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Public Meetings

Public Meeting – February 8, 2023

Public Meeting Recap

Date: February 8, 2023

Scheduled Time:  10:00 AM – 12:00 PM EDT

Where: SBA Headquarters and ZOOM

Welcome & Opening Remarks

  • NWBC Executive Director/Designated Federal Officer (DFO) Tené Dolphin called the meeting to order at 10:10 a.m. EDT.
  • NWBC Executive Director/Designated Federal Officer (DFO) Tené Dolphin welcomed Council Members, guests, and the public to the meeting and delivered opening remarks.
    • In recognition of Black History Month, NWBC this year celebrates and honors the over 2.7 million Black women business owners that serve as a beacon of hope and a means to financial freedom for their families. The Council has invited Samantha Abrams, CEO of Walker’s Legacy, a premier ecosystem and digital platform for entrepreneurial women of color, to share her perspective on commemorating the occasion.
    • Executive Director Dolphin acknowledged U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) leaders in the room including:
      • Mark Madrid, Associate Administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development
      • Aditi Dussault, Senior Advisor to the SBA Administrator
      • Donald Smith, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO)
      • Jennifer Shieh, Director of Ecosystem Development, Office of Investment and Innovation (OII)
    • Executive Director/DFO Dolphin noted last year’s Inaugural Women’ Business Summit and shared that OWBO and NWBC would be collaborating in providing planning and support for SBA’s Second Annual SBA Women’s Business Summit. This summit is especially significant as it coincides with the 35th Anniversary of the passage of H.R. 5050 and establishment of the OWBO as well as NWBC—a federal advisory committee that advise the President and the Executive Branch on a myriad of issues as private citizens.
    • This Federal Advisory Council is a nonpartisan Council housed within SBA and provides advice and counsel to the President, Congress and SBA Administrator on issues of importance to women business owners and entrepreneurs. She explained that the work of the Council is less about direct or the technical support that SBA typically provides, but more about learning of issues and the ways the Council can help improve policy and programs or propose the creation of new policies and programs that would better support women business owners.
    • Executive Director Dolphin then outlined the structure of the Council, also noting this meeting is public:
      • It was appropriately noticed on the Federal Register.
      • All meeting materials and public comments received prior to this meeting and during the meeting, will be made available for public inspection as well as prepared minutes recapping the discussion which will be made available to the public within 90 calendar days
      • In addition to receiving critical updates from SBA leadership and officials, Executive Director Dolphin commented that the purpose of today’s meeting is to aid Council Members in identifying emerging issues, effective program models, proposed legislation and viable policy solutions of consequence and impact to the state of women’s business ownership.
  • Roll call was then taken. The following Council Members were in attendance:
    • Brandy Butler
    • Karen Clark Cole
    • Shakenna Williams
    • Maria Rios
    • Selena Rodgers Dickerson
    • Roberta McCullough
    • Jenny Poon
    • Pamela Prince-Eason (virtual)
    • Kathy Cochran
    • Leslie Lynn Smith
  • Executive Director Dolphin then introduced the guest and keynote speakers for the meeting:
    • Mark Madrid, Associate Administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development
    • Aditi Dussault, Senior Advisor to the Office of the SBA Administrator
    • Samantha Abrams, CEO and Managing Director of Walker’s Legacy

