an Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury. The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program. TheNIIC.org. Click here for The NIIC press kit.

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster.  It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.

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