Women entrepreneurs face unique challenges when starting businesses, from lack of funding to difficulty finding mentors and partners. Women’s business centers aim to help female small business owners navigate these challenges and create thriving companies by providing education and resources.
What Exactly is a Women’s Business Development Center?
A woman’s small business center is a local office that’s part of a national network of business development facilities overseen by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Services may vary at each location, but they generally offer resources for women-owned small businesses like training, coaching, funding access, and helping to apply for federal government contracts.
What to Expect at a Women’s Business Center
Women’s business centers offer a variety of services, which may vary by location and can often be customized to the needs of members. Here are some of the most popular.
Women’s business centers offer education and resources to help new entrepreneurs get started or grow. There are self-guided courses, guides, and events tailored to various industries, challenges, and stages of business ownership. So you can choose the resources that best suit your needs. For example, a center may host an online workshop about how to start a business in 10 steps. Another may feature a guide for how to sign up for SBA loans.
Women’s business centers often host events and connect members with other entrepreneurs or professionals in their industries. This may help you develop strong partnerships, vendor relationships, or even find mentors or mentees.
One on One Counseling
Many businesses may benefit from more personalized support. Women’s business centers often feature counselors, service providers, or subject matter experts to answer questions and guide you through various challenges one-on-one.
The SBA offers several loan programs to fund small businesses, especially women-owned businesses and others that have traditionally lacked access to funding. Counselors at your local women’s business center can walk you through the options and application process.
Business Plan Development
For those just starting out, the SBA’s DreamBuilder program provides a curriculum crafted for beginners. At the end of the program, you develop your own business plan that can guide your decisions going forward.
Access to Government Contracts
Federal government contracts can be lucrative for small businesses. Certain programs have funds earmarked for women-owned small businesses or others that have traditionally been underrepresented. Centers often provide assistance for getting a women-owned business certification to help your business 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 for women entrepreneurs in the community. They also advocate for women business owners and provide access to funding and government contracting programs to level the playing field for women.
Top Women’s Business Center in the U.S.
There are business development centers for women spread throughout the country. Each serves different regional or industrial markets with various resources. Here are some top centers to consider.
BOC Women’s Business Center, New York
The BOC WBC is a women’s business center with offices in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx. The center offers training, financing assistance, counseling, 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. Based in Santa Barbara, the office hosts events, advises clients and offers various financial services for those interested in loans or grants.
Women’s BiZ Inc., Texas
Women’s BiZ Inc. serves women entrepreneurs through Austin and Central Texas. The center offers business 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
Based in Delray Beach, the Florida Women’s Business Center offers free, one-on-one business counseling to women entrepreneurs who are just starting out or looking to grow. The center also provides operational support, market research, help with funding, and a huge range of other resources. They also host about 90 in-person and virtual workshops each year.
Women’s Business Development Center, Illinois
Based in Chicago, the Women’s Business Development Center provides advising, mentoring, and support for local women-owned businesses. The team even provides support for those seeking funding or certification for federal contracting opportunities. There are also programs for specific industries, like an upcoming initiative to support up-and-coming child care businesses.
Business Pathways at Mi Casa Resource Center, Colorado
Business Pathways is a program of Mi Casa Resource Center, which hosts the only women’s business center in Colorado. The team provides consulting, licensing and permitting assistance, and support with marketing and sales. They also host a variety of events throughout the year to help members stay connected and access educational resources.
Women’s Business Center of Charlotte, North Carolina
The Women’s Business Center of Charlotte supports small business owners throughout North Carolina. Programs include one-on-one counseling, webinars, business plan reviews, certification, help with financial reports, and networking opportunities.
MBDA Enterprising Women of Color Business Program
Operation Hope is a nonprofit organization that runs the MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency) Enterprising Women of Color Business Program. The program includes a two-hour workshop, eight-week training program, one-on-one coaching, and access to subject matter experts to expand knowledge or access to specific areas. The program is available to women of color entrepreneurs in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, and Oakland.
Find Your Closest Women’s Business Center
The Small Business Administration offers an online search tool to help women entrepreneurs find their local women’s business center. Simply enter your zip code in the search bar to get a list of nearby centers. Then follow the link to the website for your chosen organization.
How many women’s business centers are there?
There are currently 136 women’s business centers that are part of the SBA’s national network. The number could change in the future as additional centers enter the SBA’s cooperative agreement; 20 centers just opened in 2021.