As a major 21st century trend, small business development is the key driver of economic growth, creating new jobs and innovative products and services that lead to economic self-sufficiency and helps build stronger communities. An estimated 25 million people in the U.S., many of them women, now run their own enterprise.
Business ownership wasn’t always an option for women. It is easy to forget that prior to the passing of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974, women could not get credit on their own. In order to level the playing field, the Women’s Business Development Center, headquartered in Chicago, was launched in 1986 to provide women and minorities with the business tools they needed to succeed. Today, with our support, more than 75,000 women (and men) have started and/or expanded their businesses.
Entrepreneurs work hard to build their businesses, and the successful ones almost always have help from a network of mentors and other professionals. This network can be challenging to create for business owners. What the WBDC provides to start-up and established business owners alike is that access — to contracts, capital, contacts and information. This is done through workshops, business counseling, financing, Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification, procurement services, business matchmaking events and much more.
When a business owner asks for help, wonderful things happen. WBCD client Michelle Vondrasek, owner of Von Technologies, has enjoyed tremendous success since starting her telecommunications business 10 years ago. She credits the WBDC’s WBE certification and procurement services with helping her land large corporate and government contracts. In 2015, the company was ranked 17 out of 50 of the Fastest Growing Companies by the Women Presidents’ Organization.
Alison Chung turned her gift for numbers into TeamWerks, a “digital detective agency.” Her 22-person company examines computers, smart phones and digital hard drives in cases involving fraud, theft or corruption, answering client questions regarding historical activities performed on computers. Alison has used her WBE certification to snag contracts with prime vendors on projects for Chicago and Detroit Public Schools and the City of Chicago.
A love for children spurred Kimberlee Burt to start A Child’s Space Early Literacy and Learning Center. To fine-tune her business skills, she took WBDC workshops and got counseling on her business plan and obtaining financing. Fifteen years later, a Child’s Space has grown to 12 full-time employees who educate some 40 preschoolers. A role model for other child care providers, Kimberlee has won awards for her business success.
In return, these entrepreneurs help WBDC help other clients. Vondrasek’s company built a technology solution to resolve an internet access issue at the organization’s Chicago office. Chung has provided time and expertise as a WBDC board member. And Burt has served on many WBDC panel discussions and mentored other child care business owners.
Celebrating 30 years of helping business owners achieve their entrepreneurial dreams is a milestone WBDC celebrates with pride. We remain steadfast in our support of underserved populations at all stages of business growth and are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead as we prepare to serve the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Emilia DiMenco is president and CEO of the Women’s Business Development Center, a Chicago-based organization that provides programs and services to prospective, emerging and established women business owners. WBDC serves a nine-state Midwest region. For more information, visit wbdc.org.
WBDCelebrate, WBDC’s 30th anniversary celebration, is Nov. 15 at Wintrust Grand Banking Hall in Chicago. Awards for WBE of the Year, Innovative Business of the Year, Foundation of the Year and more will be given during this evening of networking and inspiration. Make It Better is a proud media sponsor of this event.
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