Developing Business and Developing Success
The Women's Entrepreneurship Center
According to the U.S. Census, women entrepreneurs make up approximately 40% of all businesses in the United States. Women-owned businesses have a major economic impact. In 2007, women-owned businesses in the U.S. employed 8.2 million workers and generated $1.3 trillion in revenue.
Recently, The University of Scranton’s Kania School of Management and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) joined forces and created the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center (WEC). The University has supported entrepreneurship through its backing of the SBDC for more than 32 years. The SBDC staff provides management assistance to help businesses start, grow and prosper in eight counties of northeast Pennsylvania.
In accordance with its mandate, the WEC connects students with the broader community in a way that benefits the region economically. With an advisory board of professionals, faculty, staff and local entrepreneurs, the WEC’s mission is to employ University student interns and experienced SBDC consultants, who work together to provide area women entrepreneurs with the knowledge, resources and support needed to develop and maintain successful businesses. Special emphasis is placed on serving low-income women.
In its three years of existence, the WEC has recruited, rigorously screened and trained more than a dozen student interns. They have served more than 100 women entrepreneurs by helping them create new businesses and providing support to help these businesses become sustainable and successful. To date, the WEC has been a part of many success stories.
WEC student interns learn the intricacies of entrepreneurship and consulting before working with a client under the supervision of a seasoned SBDC consultant. The intern training and subsequent consulting is practitioner-oriented rather than solely academic in nature. Student consultants help clients in a variety of ways such as computerizing customized accounting systems, performing marketing research, providing financial advice, and helping to draft complete business plans.
The availability of student interns was enhanced by the introduction, in fall 2011, of an entrepreneurship minor housed in the Kania School of Management. The entrepreneurship minor was created in order to allow students outside of the business school to participate. In fact, only about half of the students in the entrepreneurship minor are from the business school. The relationship between the WEC and the academic entrepreneurship program is a win-win situation – the entrepreneurship program expands the number of student interns available to the WEC and entrepreneurship minors gain substantial “real-world” experience which helps them regardless of their major.
Last year, the WEC was itself entrepreneurial by seizing the opportunity presented by then University President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., to seek to expand the University’s efforts in Rwanda. Several students, faculty, and administrators visited Kigali and the seeds of several entrepreneurship collaborations were planted. Possible opportunities include working with colleges, professional women’s organizations, and even directly with Rwandan women entrepreneurs.
Be sure to visit our YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtFMGSRxpxw.
Perhaps the best way to conclude this essay is with a few thoughts from both WEC interns and clients:
Nicole Linko ’12, Student Intern
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this internship was the general diversity of the work. Because we did so many things, our tasks never got boring. The internship incorporated many concepts that I learned in the business school. It made the theories and techniques real.
Julia Kroft ’11, Student Intern
I feel that the best part of the WEC internship has been working with clients. With each client, we have gradually gained more responsibility and learned about how to address the individual needs of clients. I also feel that it is valuable to have a small group of interns that is able to work together on projects.
Rebecca Bartley ’11, Student Intern
During my time at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center, I went to lunch with people I worked with at a previous internship. They asked me to explain what I did at the WEC and how it compared to the previous internship. When I was finished everyone’s faces read, “Wow.” These were the top sales executives from a large company. This is the impression that I have been getting from everyone I talk to about the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center.
Brianna Finnerty ’12, Student Intern
This experience was incredible. I can’t even think of how else to describe it. It is so different and unique compared to other internships. As an intern for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center, I didn’t just shadow the SBDC consultants around or make copies. I was able to consult with the client and research for them just like the SBDC consultants do. Interning at the WEC made me feel important and valued.
Regina Nolan, Owner, Clinic for Therapeutic Massage
Two students were assigned to help me with a marketing study. They created a news release for me and sent it all over the area. I’m still getting comments from people that they had seen the news release – they commented, called. People are telling me that they actually cut out the ad, and some of the ladies had pulled the ad out of their purses and said, “See? I’ve been meaning to call you and I finally did!”
Nelsi Rivera, Business Owner
When I started this business, it started out of a passion, and I didn’t know what direction to take this because it’s something very personal – marriages and relationships. The business end was where I was stuck. They allowed me to figure everything out to put my business plan together.
Megan Calpin Hughes, Owner, Kiss My Style and Green Bean Design
Working with the WEC program with intern Becky has been amazing. She has gone above and beyond and took the basic ideas that I had and just grew them to a whole new level. Without any question I would recommend this program. I don’t think that I would have been able to do with my businesses what I had, if it wasn’t for this help. It never would have happened, and I never would have been where I am today.
In order to start up and stay competitive in business, women need access to training and technology. The WEC is doing just that, plus giving our students the opportunity to have hands-on experience to enhance their classroom knowledge. The center is looking forward to expanding and taking our work into the international arena. Great things are ahead for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center.
Small Business Development Center
Director of the KSOM Entrepreneurship Program