Partner Profile: Center for Women & Enterprise
Editor's note: Partner Profiles is a recent feature of our blog. Over time, NH SBDC will publish Q&As with our partners across New Hampshire.
Hi Nancy, tell us about the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE). What is your mission – your reason for being?
Simply put, we help women start and grow their business. Our mission is to provide opportunities for women entrepreneurs and women in business to increase professional success, personal growth, and financial Independence.
How does CWE help businesses in New Hampshire?
We offer a variety of services that are specifically designed for the way women work and learn. Generally speaking, women are information seekers and prefer to work collaboratively. We offer technical trainings and workshops in an inclusive, collaborative environment that allows room for feedback, sharing of ideas and input. We also provide cost-free confidential business advising for those clients who need to take a deeper dive into a problem area or who want a little more direction.
What is the cost to businesses for your programs?
Many of our programs and services are free of charge, like the start up classes and all business advising. Some of our classes aimed at those already in business, ($20 on average) and our multi-week classes do have a coast associated with them ($150 to $450), but we offer scholarships of up to 60% off the fee to those who qualify. We never want accessibility to be a barrier to a client who needs services.
CWE New Hampshire is one of the Center for Women & Enterprise’s New England centers. Could you tell us about the larger organization?
I think of it like an umbrella under which are many programs. We have five WBCs in four New England states; we are the New England affiliate for WBENC, the Women’s Business Enterprise Network Council, a national organization that certifies women owned business for corporate contracts; we are also the New England affiliate for VBOC, the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center, which is another SBA program; and we have piloted a micro loan program in our Providence office that we hope to expand to the other centers.
What is your connection with the U.S. Small Business Administration and with the NH SBDC?
Like the SBDC, we are a program under the SBA. Women’s Business Centers were established in response to an executive order in 1979. The U.S. SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership has fostered the participation of women entrepreneurs in the economy, especially those who have been historically under-served or excluded. Our women’s business center receives a grant from the SBA which we then have to match 100%. This funding allows us to provide specific services such as business consulting and technical training on everything from business planning, access to credit and capital, and marketing opportunities, including federal contracts.
The Center recently launched iFundWomen with the NH Women’s Foundation and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig. What is iFundWomen and who benefits from it?
iFundWomen is a crowd funding platform created by women for women. Access to capital is one of the biggest barriers to entry for women entrepreneurs, who on average are less likely to receive a traditional loan, and only about 4% of all investor funding. Crowd funding is one way to raise capital for women. The New Hampshire cohort of iFundWomen will allow women to run online fundraising campaigns with other granite state women, so they will not be in it all alone. Our office will be offering touch points at least quarterly to engage the women and keep their momentum and enthusiasm going.
As director of CWE, tell us a bit about yourself and your role as director.
My background is in education and nonprofit management. I’ve worked as a Montessori educator, in educational public television, as a marketing director at UNH, and am serving my second term as a city council member for the city of Portsmouth. I guess you could say that’s my volunteer work. I have a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, so I see a clear connection between my role as a city councilor and my work with a WBC, especially when it comes to effectively and responsibly utilizing public funds to create economic development opportunities.
In my role as the director of the center, I strengthen our position as a service provider and collaborator. Our office is in Nashua, but I’ve spent the last eighteen months traveling around the state meeting people, organizations, and municipalities, listening and learning about the needs of the different regions to see if our services and expertise could be of use. I’ve created partnerships and am running programs from Keene to the seacoast, and from the Upper Valley to Concord. I’m making some headway into Grafton County, and plan to expand beyond that in the coming months and years. There are only two of us in the New Hampshire office, and sometimes I need to remind myself that we literally can’t be everywhere at once.
Thank you for telling us more about the Center for Women & Enterprise, Nancy. We at NH SBDC look forward to continuing to partner with you to help NH businesses.
For more info on CWE, visit https://www.cweonline.org/About-CWE/CWE-New-Hampshire.