WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC) hosted its annual 2023 Leadership Conference, where over 300 Women’s Business Center leaders from all 50 states gathered to discuss women’s entrepreneurship and advance a pro-women business ownership policy agenda. The conference featured Small Business Administrator (SBA) Isabella Guzman, the Under Secretary of Commerce for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Don Cravins, and Export-Import Bank of the United States (EX-IM) Chair Reta Jo Lewis.
The event aligned with a U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing on women’s entrepreneurship, where four women small business owners testified about the critical role of the Women’s Business Center (WBC) network. Following the hearing, AWBC took to Capitol Hill to meet with key policymakers and advocate for reauthorization and increased funding of the WBC program.
Celebrating the successful conference, historic hearing, and Cabinet-level Administration participation, AWBC CEO, Corinne Goble, released the following statement:
Our annual convening remains one of the most critical gatherings of women business leaders in the country. We are honored that so many in the Biden-Harris Administration joined to ensure this program – the only program in the entire federal government dedicated to women entrepreneurs – gets the recognition and opportunity to grow that it deserves. I am personally grateful to Chair Cardin and Ranking Member Ernst for simultaneously holding an impressive hearing that made two clear conclusions: the success of this program and women-owned businesses are inextricably linked and that this program can and must be improved to serve all women. We are committed to that vision and realizing it in a bipartisan way.
This conference follows the introduction of S.2184, the Women’s Business Center Improvement Act of 2023, and the SBA’s announcement of two funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) to expand the Women’s Business Center (WBC) program, one supporting 15 new WBCs affiliated with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and the other supporting two regionally-determined WBCs in the District of Columbia (DC) and Oregon, with the application deadline of Aug 24, 2023.
With over 35 years of effectively serving hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs, the WBC program is overdue for reauthorization. Despite operating under an antiquated and restrictive statute, WBCs have shown a robust impact in supporting women business owners across the country. In the past three years alone, WBCs served more than 170,000 entrepreneurs, leveraged more than $750 billion in capital, and provided training and counseling for entrepreneurs in need. Modernization of the program in statute will ensure sustainable support to the anticipated 160 centers by the end of the year in their work providing capital, counseling, training, networking, workshops, technical assistance, and mentoring to women entrepreneurs across the nation.