The Womens Business Center begins an exciting new chapter

November 17, 2017
 

 

Delaware is a great place to be an entrepreneur – and now, an even better place to be woman entrepreneur. It’s been nearly a month since John Carney signed House Bill 226 as a first step towards revamping the state’s economic development strategy to focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. Soon, the Division of Small Business, Development, and Tourism (replacing the former DEDO) will join as another resource to promote entrepreneurism in the State.

With so much current energy and buzz behind entrepreneurism, where should a female entrepreneur begin? What’s the best place to connect to guidance and training needed to launch a business and where can an existing business find resources and support to grow and thrive in the First State?

The Cleaning Girl Polishes Her Brand with WBC Support

Just ask Kelly Jones, CEO of The Cleaning Girl. Kelly started her business in 2013, offering one-of-a-kind, package pricing through an online booking platform. She provides affordable cleaning services and products, as well as a wealth of helpful tips and information she shares with clients via her website and blog. 

Kelly proudly boasts her business is 100 percent women-owned and operated, from the cleaning teams to her bookkeeper and marketing team. “It’s important to us…to be aligned with the goal of supporting women in every way,” she notes.

Kelly recently moved her business into the franchise arena – a major goal for The Cleaning Girl. She next looks to develop partnerships for a training program for women to enter the business as employees and eventually be funneled into a franchisee track. Kelly notes that her industry has one of the highest turnover rates; her goal is to establish simple processes that create productive, trustworthy, proactive employees and future businesswomen.

But Kelly also acknowledges she wouldn’t be where she is without the help of an invaluable partner: the Women’s Business Center (WBC) at First State Community Loan Fund. ‘A supportive sisterhood,’ as she describes it.

“It’s this incredible network of women who are there to support each other,” Kelly says of the WBC. “There’s a real feeling of trust within the organization because everyone is there for the same reason. We’re all there to grow and succeed.” 

Rhonda Allen, co-owner of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Transport Services LLC goes further. “To me, it’s more than a sisterhood,” she notes. “If you’re not sure of what to do – and it could be anything; not necessarily related to your industry – you can connect with the WBC network for honest, experienced feedback.” Rhonda adds that it’s priceless for her to learn about others’ experiences, even if out of her direct business circle. “Even if they’re not telling me ‘what to do,’ they’re telling me ‘what not to do.’”

The WBC, based in Wilmington and Georgetown, offers clients intensive training in development of business plans, financing, social media and market analysis. Training is complemented by opportunities for new businesses to be mentored by existing, successful business owners. In addition, a series of events throughout the year reinforce learned skills and provide networking opportunities.

Corrinne Cooper, CEO of Phenomenal Moments Event Planning, started her business plan from scratch with the WBC, “I knew how to plan events well, but I didn’t have the business plan I needed to apply for funding. From the first time I sat down with the WBC to discuss my business concerns and needs, eight months later I had a completed business plan.” She even received notoriety for her plan, adding, “Not only was it completed, but I won first place at the City of Wilmington’s Small Business Success Series, thanks to being a member of the WBC!”

Statewide Resources = Increased Open Doors for Women Entrepreneurs 

The WBC’s new director is breathing new life into the program. Sara Crawford-Jones was named director in July 2017 and is already making a significant impact.

One of the first programs under Sara’s tenure was New Castle County’s November 2017 Shop Small Marketplace, held at The Delaware Contemporary. The event showcased products and services from over 25 women-owned businesses, and served as a holiday kickoff and networking event. “As my first large-scale event as the new head of WBC, I couldn’t have been more pleased with our participation numbers and the positive vibe we generated,” Sara smiles. 

Sara is also welcoming new talent to her team, and is in the process of hiring a new Business Advisor as WBC’s new contact for entrepreneurs in Kent and Sussex County, making their reach statewide. The WBC’s Kent and Sussex County goals include identifying constituents in need and working to connect them to the resources they value most, whether it be training, networking or both.

“It’s exciting to be able to bring our offerings to women across our state,” Sara says. “We have such a wealth of energetic, talented, professional women here [in Delaware]. I look forward to leveraging their experiences and grow even more businesses to the next level of success.”

WBC’s Strong Roots = Solid Support from Beginning to End

There’s another important feature of the WBC that is sure to have every female Delaware entrepreneur’s ears burning: the WBC is a partner of First State Community Loan Fund, one of two Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) located in Delaware which are exceptionally entrepreneur-friendly. 

This partnership allows women entrepreneurs to access critical capital through a variety of loan and grant programs, whether the need is for start-up seed money, working capital or even brick-and-mortar property acquisition.

And the WBC won’t disappear after you’ve started a business; they provide valuable business and technical assistance throughout your connection -- pre- and post-loan, whether you’re in need of capital or just some honest feedback.

Megan Varley, owner of Wilmington-based New Life Floors, has found her ongoing mentorship with her WBC counselor and the training courses valuable as she continues to grow and navigate her business path. “There’s no magic bullet to running a business,” she says. 

To be successful, Megan knows she must be aware of current issues in the business world. The WBC is able to help her stay on top of critical topics, which is why she chosen to continue attending monthly workshops.

“I decided my business was worth it, and I’m putting my efforts into the WBC,” she says proudly. “The WBC helps me stay focused and not get lost in my business.”

Antoinette Blake, owner of A. Blake Enterprises whose moniker is “The Delaware Blogger,” has been involved with the WBC since 2015, taking advantage of the variety of courses offered. 

“Attending WBC courses really opened my eyes,” she recalls. “And the fact that I could do so on my own time was incredibly helpful as well.” Antoinette says the rPBS Business Planning Course helped streamline her business plan, making her more disciplined and more aware of other perspectives.

“When you’re starting out with your business and your passion, you feel you know…the best way to do it. These courses opened my mind and made me think of new things.”

WBC – We Bring Collaboration!

Running a business is tough; we need all the support and tools we can have at-the-ready to lead us to success. No matter your level of need, statewide location, expertise or experience, WBC has the implements to help you rise to your next level as a successful women entrepreneur.

Visit us today to schedule a chat with a WBC counselor; join a meet-up at our next networking event or explore the options available to you to make your next step. 

Visit the WBC’s website (www. firststateloan.org/womens-business-center), find them on Facebook or call 302-652-6774 Option 2 to get involved now!

WBC…we bring collaboration, you bring the willpower! 

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