As one of seven new women’s business centers across the country opened its doors for the first time in Greenville, national and local business leaders gathered on Sept. 4 onsite to celebrate the state’s female entrepreneurs.
The center, housed in CommunityWorks, will assist business owners with consulting and coaching services, seminars and networking opportunities, especially the unique additional hurdles women entrepreneurs face, according to Ana Parra, the center’s director.
“This was definitely something that we applied for before the pandemic happened — we had a lot of things in mind — but of course the pandemic has … exacerbated some of the challenges and barriers women business owners face,” Parra said. Consultant services will be tailored to meet the needs of both first-time startups and legacy businesses seeking to expand or stay afloat, especially during a time of financial hardship.
“Women, in particular, already face those challenges in accessing capital,” she said. “This, even more so if they’ve had a hard time connecting with the right people. We’re hoping to make those connections happen for women business owners.”
Speakers included Jovita Carranza, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and former U.S. treasurer, Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, Greenville City Councilor Lillian Brock Flemming and CommunityWorks CEO Tammie Hoy-Hawkins.
“This is an exciting day, a much-needed bright spot as we emerge from several extraordinary, challenging months,” Carranza said. “The opening of the center is the result of so many here that are dedicated to serving the Greenville community,”
Both Carrenza and Evette emphasized the work that has already been undertaken to help all small businesses, such as through the Paycheck Protection Program, but especially for women-led businesses.
South Carolina is fourth in the nation for the female-owned enterprises, according to Evette.
As of August, more than 60,000 small businesses in South Carolina received more than $5.7 billion in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, Evette said. The funds helped support an estimated 700,000 jobs in the state during the pandemic through the work of small business lenders like CommunityWorks.
“Small businesses make up the majority of businesses in America,” echoed Flemming. “We don’t have a bunch of Fortune 500 companies in America. No, it is the small businesses that keep us going and keep us alive.”
During the celebration, CommunityWorks was recognized as a Small Business Administration Microlender of the Year. The ribbon cutting follows the opening of the state’s first SBA-supported women’s business center at Benedict College last week.