Written by Ana Parra, Women’s Business Center Program Director
As we celebrate the beginning of Women’s History Month, the CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center is reflecting on our first year and a half of operation. Since our launch in September of 2020, we have met a community of phenomenal women. Women who may not be in the history books…yet…but who are making history by breaking barriers and creating new opportunities for themselves, and generations to come.
When we launched the CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. South Carolina had not had an SBA-funded women’s business center in years and COVID had overstayed its welcome, creating a changing landscape for business owners everywhere.
How we would get to know our community, as we switched from in-person meetings to the virtual world? Would women be interested in our services during a time when they were stretched thin by the many demands the pandemic had placed on families? If women had to juggle jobs, school closings, caretaking responsibilities, navigating their healthcare needs and business ownership, would they have the capacity to work with us?
What we did know was that women business owners had been climbing an uphill battle for decades, especially women of color. Nationally, the number of women-owned businesses has increased 31 times over the last 20 years with businesses owned by women of color increasing over 163% since 2007. In South Carolina, we rank fourth in the growing number of women-owned firms.
The numbers tell a story of women turning to business ownership in order to write their own narrative. Through our discovery sessions where business owners become WBC clients, we have met over 400 women in different stages of their business journeys. We have had over 300 entrepreneurs participate in our trainings, eagerly working to build their technical skills to better operate their business.
We have met a community of resilient women, who despite pandemic setbacks and gaps in access to capital, training opportunities and entrepreneurial connection, persist as business owners. Women who seek out resources. Women who build up their skill sets. Women who create. And women who bring others along when they find opportunities.
It has been an inspiring year-and-a-half for the CommunityWorks WBC, and we celebrate all the women pursuing their dream of business ownership. They are making history, this month and every month.