Benedict College Boosts Women Entrepreneurs With 2nd HBCU Women’s Business Center

Last week Benedict College opened a new Women’s Business Center funded by the Small Business Administration to help women entrepreneurs start and grow businesses, reopen or recover from COVID-19, and create jobs for their local economies.

It’s only the second Women’s Business Center that is affiliated with the SBA at a historically Black college or university (HBCU).

“Benedict College is the perfect location for the new WBC,” Allen Gutierrez, the SBA Associate Administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development, said in a press release when the center was announced in June. “Founded in 1870 by an African American woman, Bathsheba A. Benedict, this WBC will strive to prepare men and women to be a ‘power of good in society,’ just as Ms. Benedict had intended so many years ago.”

The center’s mandate is to help women entrepreneurs across the state of South Carolina succeed in business. “We will work hard to remove those barriers that have stopped them from pursuing their dreams,” center director Cheryl Salley said at a virtual launch event last week.

Launching the center at the college’s Tyrone A. Burroughs School of Business and Entrepreneurship took more than 18 months of work and a $420,000 federal grant under the CARES Act for pandemic relief, Benedict College President Roslyn Clark Artis said.

The SBA’s Women’s Business Center program was established in 1988 to “encourage women’s entrepreneurship in communities through one-on-one counseling, lender referrals, and loan preparation assistance, seminars, and networking, among other services,” according to SC Biz News.

According to the invitation for the virtual launch,

The BCWBC seeks to initiate the leveraging required to support our small business community. Aligning with Benedict College’s mission as a catalyst for economic development, the BCWBC serves as the first gender-focused statewide entrepreneurial initiative for socially and economically disadvantaged small and minority-owned businesses throughout the state of South Carolina. While providing assistance to all businesses, our efforts primarily focus on women, particularly minority women that historically experience more social and economic disparities than their counterparts.

Located in the heart of our state’s capital, the BCWBC will provide:

      • Customized business one-on-one counseling.
      • Lender referrals and loan package preparation assistance.
      • Seminars and classes (web-based), focused on key business topics.
      • Review and feedback on written business plans.
      • Networking opportunities to find mutual support, access to resources, and business referrals.
      • Certification assistance and review.
      • Local and global business development.

The timing of the center’s launch could be fortunate, as many Black-owned businesses struggle with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Columbia Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin said such efforts are needed “so that the backbone of the American economy is able to weather through this storm,” according to The State.

SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza agreed: “We see many opportunities for up-and-coming women entrepreneurs as their businesses and employees battle back from the damage done to this country by the invisible enemy, COVID-19.”