The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) is a non-partisan federal advisory council established to serve as an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the President, Congress, and the Small Business Administration. As advocates for the nation’s estimated 12.3 million women-owned businesses, NWBC is launching a series of roundtables across the country to convene women business owners and better understand the unique challenges they face and identify opportunities for growth. To better engage with the local business community, NWBC will travel to states in which NWBC Council members live and grow their business. The focus of the roundtables will be the Council’s three issue priorities:
March 21, 2019 ∙ Pella, IA: NWBC launched its Women in Small Business Roundtable Series in Pella, IA during Women’s History Month. This roundtable highlighted and explored the successes and hardships of the over 15 local women business owners who attended, representing various business sectors from construction and manufacturing to online floristry and microbrewing.
June 25, 2019 ∙ Baltimore, MD: In coordination with The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s Conference, this roundtable will provide an opportunity to explore the rising attraction of women entrepreneurs to STEM fields. With three Council members located in the area, this roundtable is sure to provide robust conversation and feedback surrounding the opportunities and challenges that remain for women in STEM careers.
July 25, 2019 ∙ Austin, TX: The State of Texas is quickly becoming a destination for innovation and entrepreneurship. Austin has been labeled one of the best cities in the nation for job seekers and the best city in Texas to start a business.
August 6, 2019 ∙ St. Petersburg, FL: With two Council members located on opposite coasts of central Florida, St. Petersburg provides a unique opportunity to engage with the vibrant Florida ecosystem about tools available for women entrepreneurs, with a focus on access to funding sources.
September 17, 2019 ∙ Los Angeles, CA: With a concentrated and large network of startups and technology companies located in nearby Silicon Valley, this roundtable will explore the tools and resources available to close the gender-based funding gap.
October 9, 2019 ∙ Boise, ID: With the recently released ‘Rural Women Entrepreneurs: Challenges and Opportunities’ Report, the Council is eager to engage with women business owners in more rural regions to develop sound policy and better tailored economic empowerment initiatives.
For more information or to participate in a roundtable, please contact Ashley Judah, Legislative Aide, at Ashley.Judah@SBA.gov.
St. Petersburg, FL
WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – SR. PETERSBURG, FL
WASHINTON, D.C., August 13, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in St. Petersburg, FL on August 6, 2019, to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship in S.T.E.M. Florida is ranked number one in the country for the fastest growth rate of women-owned businesses according to the 2018 AMEX State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
The event began with NWBC Chair Liz Sara welcoming the roundtable participants and attendees, including founders in various business sectors in S.T.E.M., from technology to manufacturing to health. Chair Sara highlighted the Council’s efforts to convene women business owners on topics related to the Council’s three issue areas: Women in S.T.E.M., Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship, and Access to Capital.
The highlight of the Roundtable was a fireside chat with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and NWBC Council Member Marygrace Sexton, Founder & CEO of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juices. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Senator Rubio discussed current legislation pertaining to women’s business enterprise such as the Women & Minority Equity Investment Act, which allows women-owned firms to accept venture capital and equity investments that would constitute more than 50 percent of the ownership of a firm and still maintain ownership and control of the business for purposes of WOSB or 8(a) contracting program certifications, so long as the venture capital or equity firm is also woman-owned. The Senator also highlighted his Supporting Veterans in S.T.E.M. Careers Act, noting, “We have a wealth of talent leaving the service, and they are equipped with unique skills. It is particularly important for our women in uniform to utilize their skills for S.T.E.M. careers or to start their own businesses.”
NWBC Council Member Monica Stynchula, Founder & CEO of REUNIONCare, Inc. and a local of St. Petersburg, then moderated a lively discussion among women business owners in S.T.E.M. fields. The importance of early S.T.E.M. education and business mentorship were prominent themes around the table. A business consultant advised, “Surround yourself with a circle of influence and recognize that you could be in someone else’s circle too.”
An owner of an engineering and manufacturing company recounted her experience as the only woman in her college science program and recalled how the professor could not remember her name and would return her papers last. She noted the importance of teaching entrepreneurial skills at an early age and engaging young women in S.T.E.M. fields. A representative from a local college highlighted that the majority of the school’s natural science majors were women, but they consistently identified as scientists and not necessarily entrepreneurs. Several participants echoed these sentiments by acknowledging the need for business education to be interwoven throughout basic education courses. Others stressed that while S.T.E.M. education was important, S.T.E.M. degrees were not as essential to a start-up’s success as the ability of the founder to learn and adapt to ever-changing technologies.