Remarks from Mark Madrid

  • Mark Madrid, Associate Administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development, shared remarks making the following key points:
    • The bottom line is that the greatest influences in his life have been women.
    • He thanked the NWBC Team and shared his excitement to attend NWBC’s first in-person meeting since the pandemic and to have the opportunity to hear from his colleague, SBA Senior Advisor Aditi Dussault. He thanked Senior Advisor Dussualt for her service, before recognizing other SBA leaders in the room including Donald Smith and Preston Hardge.
    • He noted how difficult the pandemic was on everyone and what an honor it is for him to serve small business owners. During the pandemic, prior to serving at SBA, he worked on the ground to support the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and economic industry disaster loan (EIDL) programs on behalf of a cluster of about 1,000 local small businesses.
    • He shared how he grew up in a family-owned business, how his parents met in the cotton fields, and why he takes pride in seeing the work of his family’s welding company across cities in the Texas panhandle.
    • Having lost his father and nearly lost his mother to COVID-19 and supported small business on the ground during this troubling time, he knows that the pandemic has been difficult.
    • He also shared his own personal story of how he had to auction all his father’s business and person belongings after his passing and acknowledging the loss felt by so many small businesses, and wishing we could all be in a different place.
    • In spite of that, he is inspired by the Administrator’s commitment to breaking down barriers, providing customer-first and technology-forward support, advancing equity, closing resource gaps in access to capital, and seeing more businesses graduate from microloans to 7(a)/504 programs all the way to getting certified and accessing federal procurement and contracting opportunities.
    • Though he wishes his father had the chance for this same level of growth and even gotten franchised, he then noted that like many women, he is not built of inherited wealth and that is why he is humbled and honored by the leadership that women business owners across the country, SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman and so many SBA officials have shown.
    • He also feels fortunate to engage with this Council, sharing his experience meeting Council Member Maria Rios in Houston, Texas who has triumphed in a male dominated industry because of her courage.
    • When Maria first applied for lending, the banker assumed it was a “Mario Rios” who was applying for support rather than Maria. Associate Administrator Madrid shared how Maria then built her fleet from two dump trucks to over fifty trucks. He went on to share how he is remains inspired by her resilience and that of other women in business.
    • Recognizing Black History Month, he also raised up that another woman in business who inspires him is Stephanie Johnson, a black woman small business owner who was highlighted during SBA’s recent cybersecurity summit.
    • The Administrator is proud to elevate stories like Stephanie’s throughout Black History Month.
    • Associate Administrator Madrid noted that at the end of the day, SBA’s Office of Entrepreneurial Development continues to work with the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) and the NWBC to advance women’s entrepreneurship.
    • He believes that women business owners deserve to be celebrated 365 days a year, not just in March. He then thanked the Council for the opportunity to speak after reasserting his and SBA Administrator’s Isabella Casillas Guzman’s commitment to advancing women small business owners.
  • After thanking Associate Administrator Mark Madrid, Executive Director Dolphin then transitioned to introduce Senior Advisor to the Office of the Administrator, Aditi Dussault who recently returned to the SBA after working in the private sector for five years as an entrepreneur and consultant to federal contractors. She previously served in various roles under the Obama Administration including the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development (GCBD) as well.

Remarks from Aditi Dussault

  • Aditi Dussault, Senior Advisor to the SBA Administrator, noted the importance of these conversations and shared several key insights which include the following:
    • She began by noting the importance of this Public Meeting as SBA works to move back to business as usual, or even to something better—like business as innovative or business as inspirational. She also underscored Executive Director Dolphin’s and Associate Administrator Madrid’s excitement to be getting back to normal and holding this Public Meeting in person.
    • Senior Advisor Dussault noted her intention to discuss the accomplishments of the Biden-Harris Administration and the SBA, and to share the agency’s vision for our community of women entrepreneurs and business owners.
    • She referenced the State of the Union from the night prior and emphasized that the Biden-Harris Administration has been working hard to help America “build back better”, evidenced by the record numbers (10.2 million) of small business startups, growth in manufacturing (800,000), and how the Administration has been able to address economic problems stemming from the pandemic and natural disasters, as well as other issues the country has faced.  
    • Senior Advisor Dussault underscored that we are on the right track and will continue to build and create an economy and America that is inclusive and works for everyone. 
    • She emphasized SBA Administrator Casillas Guzman’s commitment to supporting inclusivity and innovation for small businesses—she is thinking about it every moment of every day. Additionally, the Administrator recognized women entrepreneurs as powerful, growing, innovative and making an impact in every single sector. Women belong everywhere, from the boardroom, public meetings, the government, and public service.
    • She went on to underscore once again the SBA Administrator’s commitment to inclusion, recognizing she was appointed herself, not because of her race, appearance, or identity, but because of her expertise. So, there is a place for each and every person whether it be in this agency, in the current Administration, and in America.
    • Senior Advisor Dussault then transitioned to addressing women entrepreneurs’ need to access capital. Women have faced historical barriers when it comes to accessing capital. That is why the Administrator is working closely with the agency Office of Capital Access to address these barriers.
    • For example, the agency has expanded the Community Advantage program and lifted the moratorium on adding new lenders, so that more small dollar loans can go to women-owned small businesses. This expansion would help fill that gap in accessing capital. She reiterated that there is no reason why women should have to go to their own pocketbooks, their savings, their friends, and families to get the funding they need.
    • Another example given to ensure greater equity is via proposing rules to expand and diversify the lending pool through small business investment companies (SBICs)to support historically underrepresented communities in financing.
    • One of the important ways SBA directly connects with women business owners is through the Women’s Business Center (WBC) program.
    • There are currently 145 WBCs, one in every state. There are many new communities that the SBA is now able to serve through the expansion of the program.
      • With respect to WBCs, it was also mentioned that SBA is now looking to expand the way they are funded. Last year WBCs served 85,000 business owners, helped launch over 3,000 new businesses, and facilitated over 8,000 capital infusion transactions. Therefore, increasing size of the grant available to these certain WBCs could lead to exponential growth outcomes.
      • WBCs have also been opening specifically at minority-serving institutions (MSIs), providing a critical resource to historically underserved communities.
    • Shifting to the issue of federal contracting, in fiscal year 2021, women owned small businesses (WOSBs) received 4.63% of prime contracting awards, significantly less than the federal goal of 5 percent. This goal has only been met twice since the establishment of the WOSB federal contracting program.
      • Senior Advisor Dussault opined that there should be consideration given to setting a higher goal (as was similarly proposed by the Council in NWBC’s 2022 Annual Report).
      • Regardless, SBA is working in tandem with agencies to help support access to more contracting opportunities for WOSBs.
      • SBA supported this effort last year by expanding the number of WOSB-eligible industries by nearly double.
      • Senior Advisor Dussault also emphasized SBA is committed to continuing to improve the technology, streamline the process, and find ways to ensure greater numbers of women business owners can access the program and, not only to get certified, but also get the opportunity to win a contract.
    • Senior Advisor Dussault welcomed the meeting participants and attendees to share barriers they may be facing. She underscored that there is no barrier she will not attempt to break through, nor a regulation that she will not dig into.
    • She also emphasized that the Administrator takes the advice of her staff and organizations like NWBC seriously, and this input is how she will continue to inform her vision for improving the American economy.

