Women’s Business Center South Brings SBA Resources to Memphis
Tucked away in a coworking space on the fourth floor of Crosstown Concourse, Vonesha Mitchell and Lamisa Hasan are at the forefront of a federal effort to increase resources available to women-owned businesses.
The Women’s Business Center South was recently launched in Memphis, as part of a historic expansion of Small Business Administration-funded centers to support women entrepreneurs across the country.
Mitchell, executive director of WBC South, said growing local economies requires supporting entrepreneurship for both men and women. Providing resources specifically for women entrepreneurs is essential, she said, to help them overcome the unique obstacles women face in the business world.
“It’s really exciting to see the energy, the emphasis, the attention, the focus on women and women’s initiatives,” she said.
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WBC South, which was established under the aegis of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, is one of 136 such centers nationwide. The SBA has called for the creation of 20 more this year, one of the federal agency’s largest targeted investments in women-owned businesses in about three decades.
The centers provide networking opportunities, technical assistance, one-on-one mentoring and workshops for women entrepreneurs. Programming covers everything from financial management to marketing and procurement.
Hasan, program manager for WBC South, said the desire and need for this type of programming has been obvious to her since the center started. In two weeks, the center heard from over 140 women entrepreneurs looking for resources ranging from start-up help to advice on managing cash flow, she said. The center will start training sessions in August.
“There are so many different needs for our (women’s business enterprises),” she said. “We will provide technical assistance and we will also launch training…. so that we can really connect our WBEs to these types of courses so that they have the business and financial knowledge to really fill in some of these gaps that they are facing.
“Support yourself personally”
The networking events will also be critical to the future of the organization, connecting women-owned businesses in Memphis with each other, Hasan said.
“These networks are often what would kick us in the door in certain places,” she said.
It is essential that women help connect women to these resources, as they have shared experiences that men may not be able to relate to, not for lack of attention, but for lack of awareness. experience.
“We understand, we have similar experiences to our WBEs,” Hasan said. “There are a lot of unspoken experiences that women have that men sometimes don’t understand.”
LEO Events Director Cindy Brewer said it is essential to connect with other professionals during these shared experiences.
“A lot of the conversations we’ve had and continue to have with this network have been about how we all have families, we all have businesses and how we do not just professionally, but how we do. support personally, ”she said.
WBC South provides services to businesses of all sizes and ages, from one-woman start-ups to established businesses looking for new growth opportunities. The center will also help women-owned businesses navigate the process of gaining certification as a women-owned business, a painstaking and paper-heavy journey that pays dividends, Brewer said.
If a company is looking to partner with a WBE or a government agency is looking to award a contract to a WBE, companies that are not certified are often immediately considered to help narrow the pool of potential companies. Brewer said getting certified in 2015 was important to growing his business.
“There are a lot of companies that will only work with you if you have this certification,” she said.
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Mitchell described WBC South as almost like a triage of businesses – assessing the immediate needs of businesses and connecting women with new and existing resources to help them fill those areas.
Phala Mire, president and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South, said the center will “play a pivotal role” for women-owned businesses as the economy continues to recover from the effects of COVID-19.
“Memphis has long been recognized as one of the best cities for women entrepreneurs,” she said in a statement. “We are delighted to support women-owned businesses in Memphis in a sustainable manner. “
Hasan said the opportunity to work with women was “a pleasure and an honor.”
“I like having that kind of connection and also working to make sure that we empower each other,” she said.
For Mitchell, entrepreneurship and the desire to help female entrepreneurs are in her blood. She said her grandmother owned a store in downtown Byhalia, Mississippi, “at a time when a black woman didn’t own a store anywhere.”
“It was so impressive for me and I have always really admired it,” she said. “But she had a lot of obstacles that, if she had had the proper support, she could have gone through and who knows how this business would have grown.”
Now every day she offers this support to another enterprising woman.
Corinne S Kennedy covers economic development, health and football for The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached by email at [email protected]
Southern Women’s Business Center
Or: Crosstown Concourse, 1350 Concourse Avenue, Suite 434
Contact: [email protected]
More information: wbcsouth.org
Large opening: 11:30 a.m. August 23 at Crosstown Concourse, registration at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/womens-business-center-south-grand-opening-tickets-163246339195