REAP Women's Business Center: Year
counseling, business training, business lending; the
Women's Business Center had a busy and productive year.
By Glennis McClure, REAP
Women's Business Center Director
The third year of the REAP Women’s Business Center concluded in July. It’s actually quite amazing how our volume of work continues to grow. Hopefully the majority of those REAP worked with in the past year found our services effective.
Based on our increased number of contacts, the need continues to be strong for business technical assistance, help with business planning, increased sources of business capital, and support for women who aspire to own a business in Nebraska.
Year-3 Was Great!
Objectives of the Women’s Business Center for REAP are
front and center on our radar screens as we work each
day. Here’s how we have done in meeting our objectives
>> Serving existing and start-up
self-employed women across rural Nebraska
REAP staff provided 2,481 hours of business
counseling to individual businesses over the past year,
with 496 new contacts and 409 counseled clients. We
helped significantly with at least 33 start-up
businesses, 24 of which were owned by women (7 of the 24
were a male-female partnership and 17 were solely women
>>Improving our ability to deliver REAP’s Basic Business training across the state
We held 8 Basic Business Plan courses and 3 eCommerce trainings during the past year. REAP continues to innovate with trainings. For instance, we offered 2 new marketing seminars, at least 2 business ownership seminars, and 3 eBay trainings for small businesses. These were among many other single-night trainings offered through REAP associations.
REAP facilitated 2 business plan trainings last spring targeted for Hispanic business owners in South Sioux City and Scottsbluff; 21 participants took advantage of this opportunity. Altogether 71 training sessions were held, with a record 905 individuals participating.
Facts about Women Business Owners and their Enterprises
Women’s business ownership in the United States is very strong. The number of women-owned businesses continues to grow at twice the rate of all U.S. firms, and these firms are increasing in economic clout.
One-in-eighteen women in the U.S. is a business owner. Women-owned firms are becoming increasingly diverse – in terms of race, industry, and size.
Despite this impressive growth, women in business continue to face challenges: access to capital, access to markets, access to training and technical assistance, access to networks, and the need for legitimacy – to be taken seriously as business owners, employers, and contributors to economic growth.
Key Issues for Women Business Owners
- Issues commonly identified as concerns of women business owners include access to capital, the economy, health insurance costs, competitive business environment, taxes, and workforce issues. Health care reform, tax reform, and access to capital were seen as the most urgent priorities for the U.S. Congress to address.
- Women and men business owners have different management styles. Women are less hierarchical, may take more time when making decisions, seek more information, and are more likely to draw upon input from others.
- Women business owners overall employ a roughly balanced workforce (52 percent women, 48 percent men), while men business owners employ 38 percent women and 62 percent men, on average.
- Female-owned family businesses are 1.7 times
more productive than male-owned family firms.
They also experience greater family loyalty to the
business, agreement with its goals, and pride in the business, and they have a 40 percent lower rate of family member attrition.
Source: National Women’s Business Council Fact Sheet, March 2004, see
>>Providing increased levels of training, technical assistance, networking, and lending,
targeting socially and economically-disadvantaged women
The Women’s Business Center uses REAP’s existing infrastructure to provide services across rural Nebraska. REAP made 38 micro-loans (totaling $459,600) to member businesses through the year. Businesses owned and operated at least 50 percent or more by women received 30 of these loans.
REAP also worked with 23 leverage loans totaling just over $1.3 million dollars. The majority of leverage loans went to women business owners who worked with REAP staff throughout the business planning process.
Rural Business Roundtables
Year four of the Women’s Business Center will see the launch of a pilot REAP Rural Business Roundtable. We are looking forward to bringing at least four roundtables to rural Nebraska.
Networking is one of the best tools a small business owner can use to grow a business. REAP will help to organize roundtable groups, and, along with the networking and support they will provide, the ongoing education should be of great value.
Roundtable participants will have access to REAP member benefits, including lending products, technical assistance, and the other continuum of services. Most importantly, roundtable members can use the expertise of the REAP Business Specialist in their area.
The roundtable networking group concept will help the Women’s Business Center increase outreach to small business owners, especially women. It will increase our contact with clients, provide positive public relations with the women’s business community, and expand the knowledge resource base for women business owners.