SNAP Financial Access has launched a Women’s Business Center here that’s intended to be a resource for female business owners or women who want to start a business, says Laurie Roth, manager of the center.
The center opened earlier this month in the East Central Community Center, at 500 S. Stone. So far, the center has had classes every Thursday and has served about 25 clients total, Roth says.
The center’s mission, she says, is to mentor, coach, and counsel women on business practices. While the center does focus on women, she says. it’s also intended to be a resource for other underserved populations here.
“Our major focus goes towards women, minorities, the handicapped; any special class of citizen like that,” she says.
The center will offer clients coaching on how to develop business plans and how to conduct market research to see if a business idea is plausible. It will also offer classes on how to use social media, develop marketing plans, and other training classes, Roth says.
For the first year, all the services offered will be free of charge; after that, SNAP will introduce a fee-for-service price structure, she says.
The center also will help women apply to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8 (a) Business Development Program. The federal agency offers the program to disadvantaged businesses to help them compete with larger companies for government contracts, Roth says. The program provides assistance to the businesses to help them bid for projects.
“It gives them kind of a leg up on the competition,” she says.
The center is being funded by a five-year grant from the SBA, Roth says. By the third year, she says, the center must find local resources to match the federal grant.
“My vision is by year five to be a self-sustainable women’s center,” she says.
For the first year, the center will focus on serving the greater Spokane area, Roth says. After that, some outreach to rural areas is planned. Also, Roth says the center is hoping to video some of its classes and put them on YouTube as webinars.
Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs (SNAP) decided to open the center in order to reach out to women business owners and help stimulate the economy here, Roth says.
“They saw a real need in the community to actually get some strong curriculums out there, specifically focused toward women and minorities,” Roth says.
Roth says the SBA specifically chose Spokane as an area where it wanted to expand services. SNAP is an SBA micro-lender, which is a designated intermediary lender for the SBA. Micro-lenders can loan up to $50,000 to help small businesses start up and expand. That made the Women’s Business Center a natural fit for SNAP, Roth contends.
“A client comes here to build the business plan and the loan application file, and then we can actually hand them off to SNAP if they qualify for the micro-loan,” Roth says.
SNAP was first incorporated here in 1985. It aims to assist those of low income.
SNAP Financial Access, a division of SNAP, is a community development financial institution that offers classes, workshops, and coaching on small business development, money management, and credit counseling.
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