Women entrepreneurs face unique challenges when starting a business, from lack of funding to difficulties finding mentors and partners. Women’s Business Centers aim to help female small business owners overcome these challenges and create thriving businesses through education and resources.
What exactly is a Women’s Business Development Center?
A Women’s Small Business Center is a local office that is part of a national network of business development facilities overseen by the United States Small Business Administration. Services may vary by location, but they generally provide resources for women-owned small businesses such as training, coaching, access to funding, and help applying for federal government contracts.
What to expect in a business center for women
Women’s business centers offer a variety of services, which vary by location and can often be tailored to the needs of members. Here are some of the most popular.
Women’s business centers provide education and resources to help new entrepreneurs start or grow. There are self-guided courses, guides, and events tailored to different industries, challenges, and stages of corporate ownership. So you can choose the means that best suit your needs. For example, a center could host an online workshop on how to start a business in 10 steps. Another may include a guide to signing up for SBA loans.
Women’s business centers often host events and connect members with other entrepreneurs or professionals in their industry. This can help you develop strong partnerships, supplier relationships, or even find mentors or mentees.
One on one guidance
Many companies could benefit from more personalized support. Women’s business centers often have consultants, service providers, or subject matter experts to answer questions and guide you one-on-one through various challenges.
The SBA offers several loan programs to fund small businesses, especially those owned by women and others that have traditionally not had access to finance. Advisors from your local women’s business center can guide you through the options and application process.
Business plan development
For those just starting out, the SBA’s DreamBuilder program offers a learning plan for beginners. At the end of the program, you will develop your own business plan that can guide your future decisions.
Access to government contracts
Federal government contracts can be lucrative for small businesses. Certain programs have resources earmarked for small businesses owned by women or others that are traditionally underrepresented. Centers often offer assistance in obtaining certification for a woman-owned business to help your company apply for these opportunities.
Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center
The SBA Women’s Business Center is a national network of offices that provide resources and support to women entrepreneurs in the community. They also advocate for women entrepreneurs and provide access to funding and government contracting programs to level the playing field for women.
Top Women’s Business Center in the US
There are business development centers for women all over the country. Each serves different regional or industrial markets with different resources. Here are some top centers to consider.
BOC Women’s Business Center, New York
The BOC WBC is a business center for women with offices in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx. The center provides training, funding, mentoring and growth opportunities, with a focus on women from underserved markets.
Women’s Economic Ventures, California
Women’s Economic Ventures serves women and minority entrepreneurs in Southern California. The office, located in Santa Barbara, hosts events, advises clients and offers a variety of financial services for those interested in loans or grants.
Women’s BiZ Inc., Texas
Women’s BiZ Inc. serves women entrepreneurs in Austin and Central Texas. The center offers corporate training, workshops and individualized consulting services. The center works with both new and established small businesses in the area.
Florida Women’s Business Center, Florida
Located in Delray Beach, the Florida Women’s Business Center offers free one-on-one business counseling to female entrepreneurs who are just starting out or looking to grow. The center also provides operational support, market research, financing assistance and a host of other resources. They also host about 90 in-person and virtual workshops each year.
Women’s Business Development Center, Illinois
Located in Chicago, the Women’s Business Development Center provides advice, guidance and support to local women-owned businesses. The team even offers support to those seeking funding or certification for federal contract opportunities. There are also programs for specific sectors, such as an emerging initiative to support emerging childcare companies.
Corporate Journeys at Mi Casa Resource Center, Colorado
Business Pathways is a program of Mi Casa Resource Center, which houses the only women’s business center in Colorado. The team provides advice, licensing and licensing assistance, as well as marketing and sales support. They also host several events throughout the year to help members stay connected and access educational resources.
Charlotte, North Carolina Women’s Business Center
Charlotte’s Women’s Business Center supports small business owners throughout North Carolina. Programs include one-on-one counseling, webinars, business plan reviews, certification, financial reporting assistance, and networking opportunities.
MBDA Entrepreneurial Women of Color Business Program
Operation Hope is a non-profit organization that administers the MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency) Enterprise Women of Color Business program. The program includes a two-hour workshop, an eight-week training program, one-on-one coaching and access to subject matter experts to expand knowledge or access specific areas. The program is available to entrepreneurs of color in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas and Oakland.
Find your nearest women’s business center
The Small Business Administration provides an online search tool to help female entrepreneurs find their local women’s business center. Simply enter your zip code into the search bar to get a list of nearby centers. Then follow the link to the website of the organization you have chosen.
How many business centers for women are there?
Currently, there are 136 women’s business centers that are part of the SBA’s nationwide network. The number may change in the future as additional centers join the SBA’s cooperation agreement; 20 centers just opened in 2021.
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