South Dakota is opening its official second location of a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) center for women business owners.
The South Dakota Center of Economic Opportunity East Women’s Business Center (SD CEO East WBC) opened in Sioux Falls on Monday at 2325 N. Career Ave., according to a press release.
It is part of a network, funding and partnership opportunity for female small business owners funded by the government across the US, and it is the second location following the WBC at Black Hills State University.
“The Black Hills State University has the grant through South Dakota in Spearfish, and it really, in person at least, serves out west,” Jaime Wood,SBA district director said.
But “it’s hard for women to drive all the way out there” from the east side of the state, Wood said.
Opened inside the SBA office and former Zeal Center, the WBC launched with a government grant. The office will help manage the SBA’s relationship with the federal government’s contracting, 23% of which is with small business, to help fund female-led companies. It also will provide training for women on funding, exporting and more.
“The way women and men run their businesses is different, and that can be a disadvantage when they go to ask for funding,” district director of the SBA Jaime Wood said. “The goal is to professionalize and equalize the business environment around them.”
Ashley Biggar, former director of operations at Brookings Chamber of Commerce and the founder of Creative Impressions, brings 20 years of business management to the center as its first director.
“Ashley brings a strong set of entrepreneurial skills, event planning and gumption. We are excited to work with Ashley to launch and grow WBC support in Sioux Falls,” said Michelle Kane, director of SD CEO West Women’s Business Center in Spearfish.
Although the District Office offers programs for veterans, disadvantaged small businesses, manufacturers and more, there hasn’t been an office for women business owners until now. Wood stated that federal government data shows there are more women starting businesses than men, but not nearly the same level of funding for their ideas or even a place for them to start, until now.
And women-led companies still only make up 19.9% of all firms, according to Census Data from 2018.
“This (will develop owners to) where they want to grow their business or get into exporting and other revenue-making processes and federal contracting,” Wood said.
Efforts will help train, obtain funding and educate the female small business community on new trends like cybersecurity and other growing industries in the Midwest. Amid the pandemic, all businesses can benefit from more female entrepreneurs taking the helm, Wood stated.
“The WBC will assess and meet the business where they’re at,” Wood said, “like a concept in their head to take their passion or skillset to the marketplace.”