SBA out to assist women entrepreneurs

Matt Varilek
Matt Varilek

Women-owned small businesses are changing the face of entrepreneurship in America. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), women own more than 9.1 million businesses that generate a total of $1.4 billion in sales. These businesses collectively represent one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is fortunate to have been led in recent years by

two exceptionally accomplished businesswomen, including former SBA Administrator Karen Mills as well as our current administrator, Maria Contreras-Sweet. Under their leadership, the SBA has done more than ever to assist existing and aspiring women entrepreneurs.

But there’s more work to be done. October is National Women’s Small Business Month. At the SBA, we’re celebrating by recognizing the contributions of women-owned businesses to our economy and highlighting the ways we can help.

Federal contracts, for example, enable small businesses to diversify their revenue streams while meeting the needs of public agencies and the citizens they serve. Last year, the SBA helped to ensure that $83 billion in prime contracts went to qualified small businesses. But women-owned businesses long have been under-represented in the federal contracting marketplace.

One of the ways we’re working to address this disparity is through the SBA Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program, which was launched in 2011 to help ensure more women access federal contracting opportunities.  The program authorizes contracting officers to set aside federal contracts for eligible women-owned small businesses.  In combination with our other small business contracting resources, the program provides new opportunities for women-owned businesses to break into this market.

We expect these opportunities will continue to increase as more women entrepreneurs learn about the program and certify they’re eligible to participate. Visit  www.sba.gov/wosb for more information.

The SBA also helps businesses of all varieties with free and confidential mentoring and training, which we offer through our own staff as well such resource partners as Small Business Development Centers, including the SBDC at the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction.

In addition, the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership oversees a national network of almost 100 Women’s Business Centers with at least center one located in each state.  These centers provide entrepreneurs — especially women who are economically or socially disadvantaged — comprehensive training and counseling on a variety of topics in several languages.  Together, this range of counseling resources helps to ensure no existing or aspiring businessperson will fail for lack of access to sound guidance. For additional information, visit the Web site at www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance.wbc.

Access to affordable capital remains one of the most commonly cited obstacles mentioned by small business owners around the country. We’re helping there too, through our loan guarantees, Small Business Innovation Research grants and other related programs. In our region alone and with the help of our lending partners, SBA guaranteed 2,809 loans worth a total of $792 million to women-owned business over the last five fiscal years.

Continued growth of women-owned businesses is critical to the future of our economy and fulfilling the promise of opportunity for all.  Find out more about how the SBA can help at the Web site at  www.sba.gov/content/women-owned-businesses or by calling  (303) 844-2607.