More and more women keep moving on up the entrepreneurial ladder in the nation and in the Mahoning

More and more women keep moving on up the entrepreneurial ladder in the nation and in the Mahoning Valley. Indeed, the explosive rise in women-owned businesses clearly ranks among this nation’s greatest economic success stories of recent years.

According to the 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, an estimated 11.6 million women-owned businesses now operate in the United States that employ nearly 9 million people and generate more than $1.7 trillion in revenues. From a broader perspective, the report shows that female-operated businesses have grown 114 percent between 1997 and 2017, compared with an overall national growth rate of only 44 percent.

As part of that rising trend, the Mahoning Valley is fortunate to find itself on the cutting edge, thanks to an ever-expanding program of the Youngstown Business Incubator, itself an exemplary model of success as one of the top-ranked institutions of its kind in the entire world.

Earlier this week, the YBI, a campus of five historic buildings in downtown Youngstown, hosted a grand opening for its Women in Entrepreneurship Center.

The WE Center stands as a progressive outgrowth of the YBI’s 3-year-old Women in Entrepreneurship program. Over those years, WE has provided quality education and training for women seeking to run their own businesses. Through a multi-pronged educational regimen, WE teaches its students the fundamentals of launching products and services into the marketplace, creating solid business plans and overcoming obstacles that get in the way of a successful startup.

So far, more than 60 women have graduated from the program.

Role of WE Center

The new WE Center picks up where the training leaves off. The 800-square-foot center offers 24-hour access to desks, conference table, media space and more for women entrepreneurs. In addition to the viable and low-cost work space, the center also provides its occupants with myriad networking opportunities with other local businesswomen with mutual concerns and skills in getting enterprises off the ground.

As Carmella Williams, director of the program, put it, “There was a definite need for the center. ... There’s a wealth of knowledge in the building.”

The center also is a feather in the cap for YBI as a reflection of its expanding mission.

Barb Ewing, CEO of YBI, said at the grand opening Thursday, the WE Center represents “a physical manifestation of the change in YBI and our growth and expansion in the community. For so long we were so focused on one specific area [tech], and this really provides a new level of service [to entrepreneurs] who really need assistance.”

Of course, the new WE Center can only be as strong as the support it receives from aspiring and hard-working women in our community who take advantage of its many assets. With low rental fees and many promising returns, we encourage business women in the region to take full advantage of the opportunities the WE Center offers. In so doing, they not only will grow their own enterprises; they will also broaden the growing footprint of female-run businesses in the Mahoning Valley.

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