The City of New York is investing in the success of women-owned businesses.
Offering state and local tax credits, business development opportunities, grants and loans, local government is essentially encouraging women industrialists to take the leap of faith and open their own brick and mortar store.
There’s also a wide array of assistance for fledging women-owned companies available through local business centers – small business owners just need to know where to look.
“Our Women’s Business Center offers free business training, one-on-one counseling and financing resources so if you’re in the process of starting a business, this is the place to turn,” revealed Nina Flores, deputy director of the Staten Island Business Outreach Center and the BOC Women’s Business Center, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration that helps women entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.
“By educating and empowering under-served women entrepreneurs, the Women’s Business Center contributes to the economic, cultural and social vitality of our communities,” Flores said.
The Center, which offers these services free of charge, also assists women with business plan development, market research, government contracting and education on basic bookkeeping.
They help business owners identify financing opportunities, obtain business licenses and permits and qualify for women and minority certification.
“In order to qualify as a woman-owned business in New York City, you must be in business for one year and a woman or minority must own at least 51 percent of the business,” Flores said.
And benefits of that certification include the procurement of contracts set aside by the federal government for qualifying women owned small businesses.
“The government sets aside contracts for women entrepreneurs to bid on,” Flores reported. “It certainly levels the playing field for small, woman-owned businesses that might not necessarily receive such large contracts.”
Flores said that the BOC assists about 1,000 entrepreneurs each year, 75 percent of which are women. And the center’s most requested task is assistance with that certification process.
“We go over the application with them, help them obtain the proper documents and act as a sort of liaison between the business owner and the government agency,” Flores explained. “It can be a difficult process to navigate, so every ounce of assistance helps.”
Joe Bottega, a certified business advisor with Staten Island’s Small Business Development Corporation, reported that the number of women-owned businesses in Staten Island is on the rise.
“I’ve been with the SBDC since 2013 and when I came aboard our database was almost evenly split between men and women owned businesses,” Bottega said. “But in the past few years there has been an uptick in women applying for entrepreneurial status – I’m not sure whether or not that increase is influenced by the federal benefits that are offered to women business owners, but it certainly helps.”
Bottega revealed that many of women-owned businesses he has counseled are an extension of the proprietor’s primary line of work – a photographer opens a frame shop, a baker creates an artisan market – and each owner seems to have a natural sense of collaboration with the community.
“They truly welcome the workshops and events we offer here and attend regularly,” Bottega said, naming marketing seminars, job fairs and other employment assistance that SBDC offers. “Our events are open to both men and women, but women business owners seem to be particularly inspired by these networking opportunities – and that contributes greatly to their success.”