Charlotte will open a Women’s Business Center to help boost women entrepreneurs through a grant worth $150,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
SBA regional administrator Cassius Butts presented a check on Thursday for $85,100 during an annual networking conference presented by The Institute at the Ballantyne Hotel. The Durham-based nonprofit consulting firm focusing on business diversity will manage the center in a partnership with the City of Charlotte.
The partial grant amount awarded Thursday will pay for the office launch and hiring staff, according to The Institute.
Charlotte’s center is slated to open May 2 at the Harris Corners Parkway office of the Carolina-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council. It will be led by Natalie Williams, who has served as director of operations for the development council and as a diversity and inclusion coordinator for manufacturer Ingersoll Rand.
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Williams notes she is also an entrepreneur, having launched a consulting business.
“I have a heavy background in operations and financial management...I have a great line of connections and resources here in the Charlotte area,” Williams said.
“I’m actually more passionate about the fact that we get the opportunity to train (women, and)...lead them to the areas where they need to expand.”
The Institute also runs the Women’s Business Center in Raleigh, which won the SBA’s excellence award in 2014 for its training and counseling of women entrepreneurs.
Institute president and CEO Farad Ali said Raleigh director Briles Johnson spent a good deal of time in Charlotte providing training programs and forging partnerships with the city’s business community.
That demand for services here prompted Ali to apply for the SBA grant for a Charlotte office. He cited 2012 U.S. Census data, which shows that women-owned firms make up nearly 35 percent of the 212,000 firms in the Charlotte region’s nine-county area.
“Women-owned business tend to do very well,” Ali said. “They hire more women, they develop a legacy. We really want to be a part of that process.”
Money from the grant will be dispersed over 4 1/2 years. Williams said some of the center’s training topics will include certifications, technology and small businesses, understanding financials and networking.