|Temren R. Wroge|
As the communications manager for the National Women’s Business Council, I’m in the unique position of conveying the crucial mission of the Council, especially during this unprecedented and uncertain time.
The NWBC is a non-partisan federal advisory committee created to serve as an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the President, Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues of importance to women business owners. NWBC has three policy priorities for 2020: Women in STEM, Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship and Access to Capital and Opportunity. Through in-depth conversations, roundtables and webinars with women business owners across the country, we’ve found that a lack of funding, financial assistance and resources still exist among women business owners and entrepreneurs. The Council seeks to close that gap and connect women in business to opportunities to start and grow their enterprises.
Because the NWBC is tasked with providing policy recommendations to the White House, Congress and the SBA, we work to identify ways that federal programs can be streamlined or adjusted to eliminate access barriers for women entrepreneurs. NWBC also seeks to raise awareness about relevant financial literacy issues and existing curriculum, programs and initiatives dedicated to teaching women entrepreneurs about capital and financial literacy, which may be amplified to help women build personal and business credit, build wealth and achieve financial security.
The financial challenges
Access to capital continues to be the biggest impediment to growth for women-owned businesses. Women access commercial loans at lower rates and receive less venture and equity capital than men. In order to accurately advocate for women business owners and founders, it’s paramount to address the barriers that inhibit women.
NWBC’s communication strategy seeks to create a climate for women entrepreneurs to flourish. In doing so, NWBC needs to engage a broader audience with compelling and accessible content informed by our mission. Because access to capital and opportunity is so important for women in business, the content that NWBC shares is to better inform policymakers of the work that still needs to be done to ensure that women in business have the opportunity to start and grow their enterprise.
Social media has been a successful way to share new opportunities for women in business. NWBC also works closely with women’s business organizations like the Association of Women’s Business Centers and the Women’s Business Exchange National Council to highlight trainings being offered and also promote local resources for women in business.
NWBC is the only independent federal advisory committee devoted solely to the empowerment of women-owned businesses. However, federal agencies usually have an Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and subdivisions or departments that focus on women and minorities and deliver relevant programming.
Providing financial resources
Amid the pandemic, NWBC’s policy focus areas remain the same, but our means of engagement and outreach has shifted to solely virtual methods for the time being.
NWBC shifted its signature #LetsTalkBusiness Roundtable Series, which connects the voices of women entrepreneurs and business owners from across the country to policymakers in the Nation’s capital and helps serve as a springboard for the Council’s annual policy recommendations to Congress, the President and the SBA to an online platform. The latest roundtable focused on Women in STEM and was held virtually on July 28.
At the start of 2020, NWBC launched #WebinarWednesday—a monthly webinar series that serves as a platform for women entrepreneurs and business owners, to connect them to key advocates, experts and useful resources that can help bolster their knowledge and skills and elevate their entrepreneurial potential. NWBC has also used its #WebinarWednesday series to highlight resources amid the pandemic. In April, NWBC and the Vinetta Project teamed up for a virtual panel aimed at helping startup founders navigate the CARES Act. The April 2020 webinar helped break down the available federal relief for venture-backed startups. Experts from the SBA, JP Morgan and Graphite Financial discussed available resources, lending options and how to document your requests.
NWBC’s email updates, monthly newsletters and #WebinarWednesday series all play a part in proactively sharing and disseminating resources and information surrounding the pandemic.
Impacting businesses through policy
Highlighting the unique role that women business owners fill in the economy and sharing their challenges and opportunities with policymakers allows for more effective recovery legislation and allows the voices of women business owners and entrepreneurs to be heard.
Because NWBC has shifted to a virtual platform and outreach strategy, the feedback that we receive during the webinars and roundtables is extremely valuable. Per our statute, NWBC submits an annual report to Congress and the Administration with policy recommendations at the end of each fiscal year, and the roundtable and webinar discussions serve as a springboard for those recommendations. NWBC also routinely meets with members of Congress and agency officials to share the council’s mission and relay challenges for women’s business enterprise.
In NWBC’s most recent Annual Report, the Council sought to amplify the Women’s Business Center program and the resources and trainings it provides to women looking to start or grow their business. NWBC recommended that the SBA consult with the Association for Women’s Business Centers and conduct a market scan in order to cast a wider net when looking for a funding match and gauge the need for a business center within the community.
Federal programs, like the Women’s Business Center program, give women in business the opportunity to learn about available resources to start, sustain and grow their businesses, which is extremely valuable as small businesses are being drastically impacted by the pandemic.
Proactive communication, representation
As we navigate the strange and turbulent waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, NWBC remains committed to our principal mission to assist women in their business endeavors. We remain flexible and prepared to grow and adapt to the changes that society brings. It’s truly an honor to advocate for the nations’ growing and committed base of women entrepreneurs.
Temren R. Wroge is Communications Manager at National Women’s Business Council, in Washington, D.C.