Keynote from Samantha Abrams

  • Samantha Abrams, CEO/Managing Director of Walker’s Legacy, delivered remarks and shared various insights, including:
    • She noted the importance of honoring Black History Month and inspire women entrepreneurs to bet on themselves.From her perspective, entrepreneurs create employment opportunities for themselves and others as well.She shared her family’s entrepreneurial journey and how the experiences of her grandmother and mother inspire her work each and every day.She also shared that listening to the stories from women business owners is important because we get to learn more about who they are, why they started these businesses, and what inspired them to bootstrap.In her eyes, we need to disrupt this bootstrapping and “give black and brown women the opportunity” to really bolster their work.She mentioned that has the honor and privilege of leading Walker’s Legacy, a springboard for black and brown women in business and the ecosystems that their growth fuels.Their goal is to cultivate a business ecosystem that is sustainable. It is known that when black and brown women start businesses, they do so with an inherent understanding that it is done for their communities and as generational legacy builders. These business owners do this work in systems that were not designed to support them.She elevated the fact that Walker’s Legacy will not do this work alone, there is an urgent interdependent collaboration required to drive this work forward. Through the organization’s partnerships, they work to deconstruct silos to provide entrepreneurs with culturally competent tools, resources, and capital stacks.Ms. Abrams mentioned that when we think of capital, we think of financial capital and technical training and support. But we also need to understand the social capital piece is equally important, and work to prevent gatekeeping.To date, Walker’s Legacy “has connected more than 1,000 black and brown women to more than $60 million in funding and more than $250 million in grants and contracts.” While Ms. Abrams expressed this is good, it is still not good enough, suggesting more must be done.She noted that social impact and profit should and will run in alignment as long as we keep supporting women of color in business, and also noted that Walker’s Legacy has the privilege of hosting a Minority Business Development Agency Center in Birmingham, AL.Throughout Black History Month, through her travels in Birmingham, AL, and in every aspect of her work, she has been reminded of black entrepreneurs and leaders who paved the way for change, including:
      • A.G. GastonMary Ellen PleasantBiddy MasonA’Lelia BundlesMadame C.J. Walker
      Through her work, Ms. Abrams has also been reminded that the Civil Rights Movement continues today. Now the movement has shifted to an economic civil rights movement, which we cannot forget.She emphasized again the importance investing in women of color who have been underfunded for decades. “It’s time we move on. We have the resources and intelligence.”Though historically, women of color have not been able to borrow money as often, the pandemic made apparent just how wide the economic gap remained, particularly for these women.She shared that women are special. “We give birth. Whether you give physical birth or birth ideas that spur innovation and creativity, we bring life into this world that gives life and fuels life.” She went on to opine that when women own businesses, this is a lever of change for generational wealth and entrepreneurship. When black and brown-owned businesses do well, our communities, families, and standing in the global economy are bolstered.She also shared that Walker’s Legacy is focused on ecosystem and coalition building by creating strategic partnerships like the Capital Ready Coalition, which was launched last year. This coalition was created through a partnership with 16 other national organizations who represent millions of black and brown women.Ms. Abrams also noted that economists have predicted that it will take black people 228 years to catch up to black wealth, but that measure should note be accepted.
    • As she closed, she asked how every person there could be a portal for access, serve as a conduit for change, speak up, and remain unapologetically bold in supporting black and brown women businesses.
    • She closed her remarks by emphasizing the importance of celebrating both Black History Month and this Council’s 35th Anniversary, noting her personal enthusiasm to see what “we as a collective will be able to deliver for American women.”

