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Women in business: SBA has the tools to help you succeed

Author Francisco “Pancho” Marrero is SBA District Director currently assigned to the Puerto Rico and USVI district office

Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy and are growing at twice the rate than any other group in the nation.

According to the 2007 Economic Census, women-owned firms account for 28.7 percent of all nonfarm businesses in the United States, employ 7.6 million people  — a 6.4 percent of total employment — and generate $1.2 trillion in receipts. Across the world, women-owned firms comprise between one fourth and one third of the business population.

It is widely known that women-owned businesses are as financially sound and creditworthy as the typical firm in the U.S. economy, and are more likely to remain in business. However, women entrepreneurs continue to be at a disadvantage when starting a business.

With this in mind, the U.S. Small Business Administration has created various programs and services tailored specifically for women entrepreneurs.

For example, in 1988, the SBA established the Women’s Business Center Program to help women overcome the barriers to success. The first pilot centers opened in 1989, and worked so well that today there are nearly 100 women’s business centers across the country — in nearly every state and U.S. territory, including the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and, certainly, Puerto Rico.

Each WBC tailors its services to the needs of its particular area. Together, WBCs serve a wide variety of geographic areas, population densities, and economic environments including urban, suburban and rural. They also offer women entrepreneurs wide access to many programs, services and support to help them start and grow successful businesses.

Since the WBC program began, most of the centers have offered programs to move women off public assistance to self-sufficiency. Today, the centers offer a variety of innovative programs, including Internet training and courses in different languages.  They help with business training and technical assistance, access to credit and capital, international trade opportunities and federal procurement opportunities.

Women entrepreneurs will play a key role as small businesses continue to grow and create the jobs that will keep our economy moving forward.

In Puerto Rico, the program operates from the Women’s Business Institute at the University of the Sacred Heart, in Santurce. From its inception in 1997, the WBI has trained and counseled thousands of women who wish to start or expand a business, and has developed roundtables where successful women entrepreneurs can exchange experiences and opinions with those who are only just beginning.

Last year, the WBI trained more than 1,365 and counseled 155 aspiring entrepreneurs, completing nearly 40 business plans and helping secure close to $315,000 in capital.

The SBA has also implemented the Women-Owned Small Business contracting rule that identifies 83 industries in which women-owned small businesses are under-represented or substantially under-represented. This rule is a critical step toward improving women’s equal access to and participation in federal contracting.

The program will provide federal contracting officers, for the first time, with a tool to set aside specified contracting opportunities for certified women-owned small businesses and will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal that 5 percent of all federal contracting dollars go to women-owned small businesses.

Women entrepreneurs will play a key role as small businesses continue to grow and create the jobs that will keep our economy moving forward. From registering your business, to hiring your first employee, the SBA is here to help you start, grow and succeed.

Visit our website at http://www.sba.gov/content/women-owned-businesses for more information on resources for women entrepreneurs.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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