As a leading economic empowerment organization in the U.S. Midwest, the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) provides business owners with the tools they need to grow and prosper. Those tools include access to contracts, capital, contacts and information to increase business capacity that adds jobs, fuels economic growth and builds strong communities.
Celebrating our 30th year in 2016, we remain committed to supporting and accelerating business development and growth for companies owned by women, minorities and other underserved populations, including military veterans and their families. Over the years, we’ve updated our approach, but our mission remains the same: Empowering women through entrepreneurship.
The Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification, delivered in partnership with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), remains a critical tool in helping women obtain larger, more lucrative contracts. During the past year, we have increased the number of educational and business matchmaker events throughout the Midwest, including in Minneapolis- St. Paul where we have an office, and have developed many more relationships with corporate and government buyers – relationships that benefit not only WBEs, but also help corporations and governments reach their supplier diversity goals. The WBDC is the largest regional partner organization under the Women’s Business Enterprise Council umbrella certifying 1,700 WBEs in its nine state service areas.
Knowing business owners rely on technology more than ever before, the WBDC continues to expand its online technical assistance through webinars, online on-demand education modules and Skype counseling sessions.
Providing services to underserved populations, particularly in the greater Chicago area, continues to be a priority. To meet the needs of the growing Hispanic population, for example, we expanded our offerings for start-ups in Spanish and English to include the growing market of established Latina entrepreneurs. Our early childhood education entrepreneurship program, now in its 18th year, provides industry-specific business development training, and technical and financial assistance for start-up and established child care business owners.
We also offer services to military veterans and their families. Funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration enables us to operate one of 20 Veteran Business Outreach Centers nationwide. The VBOC@WBDC provides comprehensive programs, including one- and two-day entrepreneurial boot camps as well as technical assistance and advising, financial workshops, access to capital and procurement.
Capital is the lifeblood for growing businesses. Traditional bank financing with its typically low interest rates is attractive, yet women and minority business owners are consistently denied these loans. In response, the WBDC has expanded its business financial service to include lending and equity technical assistance, and direct lending for new and established businesses. In 2015 alone, we helped our clients secure $3.3 million in business financing, in part through our loan pool.
Celebrating 30 years of helping more than 75,000 women reach their dreams of business ownership is a milestone we celebrate with pride. We are excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to serving the next generation of entrepreneurs.