by Amy Simpson
Once considered a man’s field, entrepreneurship is evolving to accommodate women. Woman-owned businesses are steadily increasing in quantity, diversity, and earning power. More than 9 million U.S. firms are now owned by women, employing nearly 8 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in sales, according to 2015 data from the National Association of Women Business Owners. As women business owners expand their companies, they become increasingly important to the local, regional and national economies.
Although women entrepreneurs face challenges that differ from their male counterparts, it does not mean that they are less successful. On the contrary, statistics show that women are starting businesses at more than twice the rate of male-owned businesses. Specific strategies to help women entrepreneurs and employees succeed include creating a strong support network, learning new ways of balancing work and everyday life, and staying up to date on challenges that women are facing in the business world.
Luckily for women in Northeast Pennsylvania, there are resources to help them along their entrepreneurial journey. Both the University of Scranton’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Center and the Scranton Area Foundation’s Women in Philanthropy work together to aid women entrepreneurs.
The University of Scranton Women’s Entrepreneurship Center (WEC), a partnership between the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Kania School of Management (KSOM), was established in 2009. WEC student-interns and SBDC staff offer business start-up information, guidance and encouragement to lower income women, those in transition or those trying to make a better life
Forty-six women have completed StartUP. During StartUP, a six week long program, attendees learned start-up basics, marketing and social media essentials, business plan development, accounting and budget skills, and financing options and requirements. Local women business owners served as guest speakers, offering guidance and encouragement, including returning speakers Sandy Whiting Osieski of Spark New Business; Julie Jordan of Julie Jordan Photography; and Terry Wise of Wise Solutions.
Partnership continued with Scranton Area Community Foundation’s Women in Philanthropy (WIP) initiative micro lending program, including sharing information with StartUP attendees, connecting participants with WIP mentors, and helping women prepare business plans. Women in Philanthropy is self-described as “transformative initiatives that focus on changing the lives of women and girls.” When it comes to small business development, the largest hurdle for women is obtaining start-up capital. Women in Philanthropy gives women access to loans up to $10,000. So far this year, forty-eight women have attended Financial Confidence, a workshop designed to give participants the tools they need to take control of their personal finances.
Mary Beck, owner of Central Station Marketplace and Antiques, Keyser Oak Shopping Plaza said, “Having my own business has afforded me the opportunity to let my business grow in ways that weren’t expected. We are the only marketplace/antique store to have a pop up fashion show and paint studio. We are working to partner with an animal shelter in March to raise money for the animals and get more exposure for the store. I would have never known how to move ahead in business without the Women’s Entrepreneurship/SBDC StartUP Program. Starting with learning how to write my business plan to helping secure my loan, the WEC has taught me I can do it, and I will succeed. They have made my life and my family’s life better. I am grateful.”
An anonymous StartUP attendee stated, “Thanks so much! We’ve been offered so much information and tips to help us thrive. This was an awesome program and I will miss coming every week. I look forward to continuing my business relationship with you.”
The next session of StartUP for women begins March 8. For more information regarding The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center, visit scrantonsbdc.com, or call (570) 941-7588. For more information regarding the Scranton Area Foundation’s Women in Philanthropy, visit supportnepawomen.org,or call (570) 347-6203
Amy Simpson, a senior Business Administration major, is an intern with University of Scranton Women’s Entrepreneurship Center under the supervision of Donna Simpson, Consultant Manager.