NWBC Chair Sara 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 St. Petersburg area.
WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – AUSTIN, TX
WASHINTON, D.C., July 30, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in Austin, Texas, on July 25, 2019, to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship by delving into the topic of access to capital, with a specific focus on issues related to credit access and venture capital. Austin has become the start-up and entrepreneurship capital of Texas and is the second-best city in the country in terms of economic clout for women in business according to the 2018 AMEX State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
The event began with NWBC Chair Liz Sara welcoming the roundtable participants and attendees, including investors, lenders, and various business sectors from technology to aerospace to health. NWBC Council Member Rebecca Contreras, a local of Austin, then prompted the women entrepreneurs to share their experiences seeking funding to start and grow their businesses. Contreras noted that “women only receive 4.4% of small business commercial loans, despite the fact that women pay back their micro loans at a 97% rate of return” and asked the lenders in the room to shed light on this phenomenon. All the participants recognized the difficulties of raising traditional forms of capital. Some recounted being questioned by lenders differently than their male counterparts. One participant shared that while “men can get an investment on an idea, women need to go in with their product already built and show some sales first.”
The importance of mentorship and a support network, often found in other women’s business organizations, was prominent themes around the table. A high-growth business owner and advocate for female entrepreneurs recommended that other female founders assemble their own industry specific advisory committee to assist them in connecting with other founders in their industry. “Don’t be afraid to inconvenience people,” she said. Another business owner, who was initially turned away by a traditional lender, found support from her local chamber of commerce. After building a network within her chamber community, she was able to return to that same lender and acquire capital. She is now nationally recognized for her cupcakes.
NWBC Council Member Vanessa Dawson, CEO of the Vinetta Project, a capital platform that sources, funds, and supports promising female founders, shifted the discussion toward angel investing and venture capital. She noted the Pitchbook statistic that female founders received only 2.2% or $2.88 billion of the total $130 billion in VC funding in 2018.
She asked the roundtable participants to share some of their successes pitching their business ideas as well as some of their pitfalls. One woman founder shared that despite having orders from a high-end retail company, she was initially unsuccessful in acquiring venture capital.
NWBC Chair Sara wrapped up the roundtable discussion 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 Austin area.
For more information about upcoming events, please visit the NWBC website.
NWBC WELCOMES TWO NEW MEMBERS
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2, 2019 — The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) announces two new Council members.
“I’m pleased to welcome Rebecca Hamilton, CEO of Badger, and Sandra Robert, CEO of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS),” said Liz Sara, NWBC Chair. “As a full Council, we are ready to tackle action-based results while bringing the voices of women-owned businesses to the White House, Congress, and the Small Business Administration.”
Rebecca Hamilton is a second generation owner and co-CEO (Collaborative Executive Officer) at Badger, a natural and organic personal care products manufacturer known for its unique company philosophy, pioneering family-friendly benefits, and community engagement.
Sandra Robert is the CEO of AWIS, a national professional association that champions the interests of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) across all disciplines and employment sectors.
With the addition of these trailblazers, NWBC will continue to focus its advocacy efforts on Women in STEM, Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship, and Access to Capital and Opportunity. NWBC remains committed to advocating for women in business and expanding opportunities for women business owners and their enterprises.
WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – BALTIMORE, MD
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 28, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 25, 2019, to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M).
The Baltimore roundtable convened local women business owners in S.T.E.M. to share their perspective on the educational pipeline and barriers to accessing capital. The conversation also included educators, investors, organizational representatives, and government officials.
NWBC Council Member Shelonda Stokes welcomed attendees and set the stage for the discussion noting, “As advocates for the nation’s estimated 12.3 million women-owned businesses, NWBC strives to encourage women to start and grow their businesses in S.T.E.M., an industry with proven high-growth potential.”
NWBC Chair Liz Sara prompted the local women entrepreneurs to share the trials and tribulations of starting and growing their businesses All participants recognized the difficulties of establishing credibility as the subject matter expert in a room full of men. One participant transformed a regional software engineering firm into a global software company and noted that access to equity capital was her toughest charge along the way.
