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.
Last week, in recognition of National Women’s History Month, the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) hosted a Small Business Roundtable in Pella, Iowa with Senator Joni Ernst, NWBC Chair Liz Sara, Council member Barbara Kniff-McCulla, Owner of KLK Construction, and over fifteen local women business owners.
The roundtable began with NWBC Chair Sara welcoming Senator Ernst and the fifteen women business owners, representing various business sectors from construction and manufacturing to an online floral business and a brewery owner. NWBC was honored to have Senator Ernst join the conversation, where she discussed her work on the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship and outlined her legislative priorities including increasing sole source contracting opportunities and paid family leave. Senator Ernst also touched on workforce training efforts and opportunity zones.
The highlight of the afternoon was a fireside chat between Senator Ernst and Council member Kniff-McCulla. They discussed topics ranging from broadband access to digital commerce and infrastructure. Kniff-McCulla remarked on the importance of the roundtable “for our rural community of Pella, to have a variety of women’s business owners sitting around the table, being able to tell their stories, and we appreciated Senator Ernst being a part of this.”
The discussion developed into introductions of the various small business owners and representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, the National Association of Women Business Owners (a representative of which also serves on the Council), Women’s Business Centers, and Small Business Development Centers. It was an incredible collection of women, all with unique stories of their own. The roundtable conversation also explored topics such as access to capital and markets, crowdfunding, technology, and infrastructure.
With an estimated 12.3 million women-owned firms, 89,000 of which are located in Iowa, NWBC recognizes the unique contributions that women-owned businesses make to the economy and remains committed to continuing to advocate for a platform to expand and improve opportunities for women business owners and their enterprises. This Women’s History Month, NWBC was intent on highlighting and exploring the successes and opportunities that rural women entrepreneurs.
NWBC will be releasing a research report on rural women’s entrepreneurship in May of 2019. Preliminarily, the report finds that despite the declining rate of entrepreneurship in rural areas, there remains great opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship. The Council looks forward to highlighting and sharing those successes, and making accompanying policy recommendations to the President, the Congress, and the SBA.
The National Women’s Business Council has released the ‘Profile of Millennial Women: The Future of Entrepreneurship in America’ identifying the characteristics of millennial women entrepreneurs and crafted a set of policy recommendations to foster business growth among this demographic.