It is an honor and a privilege to serve as the Founding Director of the Washington, DC Women’s Business Center (DC WBC). On a daily basis, I assist women entrepreneurs that are truly tackling the challenges of starting and growing their small businesses. The DC WBC provides counseling, business training classes, financial assistance, networking and business opportunities to women entrepreneurs in the Washington, DC region. Being named a “Champion of Change” is humbling, yet it is also a confirmation that the time and effort put forth for small business is an investment that will impact the nation for years to come. In the brief history of the DC WBC there have been 20 new businesses developed and over 80 new jobs created.
Small business owners are unsung heroes with the courage to look economic adversity in the face and continue to innovate and expand. Due to their innate ability to multitask, I believe that women entrepreneurs, in particular, face added pressures. As it turns out, being hyper efficient can be a gift and a curse. In general, women are the caregivers in our world and are required to wear many hats. This ranges from caring for children, parents, spouses, friends, siblings, co-workers, neighbors, pets and even, at times, their neighbors’ pets! Therefore, the DC WBC strives to provide an environment where women entrepreneurs can have a place to rest those many hats and focus on their business. With this in mind, the DC WBC team provides “Hat Relief” through our Circle of Support.
The Circle of Support is a guiding principle of the DC WBC. Its purpose is to provide support to the clients and training participants of the DC WBC by providing flexible training schedules, unconventional (family- friendly) networking events and special understanding of the unique issues faced by women, such as the need for childcare during trainings. This support is designed to reduce the everyday distractions that women face when juggling their personal and business lives therefore assisting women business owners in developing their businesses more effectively. Currently, the DC WBC provides the following “Hat Relief” services for our clients: childcare and food during evening classes to reduce the concerns of dinner and distraction during business planning, a monthly Women’s Business Walk and Talk on Saturday mornings where strollers are encouraged, and evening hours with childcare for women that are unable to attend business counseling during standard 9 to 5 business hours.
I see these innovations as small adjustments to the business development services that are vital to small businesses that support our economy. Every day I see the rewards for these small adjustments in the success of my clients. For example, the DC WBC is privileged to assist an at-home care business for elderly and disabled loved-ones by welcoming the owner’s one-year old to business networking events as well as providing counseling and feedback for business growth and expansion. We also have the exceptional good fortune to assist a socially responsible Information technology start-up firm by providing flexible training and financing for her business which trains and employs from low-income neighborhoods in Washington, DC. These woman business owners, and many like them, are the reason I believe our nation will continue in greatness to win the future while helping fellow Americans to live better lives.
The DC WBC is currently in its third year and is looking forward to new resource partnerships and creative programming that will reach out to culinary entrepreneurs and prepare small businesses for success in global markets through export training and counseling. There’s a great big business world out there to conquer and I am proud to help women entrepreneurs lead the way.
Samira Cook-Gaines serves as the Founding Director of the Washington, DC Women’s Business Center where she is responsible for providing women entrepreneurs with the knowledge to create stable business foundations and growth through training and technical assistance.