Women’s Business Center offers Free Coaching
By Dianne Anderson
Not so long ago, there was a time when women could barely access business counseling, let alone access loans.
Joelle Passerello with the Inland Empire Women’s Business Center said things have come a long way since entrepreneur Mike Stull founded their program to help women get a break.
Since 2003, the IEWBC programs boast a $16 million economic impact on the Inland Empire.
The program’s year-round workshops and events provide space for small businesses to expand their knowledge base, package up their business ideas, and get help in creating business plans.
“They come here for direction to boost their experience and knowledge within the business community,” said Joelle, a business counselor with IEWBC, and graduate of the CSUSB entrepreneur program.
Their “It’s Your Time” workshops are geared specifically for women, and includes three month’s intensive workshops covering the basics of running a business, along with detailed work for a business plan and financials.
Participants complete four or more hours of business counseling, networking or volunteer work. By the end of the course, she said they will have a completed business plan with a good idea of where they’re headed.
“We help coach them through questions so they know what they’re going into when they go to the loan office. We help them build that business plan that they can take when they go to get funding,” said Passerello, who also completed and graduated the IYT program this week.
She said one of their best local success stories is Mariatu “Tu” Browne, who emigrated from Sierra Leone as a young girl. After completing IEWBC “In Your Time” program, Browne opened the thriving business, Tu Organics Salon and Spa in Rancho Cucamonga.
She did that while working full time as a single mom, and going to school.
Passerello said it’s one of many great success stories coming out of this program.
“She was able to open her own high-end salon and spa using only all natural ingredients. She was able to start that with the help that we gave her here,” Passerello said.
IEWBC is a program of Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at CSUSB, and funded through Small Business Administration. Their latest project, IGNITE! is a three-month program open to both men and women, now welcoming established business owners that are ready to take their enterprise to the next level.
Passerello, who has been with the program for over two years, is herself a recent graduate of the IYT program, which helped her develop her side-business of preparing documents, utilizing skills gained as a paralegal while serving in the military.
She said the program helped her develop skills needed to reach an untapped niche market.
“Working with the ladies here at IEWBC has expanded my knowledge and expertise, and it gave me the kick in the butt to actually start my own business,” she said.
On Friday, June 14, the community is invited to an IEWBC Power Lunch Spotlight mixer. Networking starts at 11:30 a.m., lunch at noon, followed by featured empowerment coach, Gretchen Struzenberg, who will share her own small business success journey. Tickets are $10, or $5 for the mixer event only. The event will be held at 1003 E. Cooley Drive, Unit 109 in Colton.
Struzenberg, a business coach with the program, said that for her, the goal has been to keep the entrepreneurial spirit going strong despite whatever time constraints of working a full-time job.
Just starting out, she said one common mistake that newbies make is they fail to have a solid business structure, or meet administration and financial requirements. It’s often overlooked in the excitement of trying to get the business off the ground.
“Many are employed and have families and other responsibilities,” she said. “Add in a new business, and things can fall through the cracks – including the person who is doing this business.”
She believes that growing a business requires a continuing commitment to develop the right skills, and to nurture the vision.
“By honing and sharpening the skills necessary in your current employment, [it] will make that aspect of a start-up business that much smoother to navigate,” she said.
She is also excited to coach future small business owners, and get participants fired up on the road to the next big idea.
“There are many things that happen at the beginning, the middle and the end, but IEWBC is here through it all to help them navigate and nurture their businesses into the success they would like it to be,” she said.
For more information on programming or events, contact 909-890-1242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.