2022: A Year in Review with Council Member Selena Rodgers Dickerson

  • Council Member Selena Rodgers Dickerson shared an overview of the Council’s activities over the previous year through the framework of NWBC’s 2022 Annual Report. She then highlighted two recommendations from each of the Council’s policy subcommittees which may be found in the report. These recommendations included:
    • Access to Capital and Opportunity Policy Recommendations:
      • Recommendation #1: The Council encourages Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to continue improving accessibility to all SBA lending programs by closely examining the needs and lived experiences of startup and scale-up women-owned small businesses, also ensuring there are no training prerequisites for any future loan program or financing opportunities. SBA should also continue its work reassessing lending criteria, product affordability, and innovative repayment flexibilities for current SBA loan programs.
      • Recommendation #2: NWBC urges Congress to work with SBA, other federal agencies, and the National Economic Council (NEC) to identify a higher and more appropriate WOSB/EDWOSB procurement goal above the current five percent goal, for example, to seven percent or higher.
    • Women in STEM Recommendations:
      • Recommendation #1: SBA should incentivize Women’s Business Center (WBC) grantees to partner with local universities and tech transfer offices to provide mentorship, idea-sharing on best practices, and opportunities for real-world work experience and application of insights.
      • Recommendation #2: Congress should expand the definition of “accelerator” to include the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries in proposed legislation, for example in the Startup Opportunity Accelerator (SOAR) Act. Such proposed legislation should also prioritize women entrepreneurs.
    • Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship Recommendations:
      • Recommendation #1: The White House should identify the most appropriate federal agencies to further enhance outreach and education to small businesses on national PFML solutions. Additionally, the Council respectfully encourages Congress to hold new hearings to explore how a national PFML solution could potentially make U.S. small businesses more competitive at home and abroad.
      • Recommendation #2: The White House should develop a plan of action which would further empower SBA to improve and expand entrepreneurial development resources and affordable financing for the hardest hit childcare and care economy businesses, particularly in rural, rural/tribal, and other underserved communities.

2023: A Year in Preview with Executive Director Tené Dolphin

  • Executive Director Tené Dolphin remarked upon the priorities shared by President Biden during his State of the Union the previous evening. She contextualized the key takeaways as they aligned with NWBC’s vision for the years ahead: creating the next H.R. 5050.
  • She connected the President’s comments to how the Council might ensure women are part of rebuilding the supply chain in America and directly connected it to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, expanding upon last year’s recommendation.
  • Separately, Executive Director Dolphin also expressed how pinpointing the elements of the lending criteria that continue to serve as barriers for women may be worth examining.   
  • She also emphasized the importance of building a coalition to advance this work.

