WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – NAMPA, IDAHO
WASHINTON, D.C., October 25, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in Nampa, Idaho on October 9, 2019, with U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), NWBC Chair Liz Sara, Council Members Jessica Flynn (Boise-based, Founder & CEO of Red Sky), Barbara Kniff McCulla (Owner of KLK Construction), and Bonnie Nawara (Past Chair of AWBC), and local women business owners. The discussion explored the unique challenges for rural women entrepreneurs and sought to identify untapped opportunities for growth.
The event began with NWBC Chair Liz Sara welcoming the roundtable participants and attendees. “NWBC is honored to be here at Idaho’s new Women’s Business Center. NWBC was established by the same legislation that established the Women’s Business Center program. Each year since our existence, we have advocated for the importance of this program and are pleased by its expansion to Idaho.” She continued, “This year, through the work of the Rural Subcommittee, led by Jessica Flynn, we focused on the importance of women’s business centers as a central resource for women entrepreneurs in rural communities.”
NWBC Council Member Jessica Flynn, a local of Boise, then introduced U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), who provided a brief legislative update and opened the conversation to the local business owners. The Senator noted that Idaho ranked 3rd in the nation for fastest growth of small business in 2018 and highlighted the economic impact of the female founders. He reiterated his commitment to empowering rural women entrepreneurs in the region.
Multiple participants referenced the absence of affordable childcare options in the state and suggested that this void prevents many women from launching new business ventures or entering the workforce altogether. Historically, Nampa has been known for its strong agricultural base. However, the city also has a large and diverse manufacturing and retail base and has gained strength from the technology industry.
A representative from the Small Business Administration recognized the cyclical nature of agriculture businesses and advised that the best time to get a line of credit is when you do not need it. He also highlighted SBA’s LenderMatch program, a free online referral tool that connects small businesses with participating SBA-approved lenders.
The founder & CEO of an e-commerce apparel brand revealed the toll that subpar infrastructure took on her bottom line. “I spend more upgrading my city block than my buildings cost me,” she revealed.
Broadband was also a major topic of discussion. A recent ranking of fixed-broadband download speeds listed Idaho as the fourth slowest state in the country. The same study also examined broadband speeds in America’s 100 largest cities and ranked Boise’s speed as 95th. Council Member Jessica Flynn lamented, “Broadband continues to be a major barrier to local entrepreneurial success and, even more, to scaling the economy.” She then shared the Council’s plans to examine the FCC mapping process and gather further input from women around the country on the broadband challenges that they face. Access to reliable broadband has been a recurring theme for women entrepreneurs. NWBC Council Member Barbara Kniff McCulla noted a similar situation in her home city of Pella, Iowa. She briefly discussed the ways that Kim Reynolds, Governor of Iowa, was working to address the issue.
NWBC Council Member Bonnie Nawara wrapped up the roundtable discussion by highlighting the overarching themes and reiterated the Council’s commitment to employ the feedback received as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Council appreciates the participation from diverse business owners and stakeholders in the Nampa area.