Caitlin Tan Published

New Initiative Aimed At Helping Women, Minority-Owned Businesses

Where are the health insurance deals? On the exchanges, many small businesses have concluded.

A new entrepreneur center is launching in West Virginia to support women and people of color, a demographic hard hit by the coronavirus, who are interested in starting a small business.

The West Virginia Women’s Business Center is launching in Charleston with a satellite office in Fairmont. The goal is to support women and people of color entrepreneurs across the state — providing resources and connections to either start or grow a business.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy in West Virginia,” said Tiffany Ellis-Williams, director of the Economic Development Center at WV State University. “Our small businesses must also include more women and people of color. Accessibility of resources to generate new products or services and create thriving businesses is the key to economic growth and wealth within a community.”

Services are all virtual for now, and they include mentoring, networking and assistance obtaining funding and financing. As the Brookings Institute found, small businesses in communities of color had less access to aid provided through the coronavirus relief aid packages.

Nationwide, men start 70 percent of businesses, and according to the Brookings Institute, only 20 percent of businesses are owned by people of color, even though people of color make up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population. Additionally, data have shown the pandemic is hurting Black businesses nearly twice as much as white-owned businesses.

The center is a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Natural Capital Investment Fund.

Those interested in participating in classes provided by the West Virginia Women’s Business Center can find more information here.