For women, the hurdles to starting a business can seem insurmountable. Between the paucity of female role models and having little to no access to capital, it's understandable that some would-be female entrepreneurs are loathe to strike out on their own.
The National Women's Business Council (NWBC)—an independent advisory council to the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration—is trying to change that with a new resource platform called Grow Her Business.
Launching on Thursday, the platform is an online, searchable database of everything from accelerator programs and incubators to learning opportunities and mentors to federal grant applications. In short, its intention is to provide access "everything you need to know when you're a woman running a business," says Kimberly Blackwell, an NWBC council member.
To meet that goal, the NWBC commissioned Maryland-based Optimal Solutions Group to identify national resources designed to help female entrepreneurs and to bring them all together a single, user-friendly package. "We tried to find resources that could help any women, anywhere in the U.S." she says.
The site is currently organized into four stages of launching and growing a business. The first category, "Ideate," is for women who are just starting on the path to becoming entrepreneurs. This portion of the site has resources for creating a business plan and finding mentors. The next stage, "Start-up," is for those who are past the ideation stage. It offers links to accelerator programs and advice on pitching to investors. "Scale" is for women who have an established business but need help expanding. They will find links to resources such as supplier development and procurement assistance programs. Finally, "Grow" is for businesses that are established but need help getting to the next level—executive education is one of the offerings here.
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"We wanted to develop a resource platform as a holistic tool that would help lead organizations from their existing state to ideal state," says Blackwell, who is also the CEO of marketing agency PMM. "We want all kinds of women to be able to use these tools."
There are about 200 resources currently on the database—a number that Blackwell says is likely to grow, given how many new programs become available daily. "There is such an intense focus on women and entrepreneurship," she says. "Especially by the federal government."
To learn more about Grow Her Business, tune into the NWBC's public meeting at 2pm EST on Thursday. All information about the meeting—which will include a tutorial on using the new platform—can be found here.