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Idaho to receive Women’s Business Center grant

photo of women's business center workshop

Attendees at last year’s Small Business Administration workshop on how to apply for a Women’s Business Center grant. From left, Katie Sewell, director of the Idaho Small Business Development Center; Jeremy Field, regional administrator for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Small Business Administration; Diane Bevan, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and an unidentified attendee. Photo by Fiona Montagne.

Idaho is finally getting a Women’s Business Center — two, in fact.

The Small Business Administration announced June 17 that it had agreed to fund two Women’s Business Centers (WBC) in Idaho, one in the Treasure Valley and one in the Magic Valley.

The Idaho WBC will be hosted by the Idaho Hispanic Foundation under the direction of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The University of Idaho will serve as a co-partner to the Idaho WBC.

“We’re so excited,” said Diane Bevan, president and CEO of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Bevan said her organization had identified two locations in Twin Falls and is looking at a couple of locations in Nampa, as well as one in Meridian.

“We would like to put it in Canyon County, but that is yet to be determined,” she said.

photo of jim risch

Jim Risch

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, who served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship from 2017-2018, is scheduled to travel to Idaho on July 19 for a ribbon cutting, Bevan said.

Bevan hadn’t been told yet the exact amount the organization would receive, but said she had applied for the full $300,000 after a March announcement that the SBA would double the normal $150,000 grant so that two centers could be established in Idaho..

“We don’t anticipate not receiving the full amount,” she said.

Although the hosting organizations are for Hispanics, the programs will be for all women, Bevan said. They will include a leadership program and courses such as a three-part Business Basics and a 10-part Business Essentials.

“We will definitely put a focus on, not just Hispanic, but minority and underserved women,” she said. “If you look at the (request for proposal), it definitely did highlight that focus of minority, underserved and rural.”

The WBC will undertake a marketing program to identify Idaho women entrepreneurs and their “pain points,” such as marketing needs and access to capital, Bevan said. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held an event in April for female entrepreneurs and of the 450 women attendees, 400 were Latina, she said. Similarly, a March event in the Magic Valley had 80% minority attendees, she said.

The WBC will also take advantage of some of the University of Idaho’s entrepreneurship programs, as well as extended locations across Idaho, which will let the WBC host programs across Idaho using technology, Bevan said.

Previous Idaho WBCs have failed due to not being able to meet the program’s stringent financial match program, and Bevan admitted that would be a challenge.

“By year three, you have to match dollar-for-dollar,” she said.

The new WBC has already received some cash commitments, plus the Idaho Hispanic Foundation itself will be making a “sizable” donation.

“We’re very excited to have this opportunity to be first,” she said.

For the first two years, up to 50% of the match can be in in-kind donations, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has a history of receiving a number of donations from organizations such as audio-visual companies and media partners, Bevan said.

Nationwide, Latinas own 44% of Latino businesses, according to the 2017 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report from Stanford University. From 2007 to 2015, nearly half of the growth in new Latino businesses came from firms started by women. That compares to much lower growth rates for female white (13%) and black (20%) entrepreneurs, noted the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, which produced the report.

That said, firms started by Latinas tend to be small, the report continued, with only 30% of the Latino firms with $1 million or more in annual revenue owned by women.

About Sharon Fisher

Sharon Fisher is an Idaho Business Review staff writer, covering financial institutions, technology, and business development. She holds a bachelor of science in computer science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a masters in public administration and graduate certificates in geographic informational analysis and in community and regional planning from Boise State University. She likes explaining things and going to meetings. Join me on Twitter at @IBR_SLFisher.