Research Docket with Council Member Shakenna Williams

  • Council Member Shakenna Williams began by sharing a brief sampling of recent years’ NWBC commissioned research and reports including:
    • NWBC’s Interagency Agreement with the U.S. Census Bureau to develop custom tabulations on women-owned employer and nonemployer firms, by gender and demographics, which utilized data from both the Annual Business Survey (ABS) and the Nonemployer Statistics by Demographics (NES-D) series. These custom tabulations were featured in NWBC’s 2021 Annual Report.
    • Additionally, in August 2020, together with SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation (OII), NWBC commissioned a report titled: “America’s Seed Fund” Women’s Inclusion in Small Business Innovation Research & Small Business Technology Transfer Programs”
  • She then pivoted to the Council’s research docket for fiscal year 2023, and the next several years, which are included in our policy recommendations. These recommendations on research state that:
    • “NWBC [will look to] conduct a landscape analysis in fiscal year 2023 to better assess the effectiveness of current entrepreneurial ecosystems, technical assistance capacity, local governance issues, and the “brain drain” impacting rural Women-owned small businesses (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB) growth.” The intention is that the study also “identify effective program models to improve engagement of women entrepreneurs in tribal and immigrant communities.”
    • “NWBC should commission research focusing on both high yield (STEM) and high growth industries (currently AEC), as well as industries with an overrepresentation of women but with undervaluation (healthcare).”
  • Council Member Shakenna Williams concluded her remarks by highlighting key numbers, sources, and collaborators included in the Council’s 2022 Annual Report. These highlights included:
    • The use of 2020 U.S. Census Bureau and National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, together with 2019 and 2018 data from the Annual Business Survey. Insightful datapoints worth mentioning are that:
      • “Women contribute substantially to entrepreneurship in the United States. The number of women-owned businesses has increased significantly in recent years. In 2019 (the latest data available), there were 5.7 million employer businesses [total], where women accounted for 1.2 million or 20.9% of these businesses.”
      • “Women-owned firms employed 10.8 million workers in 2019 and grew their workforce by 28%, more than double that of men-owned firms (10.8%) between 2012 and 2019.”
      • “Women-owned nonemployer firms totaled 10.9 million in 2018, a share of 41% of all nonemployer businesses in the U.S. These businesses generated $1.3 trillion in revenue, where women accounted for $299.7 billion of these receipts.”
    • This year’s Annual Report “By The Numbers” section, which captures the state of affairs during the past year, and what may lie ahead during the next few … based on research findings from Dr. Adji Fatou Diagne, a research economist with the Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau.
    • That section also featured a discussion on the dynamics at play in venture capital for women founders, investors, and fund managers, based on the work of Geri Stengel, President of Ventureneer. Her analysis was conducted as part of a report entitled “How Women (and Men) Invest In Startups,” which was produced by Ventureneer and CoreWoman, and commissioned by How Women Invest.