The need for mentorship was a prominent theme around the table. Some found counsel within their client base, while others forged connections with personal role models in their industry. Representatives from a local state university noted that tech entrepreneurs had trouble finding properly tailored advice, so the university is hoping to utilize alumni in specialized fields for better guidance. A non-profit organization focused on computer science education stressed a need for relevant curriculums that cater to the interests of young girls and expressed that early, consistent exposure is key when attracting females to these underrepresented fields.
Council Member Monica Stynchula wrapped up the roundtable discussion 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 from the Baltimore area.
The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held its second public meeting of Fiscal Year 2019 on May 17, 2019. This meeting was hosted by Council member, Dr. Marsha Firestone, at the Women Presidents’ Organization Headquarters in New York, NY.
Nina Roque, NWBC Executive Director, officially welcomed the newly-installed Council members and the public to the meeting. Roque also outlined her role as the Designated Federal Officer of the Council and encouraged the public to provide comments and feedback on the Council’s work.
NWBC Chair Liz Sara then provided an update on the Council’s Fiscal Year 2019 events and engagement, including a recap of the Council’s October 25th public meeting in celebration of its 30th Anniversary. Chair Sara also outlined the Council’s three priorities for the year: Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship, Women in S.T.E.M., and Access to Capital & Opportunity. “Let’s face it: women entrepreneurs confront numerous challenges in starting and growing companies,” said Chair Liz Sara. “By concentrating our focus, energy and talent to only three areas, we have a greater chance at accomplishing needed change and making a noticeable difference. As an entrepreneur all my career, I’m interested in getting things done so we can see results that matter,” she added. She then officially announced the Council’s ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series’, which will convene women business owners from across the country and serve as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations.
Chair Sara then introduced the three subcommittee Chairs — Marygrace Sexton (Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship), Shelonda Stokes (Women in S.T.E.M), and Rebecca Contreras (Access to Capital & Opportunity) — and invited each Chair to provide an update on their subcommittee’s identified focus areas and upcoming initiatives. Council member Jessica Flynn presented on behalf of Ms. Sexton.
Access to capital continues to be one of the biggest barriers for women entrepreneurs. Women-led firms struggle to obtain mainstream forms of funding and compete for federal contracts. NWBC looks forward to tackling the potential benefits of alternative financing solutions, such as crowdfunding, and better tailored training for the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) federal procurement program. Last Tuesday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced formal rulemaking to implement their statutory requirement to certify WOSB and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business Concerns (EDWOSB) participating in the WOSB program. NWBC plans to study and review SBA’s rule from now until July 8, 2019, when we will be taking the issue up to a full Council vote. We are requesting that the public provide feedback to NWBC by this date, so the Council can consider those comments when reaching a consensus on NWBC’s official recommendation to SBA.
The Council will also be engaging S.T.E.M stakeholders in discussions about the state of female participation in their fields of study. NWBC is committed to increasing opportunities and resources for women-owned and women-led businesses. This new Council is particularly interested in encouraging women-led businesses with high-growth aspirations and potential. Through the ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the Council looks forward to focusing on S.T.E.M Entrepreneurship and the impact that women have in these fields. NWBC will be hosting a S.T.E.M. Entrepreneurship Roundtable in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s Annual Conference on June 25, 2019. With three Council members located in the area, this roundtable is sure to provide vibrant conversation and feedback surrounding the opportunities and challenges that women face in S.T.E.M.
The Council also hopes to gain further insight on the unique challenges faced by rural women entrepreneurs and identify untapped opportunities for growth. The Council’s ‘Rural Women Entrepreneurs: Challenges and Opportunities’ Report lays the foundation for sound policy and better tailored economic empowerment initiatives in these regions. The Council intends to update and modernize their ‘Grow Her Business’ resources page housed on the NWBC website to reflect new tools available for women entrepreneurs with a specific focus on those in rural regions. A key partner of the Council’s in increasing awareness of available resources is the Women’s Business Center network.
NWBC appreciates all who participated and made this meeting possible. Thank you to everyone on the call and in person, who was able to join in on the conversation. We look forward to reviewing your comments and continuing our advocacy on behalf of the estimated 12 million women-owned businesses in this country.
To provide any additional comments or feedback, or to participate in NWBC’s ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ please email Ashley Judah at Ashley.Judah@Sba.gov.