By Dawn Golik and Ben Raju
Each March, during National Women’s History Month, as we honor the contributions of women, the U.S. Small Business Administration recognizes the importance of female entrepreneurs.
There are more than 1.1 million women-owned businesses with employees in the United States, employing 9.4 million workers. Female entrepreneurs are an economic powerhouse across the country, around California and along the Pacific Coast. In Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties, SBA resources help women business owners get going and keep growing.
COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted female entrepreneurs. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan provides pandemic-affected small businesses with access to capital at favorable terms and a 12 month deferment period, giving businesses time to reopen and recover before they start repaying their loan. Forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans can cover key operating expenses like payroll, rent and utilities.
Several recent changes to the program ensure that the Pacific Coast’s smallest and hardest hit businesses—sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed women—can access the relief a forgivable PPP loan provides.
The SBA collaborates with a network of trusted organizations that help business owners. Free counseling and mentoring are available through Women’s Business Centers. In January, the SBA announced the opening of 20 new Women’s Business Centers around the country, the largest single expansion of WBCs in 30 years.
Along the Pacific Coast, the Mission Community Services Corporation Women’s Business Center supports San Luis Obispo’s female entrepreneurs, and Women’s Economic Ventures serves Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Small Business Development Centers in San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties provide free technical assistance and consulting to business owners. Free counseling and mentoring is also available from SCORE chapters in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties.
Training and education for women business owners is critical to their continued success and growth. The SBA recently launched Ascent, a free, virtual learning platform. Ascent is divided into major topics called Journeys, developed by women’s entrepreneurship experts. Within each Journey, Excursions give women the tools they need to help their small businesses get going and keep growing.
The SBA administers several government contracting programs, including the 8a Business Development program, HUBZone, and Women Owned Small Business certification that provide women business owners with a powerful competitive advantage in the government marketplace.
These certifications can be game changers—in 2019, women-owned small businesses received $26 billion in federal contracts. There are helpful tools on the beta.certify.sba.gov website that can help business owners identify and apply for certifications they could be eligible for.
The SBA District Offices in Los Angeles and Fresno are proud to support Pacific Coast women business owners who are creating jobs, serving their customers, and finding innovative ways to reopen, recover, and keep going during the pandemic. This month, we honor them, and every month, SBA programs help them start up, scale up, and continue to succeed.
• Dawn Golik is director of the Fresno SBA District Office, serving 15 counties of the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast. Ben Raju is director of the SBA’s Los Angeles District Office, serving Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.