Arizona Women’s Education and Employment (AWEE) has opened Maricopa County’s only women’s business center to develop, support and expand women-owned businesses for entrepreneurs with great ideas to well-established businesses in a range of industries and women facing economic or other barriers to starting a business. The Arizona Women’s Education and Entrepreneur Center (AWEEc), a program of AWEE, is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
“AWEEc has the capacity, programs and services not available anywhere else in Maricopa County, and we offer all programs and services in English and Spanish,” said AWEEc Program Director Alicia Marseille. “We have three key goals: increasing the number of successful women-owned small businesses and helping accelerate their growth; supporting women who see entrepreneurship as a form of self-sufficiency; and knocking down barriers for women assisting facing economic or other challenges.”
AWEEc provides entrepreneurs and existing business owners education and resources that include training and workshops, one-on-one counseling, online programs, mentoring and support networks. Among AWEEc’s unique opportunities are programs to develop core business skills and strategies to target low- to mid-income populations, and financial literacy specifically for small-business owners and entrepreneurs.
“AWEE has always been driven to empower women through the dignity of work,” said AWEE President and CEO Marie Sullivan. “AWEEc expands our reach, impact and positive outcomes in a business niche that has been underserved for far too long.”
Through a “soft launch” in early February, AWEEc has been working with women in a range of business categories. An official launch event, InnovateHer 2015: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, is scheduled for March 25. This event will officially launch the Arizona Women’s Education and Entrepreneur Center as well as an SBA national business competition for entrepreneurs to create a product, service or technology that has a measureable impact on the lives of women and families, has the potential for commercialization and fills a need in the marketplace. Participants in Phoenix will have four minutes to pitch their businesses to a panel of business professionals. Similar competitions are planned in cities across the nation. One winner will be selected from each city to contend for one of the final ten national slots and a chance to win $30,000 in cash prizes in Washington, D.C. during National Small Business Week, May 4-8.
Nadine Homeier, an independent insurance broker in Glendale who recently opened her own agency with contracts in 18 states and more than 25 different carriers, is taking advantage of AWEEc counseling and support to “strategically and efficiently lift my business to the next level.” Homeier first connected with AWEE more than 20 years ago after her longtime marriage failed, leaving her with no job, no prospects, no money and no skills to help her find a job. “The AWEE team helped me with my resume, confidence and first job,” she said. “I’ve been building upon that foundation ever since.”
“Nadine is a perfect example of the type of business owner and entrepreneur – and she is both – that AWEEc is designed to serve and assist,” said Andrew W. Gordon, president and CEO of Arizona MultiBank Community Development Corporation, which was part of the collaborative effort that led to the formation of AWEEc. Arizona MultiBank provides financial assistance and technical support for, among others, small businesses in Arizona.