Jan 26, 2018

Working for Yourself: From Dream to Reality

The AARP Foundation recently launched a special initiative designed to help people over 50 who want to improve their financial status through self-employment. As part of this effort, AWBC has launched a series of four Work For Yourself @50+ workshops in Arkansas for anyone 50 years or older who is considering self-employment. The free, 90-minute workshops help older adults assess opportunities for self-employment, build skills and connect with resources that will enable them to generate income by working for themselves. With help from this initiative, people in this age group can better identify their marketable traits, talents and skills. The workshops also offer financial guidance – regardless of participants’ specific financial situation.

On January 23, Little Rock's THV11 took special interest in the project by inviting Warwick Sabin, Winrock International’s Senior Director of U.S. Programs, to share more information in an interview.

“As the economy continues to evolve, everybody is looking for opportunities for self-employment, but this particular initiative was designed by AARP Foundation to really provide resources, tools, and education to help people over 50 be able to start their own businesses and work for themselves,” Sabin said. “Through the workshop we are going to provide education but also AWBC will let people know those resources they can tap into even after that workshop so that they can have that one-on-one mentoring and consulting to help them through the process of starting a business.”

Sabin also discussed common questions budding entrepreneurs may have. “The common question really begins with ‘Can I be an entrepreneur? Can I start a business?’” he said. “I think that a lot of people have really good ideas but they don’t necessarily think of themselves as business owners. Maybe they have had a career in a particular industry and worked for decades, but they don’t know those simple steps, like how to create a business plan or access financing and all of things that go along with just getting a business started. Once we open up the opportunity for people to learn and maybe build some confidence, it is amazing how quickly people can get a business started.”

AWBC has hosted two workshops in Little Rock and one in El Dorado, training 27 people so far. The fourth workshop will take place February 5th in Little Rock. Participants are encouraged to take advantage of free one-on-one business counseling through local resources (such as the AWBC) that will guide them through the necessary steps for starting and running a successful business.  


Dec 5, 2017

Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Report - December

In many African cultures, there is very limited communication between male extension agents and female farmers. Consequently, only five percent of rural women receive agriculture extension services.

The Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Program aims to increase the pool of female extension agents by providing modest financial support during their mid-career degree academic program. During the program’s first three years, the number of scholars has grown to 60. Furthermore, the number of participating countries has increased from four to five, as the Distant Learning Program of the Extension Department at the University of Abomey-Calavi (UAC) in the Republic of Benin has been included in the program. Winrock is currently evaluating more than 40 applicants from its five target countries: Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania and Benin.

During a recent meeting, the board of the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), the key partner in the implementation of the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Program,  recommended that the program expand to all nine countries and 23 universities and colleges where the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE)’s mid-career extension degree program is active. Winrock wholeheartedly supports this strategy. However, the implementation of this strategy depends on our funding base, including your contributions. Please donate and help us reaching women farmers in Africa, thereby securing sufficient and healthy food in the whole continent. 

Oct 30, 2017

Enhancing Opportunities for Women-Owned Businesses

AWBC at Delta Grassroots Caucus
AWBC at Delta Grassroots Caucus

In late October, Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) Director participated in the Delta Grassroots Caucus at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Delta Caucus advocates for economic progress and equality across the eight-state Delta region. Director Liz Young served on the panel for women and minority issues regarding community and economic development, along with leaders of other organizations across the nation.

Young shared AWBC’s mission of helping women-owned small businesses start, grow and compete in markets by providing quality training, counseling, and access to capital and other resources. Young also highlighted big changes for women-owned business certification in Arkansas. The AWBC has assisted a growing number of clients in recent years seeking their women-owned business certification (WOBC) as more state and local agencies prioritize business with women- and minority-owned businesses. Until 2017, the only certification process for women-owned businesses was on the federal level. While this federal certification is great for those businesses seeking business with the federal government, those needing it for state and local businesses were going through a time-consuming and sometimes costly process to certify. While women can also self-certify for free, this process involves a large amount of paperwork and can take several months to complete. Their other option is to pay a third-party certifier to complete paperwork requirements and submit for the business. This third-party certification costs more, but is less work for the business owner and a quicker process. To be eligible for WOBC, a business must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more women who are U.S. citizens, whose business formation and place of business are in the U.S., and whose management and daily operation are controlled by a woman with industry experience. 

In 2017, Arkansas legislators passed a bill that allows women to be considered a minority in the state of Arkansas. This is huge for the WOBC on a state level! Now, women are under the new Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Certification. This certification will increase opportunities with the state of Arkansas for those who participate. It is free and a fairly quick process, taking 30 to 45 days to complete after an application is submitted.

“According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners in 2012, the total number of women-owned businesses in Arkansas is 75,952 (with or without paid employees), or 32.7 percent of all firms with or without paid employees,” Young explained. “The percentage with paid employees is 16.8 percent. This averages a little higher than the most recent 2015 statistics for the United States of 31 percent women-owned firms, which generate $1.5 trillion in sales.”

Young also shared about other programs and trainings AWBC delivers across the state, including new programs working with youth entrepreneurs.

“The AWBC is continually looking to serve as many possible women and minorities across the state, continually looking for new opportunities to deliver services, particular in rural and underserved areas of the state,” Young said. “By connecting with champions within small towns across the state, partnering with community colleges across the state, and cross-collaboration on other Winrock International programs within the state, AWBC is able to expand our reach and serve those in need of our services.”

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