S.C. Women’s Business Center ready for statewide push

By Licia Jackson
Jan. 13, 2012
The S.C. Women’s Business Center is being launched this month to provide free business counseling, technical assistance and education for women who have established businesses or who are thinking about starting a business.
The Center for Women in Charleston has received a five-year, $750,000 Small Business Administration grant to create the Women’s Business Center, which will operate out of the Center for Women’s office in Charleston.
Initially the program will serve women in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, but by the end of the year the plan is to have a presence in Greenville, said Jennet Robinson Alterman, executive director of the Center for Women.
Christie MacConnell, director of the new business center, has more than 15 years’ experience in business counseling and economic development. She worked at Maine’s Women’s Business Center, where entrepreneurial women owned such businesses as pile-driving companies, fishing boats and marble countertop manufacturers.
“We offer free one-on-one counseling service for women in business,” MacConnell said.
Included is screening to help a would-be entrepreneur make an informed decision about the viability of her idea. If the answer is yes, help is offered with market research, business plan development and networking.
The Women’s Business Center will gear up slowly, getting the word out about its services in the first quarter of 2012 and looking for partnerships around the state, Alterman said.
There’s a plan to offer some of its programs online so that anyone in the state would have access.
“Our basic workshops can be set up as a webinar, so they can look at them at any time,” MacConnell said.
As women have lost jobs or professional opportunities as the state’s economy has suffered, interest in starting up businesses has flourished, according to the center’s research. Between 1997 and 2011, women-owned businesses in South Carolina grew at a rate of 64%, compared to a national average of 50%.
Women’s Business Centers are found in all states. North Carolina and Florida have three each and Georgia has two, according to the directory of the Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership.
The Center for Women is a nonprofit organization offering personal and professional development resources for women in the Lowcountry for more than 20 years. The center began offering programs for women entrepreneurs in 2002 and saw the need to expand this assistance.
For more information about the S.C. Women’s Business Center, contact Christie MacConnell at 843-763-7333, ext. 212, or email info@scwbc.net.
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