March 10, 2016
Entrepreneurship offers unique challenges for women who brave its sometimes unfamiliar, but often rewarding, pathways. Nestled in the center of Hartford is a place where women small business owners can turn for support, whether they have been in business for 20 years or are just beginning to think about starting a business. The University of Hartford’s Women’s Business Center (WBC), located at 1265 Asylum Avenue, offers training, business advising, mentoring, and networking events developed specifically for the learning styles, qualities, and particular needs of women.
“Our center is ranked in the top 20% of Women’s Business Centers nationally and over half of our clients are minorities. We develop our services by listening to our clients and designing services to align with their needs. We just celebrated our 15th anniversary and are proud of our excellent record of serving our community,” said Milena Erwin, the WBC Program Manager, “Women are starting businesses at a record rate, and women-owned businesses are increasingly contributing to Connecticut’s and the nation’s economy. However, women still face many challenges in the small-business arena, including in the fields of financing and contracting. The center helps these women be heard and empowers them with the tools to grow and succeed.”
According to the National Women’s Business Council, women are launching more than 1,100 new businesses every single day, employing over 8 million workers, and generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues. Women-owned businesses comprise 36% of the country’s businesses – which is an increase of 2 million women-owned businesses in this post-recession era.
Women often begin working with the WBC by attending a free workshop. The center offers 10 to 20 classes a month, on topics ranging from Starting Your Own Business to Business Planning to Government Contracting. Center classes strive to bring the latest trends and topics, such as social media and crowdfunding, utilizing experts in each field to bring the most up-to-date information on the topic. Many of the classes are free or low-cost.
Next, women may schedule a one-on-one appointment with a business advisor who will help them assess their needs, set goals, and plan their next action steps. Focus areas may include business planning, startup and expansion, market research, social media, marketing, growing revenues and sales, cash flow management, financial planning, loan packaging, government contracting, exporting, and general improvement of operations including lean management.
The center also provides networking events and in-depth programs throughout the year, such as the Power and Progress Business Women’s Symposium, a Women’s Business Roundtable, the Hartford Small Business Technical Assistance Program, and an annual Business Matchmaking event.
The WBC’s philosophy is to be the non-judgmental business advisors, teachers, mentors, sounding boards and cheerleaders for their clients so that they can become better planners, decision-makers, and implementers. A small business owner can’t possibly be an expert in every aspect of their business but they do need to have a working knowledge of each area.
The Women’s Business Center is the largest initiative of the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center (EC), which provides hands-on coaching and business training for new and expanding small businesses, as well as aspiring entrepreneurs, throughout Connecticut. In the 2015 program year, 63 new businesses were launched with the EC and WBC’s assistance, more than 1,400 jobs were created or retained, and clients accessed more than $1.1 million of capital. Clients that participated with in-depth programming averaged an increase in net profits of more than $11,000 and an average increase in sales revenue of $35,000. The EC is funded by the US Small Business Administration, Connecticut’s Department of Community and Economic Development, the City of Hartford, and Prudential Foundation. For more information on the WBC, visit www.hartford.edu/wbc.