CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah women who own a business, or are interested in starting one can find support, training and free one-on-one business advice at the Women’s Business Center of Utah.
The statewide program is almost 25 years old, but Cedar City’s center, serving Utah’s 14 southern counties, including Washington and Iron Counties. opened its doors in January 2019. Debbie Drake is the Women’s Business Center of Utah’s southern program director.
“So, I travel a lot,” she said.
The Women’s Business Center of Utah offers resources and access to business advisers, as well as online and in-person business training. Drake noted that while their advertising focuses on services for women, 10% of their clientele are men.
Drake said the Small Business Development Center has done a great job serving small-business owners in Cedar City and so most of her work has been in places like Torrey and Escalante, which have access to fewer services. Going forward, she said, they’re planning to do more work in Cedar City, as well.
“We’d like to get to know the business owners here in town and see what they need,” Drake said.
In addition to services already offered, the WBCUtah in Cedar City recently hired a business adviser dedicated to the area, who will be available to support local women in a variety of ways at no charge, Drake said. Every business adviser, who works for the Business Center has extensive business experience.
“They will meet a woman wherever they are,” she said. “All (advisers) have been trained on what it takes to start a business, what it takes to become a woman-certified business. They all have their different specialties and they will find you whatever it is that you need.”
Drake said the WBCUtah was able to help a business owner find a translator, in one example.
“We have contracts with the World Trade Center that got us all set up. So I mean, as random as things are, we can usually find somebody to help with those kinds of things,” Drake said.
Business advisers are able to help women at any stage in the process of their business venture, she said. From “you’ve got a dream,” to growing a multimillion-dollar business.
For women who are just starting out, Cedar City’s center offers a course called ‘Ms. Biz,’ Drake said. The four-week course is all-online, so women outside of Southern Utah can also attend, and focuses on the four main things women need to know to get started.
In the most recent training, which ended March 2, attendees met with business adviser Sarah Barstow to discuss topics, such as finding a market and choosing a team.
Each year, the WBCUtah also holds the Exploring Possibilities Conference in September to brainstorm and share ideas, Drake said. During the conference, women can attend a panel discussion, in-person brainstorming activities, win prizes and enjoy a catered dinner.
In another effort to promote women-owned businesses, the WBCUtah organized a photo tour to photograph a variety of women business owners.
“If you see an image that we use in our social media, our website, the directory, every single image is of actual Utah women business owners,” Ann Marie Wallace, the state director of the Women’s Business Center of Utah said. “They’re not stock photography.”
The Utah Women-Owned Business Directory
“When I started my role as the leader of the Women’s Business Center in Utah,” Wallace said. “I was asked, ‘where’s the list?’”
Wallace said that while businesses are asked if they are woman-owned when registering, the Utah Department of Commerce has not yet created a list of women-owned businesses within the state, which led to the creation of the Utah Women-Owned Business Directory.
“The Women’s Business Center of Utah is federally funded with taxpayer dollars,” Wallace explained. “So we want to be wise and good stewards of that money to help women business owners. And as we have all experienced, the pandemic hit businesses and the economy really hard at certain businesses and industries more than others and the ones that were hit the hardest, that’s where women tend to gravitate towards.”
The directory is funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which was passed in 2020 to provide, “fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, small businesses and industries,” according to the United States Department of the Treasury’s website.
Users can search the directory via keyword, industry or county.
“When you do that for, say Washington County, then that URL at the top becomes the link to just Washington County women-owned businesses,” Wallace said. “So, the city or the county could say this list is our list of women-owned businesses and they don’t have to go to the general link.”
Wallace noted that not all businesses are eligible to be added to the directory. If a woman is thinking of signing up Wallace suggested that those thinking of signing up ask themselves some key questions to determine if the business is truly woman-owned and operated.
“Do you control what you sell? Do you control the price of it? Do you do the research and development?”
Wallace noted that nonprofits and multilevel marketing companies are not eligible, nor are businesses owned by women but run by men.
Wallace said that signing up for the directory gives women access to the WBCUtah’s services. They offer technical assistance and training to help women with issues, such as pinning down their marketing strategy and learning how to use SEO to their advantage.
The WBCUtah can also help women access Kiva microloans, a crowdfunding platform, which bases funding on the business owner’s character, instead of their credit.
“Women owners are one click away from services that will help them,” she said.
In addition, the Women’s Business Center of Utah recently held a grant competition where one woman from each of the WBCUtah’s four regions, and one chosen from anywhere in the state, were awarded a $1,000 grant for their business, Wallace said. To enter, women were required to sign up for the Business Directory. The winners were announced on the WBCUtah’s Facebook page, March 4.
“You can use it in your business however you want to. Imagine what $1,000 could do for a small business,” she said.
If half of all businesses in Utah were owned by women, the state would see 162,000 new jobs created, 25,000 new businesses and 27 billion in additional revenue, according to the Utah Women-Owned Business Directory’s website.
“My vision is that we remove the barriers in front of women just because they’re women,” Wallace concluded.
Editor’s note, 4 p.m., March 8: Clarification added on name of Women’s Business Center of Utah.
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