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WNC Business

SBTDC’s focus on women entrepreneurs

Oct 11, 2023 08:52AM ● By Randee Brown

A resource partner of the US Small Business Administration, the Small Business and Technical Development Center focuses on supporting small- and medium-sized businesses during their start-up phases. While their programming is available to anyone in business that needs support, more than 35% of businesses served are women-owned. Regional Center Director Elena Gupta said they are trying to increase that percentage, and they do offer special programming for women-owned businesses in WNC.

In March of 2023, the SBTDC supported an International Women’s Day event providing business information and support to 344 attendees from around the region. During the first six months of the year, the organization worked with more than 2,000 business women in NC with over 16,000 hours of consulting. This resulted in $37 million in capital infusion and led to the start of 215 new women-owned businesses, creating and retaining 1,633 jobs and increasing statewide sales by more than $40 million. 

Understanding that women-owned businesses can suffer from lack of capital, Gupta said the SBTDC offers help with exploration of funding options and works with locally-based businesses and Community Development Financial Institutions to expand and present different options for capital formation. They also help business owners with tasks such as constructing business plans and creating financial projections before they meet with a lender.

“Throughout the US, women always get less investments than men,” Gupta said. “This is not a secret; this is our society and our reality.”

The SBTDC helps connect women to specific grants, CDFI programs, and investment groups nationwide that focus on women-owned businesses, and Gupta said they try to spread as much information to women as they can.

There are many networking, mentoring, and workshop opportunities available through the SBTDC, and Gupta said they choose counselors who are approachable and easy to work with. She said they do their best to create meaningful relationships with their clients, and that she has heard many female participants say they consider Gupta and her colleagues as mentors.

SBTDC counselors are all certified by the Economic Development Finance Professional Certification Program™ and participate in 40 hours of professional development throughout each year. 

“Our counselors are highly educated people,” Gupta said. “They offer one-on-one business counseling in business planning, financial planning, market research, financial analysis, and more. This information helps business owners make better decisions, and some of our counseling is tailored to women-owned businesses.”

Gupta said that while some women-owned businesses are very strong, some have been shaky since the pandemic. Sometimes business owners do exceptional things in their business but may not have the knowledge to properly run their business. Counseling sessions and workshops help teach the nuts and bolts of how to run a business and help those that already have some knowledge do it better to increase their chances of success. 

Some SBTDC workshops are specific to women entrepreneurs, and according to Gupta, women are more likely to attend workshops on any topic than men. With a variety of workshops offered on a regular basis, she said at least half of the participants are women, though women account for only 35% of participating business owners in the program.

“So many of these women are so brilliant,” Gupta said. “Sometimes the help needed from us is really minimal, like simply helping with market research to prepare to run numbers and get rolling. Once they have everything they need, they all have a really bright future.”