10.24.16

Women’s Business Center at Northeast Indiana Entrepreneurial Resource Center Celebrates Milestones

October 24, 2016, Fort Wayne, Ind.–The Women’s Economic Opportunity Center (WEOC), hosted by the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC), recently completed its first year of operation and is celebrating significant milestones. As one of two women’s business centers in the state of Indiana, WEOC recently was awarded $150,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration funding. In addition, WEOC welcomed a new director earlier this month and is also celebrating clients served through coaching, educational workshops and events.

In its first year, WEOC has trained and counseled 864 women, connected them to $530,000 in capital funding, and delivered or engaged with other resource partners to offer educational workshops and events. “We know women are under represented among the ranks of entrepreneurs in the United States and in Indiana in particular. They are half as likely to start a business. WEOC provides evidenced-based entrepreneurial resources and a pathway for women to confidently launch and grow their businesses, resulting in increased inclusiveness and a stronger pipeline of new ventures,” said Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center.

“The SBA is pleased to continue our relationship with the Women’s Economic Opportunity Center. They have proven to be a valuable resource with not only women, but all entrepreneurs across their footprint. We anticipate even more success as they execute their growth plans in the future,” said Stacey Poynter, District Director, U.S. Small Business Administration, Indiana District Office.

The new WEOC Director is accomplished Fort Wayne businesswoman and entrepreneur Sandra Wharton. Wharton was previously a co-founder of Vanilla Bean Unique Cookies and Cupcakes, a successful producer of gourmet specialty products. “I am passionate about serving women in this role, because entrepreneurism is part of who I am. From an early age I wanted to own a business. After devoting years to the corporate arena, I stepped out on faith and did just that. I have also guided others on starting and running their businesses. Everything I’ve done to date has prepared me to serve women in my new role as WEOC Director,” said Wharton. “Also, I am familiar with the SBA, as a former client. As a former business owner, a SBA loan helped fund the build-out of our first retail location and also provided working capital.”

WEOC has big plans for this year, as it expands to more effectively serve the 87 Indiana counties that comprise the women’s center coverage area. This includes collaborating with key, women-focused organizations, entrepreneurial support organizations, and economic development organizations to become a resource for them and to reach more women entrepreneurs. WEOC is finalizing this strategy and will roll out these plans soon. For more information about WEOC, contact Sandra Wharton, swharton@niic.net or visit the WEOC website at http://www.niic.net/programs-services/womens-economic-opportunity-center-1. Connect with WEOC on LinkedIn and Facebook.

About The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC)

The NIIC is a non-profit, community-based entrepreneurial resource center that assists in the growth and development of innovative companies in Northeast Indiana. Formed in 1999 by a consortium of community and government leaders and organizations, The NIIC was recently recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the top four under-the-radar incubators in the country. The Innovation Center is the country’s only ISO 9001:2008 registered business incubation and acceleration programs, serving entrepreneurs, business owners and existing businesses who want to launch, expand or re-invent a company. For more information visit: www.niic.net.

Photo Cutline:
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Indiana District Office representatives welcome new Women’s Economic Opportunity Center (WEOC) Director Sandra Wharton at host organization Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Shown left to right are Stacey Poynter, District Director, U.S. SBA; Sandra Wharton, WEOC Director; Ronda Crouch, District Office Technical Representative, U.S. SBA.

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