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Jan 15, 2019

AWBC Enters Its Ninth Year

Invest Fort Smith panel discussion.
Invest Fort Smith panel discussion.

The Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) has happily entered its ninth year with our host at Winrock International! We are so pleased to continue our work in assisting women actualize their dreams of small business ownership. Quarter One has been full of activities including workshops, luncheons, panels and expos.

In October the AWBC entered our Phase II of Work for Yourself @50+ with the AARP Foundation. Work for Yourself assists women nearing retirement to decide whether entrepreneurship is a viable option to begin their next phase of lives. Furthering our work with communities looking to consider entrepreneurship, we partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration for Boots-2-Business. This great program assists military personnel who will be exiting active duty in a year. We were honored to provide entrepreneurial training to those considering small business ownership in lieu of a more traditional return to the workforce.

In El Dorado the Arkansas Women’s Business Center partnered with several like-minded organizations to host the South Arkansas Small Business Awards. Focusing on small businesses in Union County, nearly 100 nominations flooded our committee for the chance to win awards in categories such as Women-Owned Business, Veteran-Owned Business, Minority-Owned Business, Family-Owned Business and many more. Celebrations like this are great reminders that the small business community values your work and what it brings to the community.

The AWBC endeavors to serve the entire state of Arkansas. With this goal in mind we travel across the state hosting training sessions and participating in community panels. One recent such event was a one-day conference called Invest Fort Smith, where as AWBC director I took part in a panel discussion called “Moving your business idea from concept to reality.” Joined by a university professor, community banker and other resource partners, we took questions from the audience focusing on startup assistance and guidance.

While Arkansas Women’s Business Center held multiple events and training sessions in our first quarter, our largest event of the year is our small business expo, “Mistletoe Market.” This two-day expo provides 100 small businesses from Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas with the opportunity to set up booths and test their product offerings. We believe it’s extremely important to not only train entrepreneurs, but to also provide opportunities for proof-of-concept experimentation. “Mistletoe Market” gave our clients and other entrepreneurs a chance to sell their products, gain additional clients and attend condensed training sessions for overall small business growth.

Our last event of the quarter was held with one of our new and exciting partners, ReMix Ideas, which seeks to build a socially conscious start-up ecosystem that increases the number of successful black entrepreneurs. The event, titled “A Celebration of Small Business,” offered wonderful networking that culminated in a pitch competition. As AWBC director I took part as pitch judge as well as partner for future programming. With this exciting opening to our ninth year, the AWBC looks forward to hosting new programmingin partnership with ReMix Ideas.

South Arkansas Small Business Awards
South Arkansas Small Business Awards

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Oct 24, 2018

Team Winrock Rides 600+ Miles

Last month, a team of Winrock International staff members biked a total of 652 miles to collect donations for the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship. Launched by Winrock with initial financial support from the Dowswell family, the scholarship helps to increase the number of women in agricultural extension services in Africa. People from rural backgrounds with extensive field service are often lack the educational requirements to go to universities, barring them from promotions and holding back extension services as a whole. The scholarship financially supports African women pursuing degrees in Agricultural Extension, providing 50 percent of the estimated tuition and research support to 88 students in five African countries. By the end of next year, the fund aims to extend their scholarship to 100 women.

Winrock staff participated both in the U.S. and in the field. In Washington D.C., two Winrockers biked the Shenandoah Valley’s Alpine Loop; in Little Rock, one biked the Big Dam Bridge 100; and in Mozambique, a team of ten rode a collective 436 miles from Nampula to Mecuburi District.

Through this effort, we have already raised nearly $1,200 to support the Dowswell Scholarship -- but it's not to late to donate. Please show your support by making a donation. Together, we can make extension education more accessible and affordable for Africa’s women.

Oct 18, 2018

Back to Our Roots: Helping Women Entrepreneurs

What an eventful quarter for the Arkansas Women’s Business Center! After focusing on youth last quarter, we have elected to get back to our roots: helping women entrepreneurs. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, and 5.4 million of these firms are majority-owned by women of color in the U.S. Together they employ nearly 9 million people and generate $1.7 trillion in sales as of 2017. According to the American Express OPEN Report, the number of women-owned businesses is growing 2.5 times faster than the national average. Our goal at the AWBC is to find these budding entrepreneurs in Arkansas through our statewide partnership and outreach efforts.

The AWBC partnered with a number of organizations this quarter, including the Small Business Administration, the AARP Foundation and Rising Tide Capital. Joining forces with the Small Business Administration in July, the AWBC offered Boots-2-Business, a two-day training program for individuals coming out of active duty looking to start their own business. We were thrilled to share our knowledge with 10 soldiers who have given so much to this country. We covered topics such as proof of concept, consumer marketing and competitive pricing.

In September, the AWBC collaborated with the AARP Foundation for Work Your Yourself @50+. We provided entrepreneurial training to individuals 50 years and older looking to start a second career in small business ownership. Knowing our Arkansas seniors’ financial stability isn’t as promising as it once was, we hope to provide them with the necessary tools to gain financial security for their retirement. We discussed how to take your idea from concept to reality, and ways to secure the funds to get started.

Lastly, the AWBC judged a pitch competition hosted by Rising Tide Capital for business owners with low to moderate income. After a day-long event, including an expo from all participants and pitches from semifinalists, four final winners emerged. This wonderful event embodies so many of the core focuses of the AWBC: not only providing technical assistance to women entrepreneurs, but also helping individuals increase their household income through entrepreneurship and improve the quality of life of their families and communities.

As the AWBC returns to its regular programming focused developing the capacity of women-owned businesses, we were really pleased to partner with such great organizations. We hope that through these efforts, we created some budding entrepreneurs in the state of Arkansas.

 
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