The Inside Scoop on the ND & MT Women’s Business Centers
Across the nation, over 150 Women’s Business Centers (WBC) are helping entrepreneurs start, grow, and advance their businesses every day.
These grant-funded SBA partners offer free trainings, business advising, networking, and educational opportunities, making them a valuable resource for business owners throughout the United States. We sat down with Christy Dauer (North Dakota WBC Program Director) and Shayna Blaser (Montana WBC Program Director) to get the inside scoop on what these Women’s Business Centers have to offer and how they can help small businesses across the Midwest.
Q. What is the Women’s Business Center?
Blaser: The Montana Women’s Business Center was founded in 2009 and is hosted by Prospera Business Network. Our mission is to be able to provide resources and opportunities to women in Montana, and we live that out by providing grants, loans, no-cost business advising, and trainings or continued education opportunities to entrepreneurs statewide. We are a one-stop shop for your business and business development.
Dauer: North Dakota has two WBCs that cover the eastern and western halves of the state. We are hosted by the IDEA Center in Bismarck and share their mission of advancing the entrepreneurial ecosystem statewide. In addition to business advising and trainings, we offer a 6-month Women’s Leadership Program as well as networking opportunities through our Strong Women, Strong Coffee program.
Q. What makes the Women’s Business Center unique compared to other resource partners?
Dauer: There are so many wonderful resources available to help start, grow, or advance your small business. What makes the WBC different is the fact that our primary focus is on underserved and women businesses. We can dedicate a lot of our time to helping businesses in that niche to start or get the financial backing they need to be successful.
Blaser: What sets us apart is our training and continued education opportunities. We also have a Women’s Impact Grant for women-owned businesses. The grant is to be used for anything that will enhance economic independence for women, job creation, or take the winners’ business to the next level of success.
Q. What is the most common misconception you hear about the Women’s Business Center?
Blaser: People often think that we only serve women, but we actually serve men and women alike. From men, women, rural communities, urban communities, startups, existing businesses, or anyone else across the state, we truly pride ourselves in being experts for all types of business owners. And if we cannot help you, we will connect you with someone who can.
Q. What is most rewarding about what you do at the Women’s Business Center?
Dauer: Earlier this year, I was able to connect two retail businesses with another entity they needed to take their business to the next level…in the middle of a pandemic. Being able to make those connections and fulfill a gap of services that those two businesses could not provide separately is so rewarding to see.
Q. What words of advice do you have for women entrepreneurs?
Dauer: The biggest thing I would recommend for women entrepreneurs is to do you market research. I have seen market research propel businesses forward, and I have also seen it cripple businesses after two years in business because they did not have the right tools to get it done. It is extremely important for the success of your business and something that we, at the Women’s Business Center, can walk you through.
Blaser: When you are starting your business, know what your exit strategy will be. If you lay the foundation for the long-term, it is going to be so much easier in the end. You need to set up your business correctly for the future and that is something we love to help business owners do.
Q. How can women business owners connect with you or get started?
Blaser: Pick up the phone and give us a call! We have calendar links that will help us set up an initial session and talk through everything you need. Whether it is training, advising, or networking, we will point you in the right direction.
Dauer: Reach out to us on our LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social media platforms, or get in touch with us on our website. And do not forget to check out the “Library” on our website for on-demand resources available for you 24/7. It is a valuable resource we are very proud to offer!