Panel Discussion

  • A panel was moderated by Council Member Jenny Poon, Founder/CEO of CO+HOOTS and HUUB. Featured panelists included:
    • Julie Castro Abrams, CEO and Chair, How Women Lead (HWL)/How Women Invest (HWI)
    • Candace Waterman, President & CEO, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP)
    • Maxwell Young, Director of Communications, 1863 Ventures
  • Following the panelists’ introductions, Council Member Jenny Poon led the panel through the following questions. with paraphrased responses shared below:
    • Moderator Jenny Poon: In our 2022 Annual Report, we recommended that more attention be given to supporting women business owners pursuing opportunities at the federal, state, and local level. Where do you see the potential opportunities and obstacles for women working to contract with the government?
      • Candace Waterman: There are contracts that need to be put in the hands of our women-owned small businesses. Aditi (Senior Advisory Dussault) was transparent about the government failing to meet the 5% WOSB contracting goal. Credit to SBA, which has had conversations focused on solutions. WIPP has been instrumental in getting an increase in that goal, which will be done through a phased approach. There wouldn’t be a WOSB federal contracting goal without WIPP’s participation as a voice at the table. Now we need transparency, accountability, and parity in resources with other socioeconomic statuses; we need to be on the same playing field. WOSB and 8(a) have similar criteria and we should be looking at them in similar ways. We should be focusing on the access, parity and equality in government contracting. Women are in every area of this country providing everything, we have high growth women in every area so to say that “we couldn’t find them…?” To make this change, we need to partner because collaboration is key. We have to ensure we’re closing that gap from a contracting and capital perspective.
      • Maxwell Young: Cracking the code, how do we better illustrate the requirements needed so people can enter the contracting space? When we think about solutions, we can consider private-public partnerships relating to education.
    • Moderator Poon: This process can be arduous, so digging into that would be helpful. I want to jump quickly around to traditional funding. We discussed loans and venture capital, but have you seen any new ways of funding?
      • Maxwell Young: Really want to focus on the cues at the city and state level. For instance, in D.C., thinking about the Inclusive Innovation Equity Impact Fund started by Mayor Bowser in 2022, 1863 Ventures is privileged to administer this fund. It invests in small businesses in D.C. generating revenue less than $2 million. New York state have created seed fund programs too. These initiatives are private partnerships with public administrations can be extremely valuable. These relationships with banks and VC funds are necessary for creating generational wealth. This access to capital is important to leveling the playing field.
      • Julie Castro Abrams: We talked about some of it, Latinas that have the same credit score and assets and apply for loans only obtain loans about 60% of the time, as compared to white men. We have an inequitable system and need dramatic change. CDFIs are amazing and only get a tiny portion of the funding they need to meet the demand. We have several structures in place where if we just added more funding or tweaked things, removing some of the requirements around assets and credit ratings … these structures were created before we entered the game.
    • Moderator Poon: A lot of cities have converted these programs into zero interest loans for small business. Creating sustainability for these programs could be something worth exploring. We’ve also heard about education, financial literacy, and planning, which are valuable pieces of the puzzle. Women can get stuck in a loop around these steps. Some of these steps are just based on the idea of having more education and don’t address the inequalities. How can we simultaneously support women in these stages while thinking about the systems that need to be changed?
      • Candace Waterman: Women of color are over-mentored and underfunded, we know that. Are we having the proper conversation around education? Are we getting out the application and considering how we show up? We have to sit down and make someone understand the value of our business the same way they value that of our male counterparts, the value of whose businesses aren’t questioned. The statistics are all over the place. For women of color, we get less money than we ask for. To my businesses of color, we suffered during PPP and EIDL from application anxiety, counting ourselves out before walking through the door. We played in our mind, “we are not worthy enough, we don’t have what it takes.” We must show up and show grit. We’ve heard “no” before and know that “no” means new opportunity. That’s the education conversation we have to have, it’s quality over quantity. There needs to be more people in the room but we also have to consider smaller cohorts with more solutions. We also must stop playing the victim, because there have been success stories in access to capital for women. We know the divides but let’s have flip that narrative from victim to victor.
      • Julie Castro Abrams: When women and people of color bang their heads against the wall time and time again, of course they’re not going to take the time to fill out the forms just to be told “no” again. We want people to know that they are invited in and we are committed to breaking down barriers.
    • Moderator: Sounds like we might need some entrepreneurial therapy, someone should make an app for that. A lot of this comes from a history of discrimination. Going backwards, how do we make STEM entrepreneurship more inclusive when it comes to race, gender, geographies for the next generation?
      • Maxwell Young: It’s about normalizing the curiosity in STEM that is prevalent, this can be cultivated early on. Thinking about some of the portfolio companies 1863 Ventures have invested in, they’re developing STEM education kits for students. Being able to amplify interests and create real world applications for children across all ages sparks that interest in what STEM can provide as a profession. I’m proud that we not only invest in STEM companies, but that they are tackling the challenge of engaging the next generation in STEM learning and STEM careers.
    • Moderator: Where might the government play a role in this issue?
      • Candace Waterman: Looking at the Office of Investment and Innovation, SBA has spaces for innovative ideas and funding these ideas. We have executive orders that are supportive of this. The landscape is there, we just need to show up for it, and not be afraid of being a disruptor or of failing. For the next generation, teaching them how to get over the hurdles rather than hiding the hurdles from them and learning from our mistakes is valuable, as is helping the next woman that is sitting next to you. We get further faster together.
    • Moderator: Empowered women empower women. Pivoting to rural women’s entrepreneurship, what makes the journey of entrepreneurs in rural communities unique? What challenges should we address moving forward?
      • Julie Castro Abrams: Selling is easier in urban communities. Technology infrastructure is critical for moving forward. How are we making sure rural women have access to the tools, understand how to build tech companies, and getting the fuel to seize high growth opportunities? We saw people starting businesses in urban areas and then moving to rural communities during COVID-19. Regardless of the industry, we have to make sure the infrastructure is there.
      • Candace Waterman: I would add that this is around policy too. Access to affordable broadband is critical, we need technology to enable everything we do, COVID-19 taught us this and policy can support this. Thanks to the infrastructure bill (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, BIL), the helpers who needed help themselves, have gotten support—from a policy perspective, this boils down to access and affordability.
      • Maxwell Young: More research and data are always needed. There isn’t enough research and data around what women businesses owners, and business owners of color, need with respect to access to capital and networks. That is even more pronounced in rural settings—the data needed to actually address and solve problems.
      • Julie Castro Abrams: One important learning is that for those creating a company in an urban environment, a variety of grants and loans are more easily available. Often, rural communities may be missing critical information and access. The amount of growth in a community is directly impacted by these women entrepreneurs because they are buying locally and hiring people. It is very important to start fueling people so they can grow.
    • What about the ecosystem? How do entrepreneurial ecosystems get grown in rural communities? And what is the role of government in these spaces?
      • Candace: When you go back to government, it’s private-public partnerships. It’s an “and” not an “or.” When we see these things happen, we see success stories. Main Streets, MLK and Chavez Boulevards need our assistance and it’s about banding together, looking at the data to consider needs, and from a corporate/government perspective, closing the gap in perception between what we think these businesses need and what they actually need.
    • What does tomorrow look like for small town America and how can these communities best prepare for what lies ahead?
      • Julie: To me, it’s putting us in the decision-making table. I don’t want to ask anyone else for permission anymore, you need to be running the banks and making decisions in communities. We all have inherent bias and if we’re not in charge, we’ll always get the short end of the stick. There’s no amount of D&I training that’s going to make someone look at me and change their cultural bias. Men are hired for their potential, women are hired for what they’ve done. Until women are evaluating women and investing in women, we’re going to continue getting the short end of the stick.
      • Candace: Show up, be bold, be unapologetic and tell your story. Telling stories is where people learn. Talk to each other so we can band these voices together for sustainable change. Understand the intersectionality between business and policy, take politics out, let’s talk about policy and how we create sustainable solutions for our businesses.
      • Maxwell: On the topic of sustainability, we’re seeing environmental issues coming up across sectors. We also need to consider sustainability of humanity, there has to be a level of humane practices for black people, women, people of color, as we discuss creating our own spaces, space is such a real estate issue. Creating space for people to explore themselves, professions, career, passions in entrepreneurship is important and can only be done through access to capital. Supporting women, the new majority, the space for capital is persistent. When we think about the history, the flow of venture capital has decreased over the past year. The 228-year mark needs to be shrunk, and we need public-private partnerships to accelerate the closure of the wealth gap. The future is continued access to capital, money talks and needs to flow from the SBA, non-profits, VCs, and we need to continue working together to connect the dots.

Public Comments

Public Comments & Questions with Responses

  • Executive Director Tené Dolphin moderated public comments.
  • The first comment came from Imani Samuels, who asked about the appetite for supporting rest for entrepreneurs at the federal level and how can we advance that mission and philosophy?
    • Executive Director Dolphin: We always go to one extreme when we talk about mental health. Mental health is about addressing your well-being. Solutions at the federal, state, and local levels would be beneficial and welcomed.
    • Candace Waterman: WIPP started a program “Mind, Body, Business.” The first session was around mental health. WIPP also has a monthly fitness program. We literally say fill your cup. Around the government and corporate spaces, quite a few organizations have mindfulness business units where they support self-care. Business owners may want to think about that for your employees because they emulate what owners do. You must be the change you want to see.
    • Samantha Abrams: It’s a top-down culture we must see. Rest and respite are necessary. As someone who wears a lot of titles—as a mom, a wife, a friend—I like to use language like work-life integration. I take time for me because I want to be whole for my team. It’s a cultural shift that we all have to embody and challenge ourselves and friends on this. When we go so fast, we miss the messages and miss the people who need our support. We need to challenge ourselves and our governments, for example, thinking about paid leave for parenting and caring for others. Caring in America across cultures look different. Black and brown people care for their elders at home. How are we thinking about this from a culturally competent and sensitive perspective?
    • Julie Castro Abrams: Deepa Purushothaman worked at Deloitte and hit a health crisis wall. After doing some research, she found that women of color have 60% higher health care crises related to the cost of showing up to work. We’ve got to create less hostile environments and structures. We put it all on black and brown women to solve things themselves, when it’s the structures that are the problem.
  • Melody Jackson from Hello Alice commented that they have a strong network of women entrepreneurs. Hello Alice has information on a variety of topics mentioned, and the organization has the capability to reach out to those we need answers from.

Special Recognition

  • Senior Policy Advisor Sandra Pedroarias delivered brief remarks on behalf of NWBC in recognition of Council Member Maria Rios’ three years of service on the Council.

Closing Remarks

  • Executive Director/DFO Tené Dolphin thanked all Council Members, guests, and the public for joining and adjourned the meeting at 12:45 p.m. ET.

The slides used during the event can be downloaded below.

end of this event post.

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