with Sharon Purvis

    Ana Parra, Women’s Business Center Program Director, CommunityWorks

    Earlier this year, CommunityWorks applied for and received funding from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to be one of two organizations in South Carolina to launch a Women’s Business Center. The CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center (WBC) is a part of a national network designed to help women start and grow small businesses.

     Q: Can you tell us a bit about the how CommunityWorks came to house the new Women’s Business Center—was it something CommunityWorks pursued, or was it more of an initiative in search of a home? Or a little of both?

    While CommunityWorks had to apply for the grant to fund the center, the organization’s commitment to building opportunities for all through financial education lending and investing made us a natural fit for the WBC. CommunityWorks has seen firsthand the growing number of women business owners in our Upstate community and the need for women to have supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem. With the WBC, we will be able to empower women entrepreneurs, through advocacy, outreach, networking, coaching, and education.

    Q: What kinds of programs will be offered to women with the center that are distinct from the other programs offered by CommunityWorks?

    The WBC continues the work of CommunityWorks to provide relevant training and resources to women and communities of color. Our focus has always been on reaching and work with those who have been traditionally underserved by traditional banking institutions. The WBC will be offering clients one-on-one support through our CommunityWorks team. The guidance and training offered is designed to build confidence, skills, networks, and access to capital to women, with an intentional outreach to women of color.

    Some of those programs include self-paced trainings, business planning using an online platform with the guidance and feedback from the WBC, and business coaching for businesses that have been disrupted by COVID-19.

    Q: I know that the Credit Union at CommunityWorks is for people who live or work in Greenville County. Does the Women’s Business Center likewise cater only to Greenville County residents, or is it open to women across the Upstate?

    We’re looking forward to working with women all over the Upstate and will be working in 15 counties: Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Greenville, Greenwood, Lancaster, Laurens, McCormick, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, Union and York.

    Q: When will the center be up and running, and what will the first offerings be?

    The CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center is open! When clients register with the CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center, they will be able to sign up for business consultation to determine how we can best help them on their business journey—whether that’s support in creating or updating a business plan, personal finance, or business coaching.

    We are working on a variety of trainings and webinars to help business owners better respond to COVID-19 depending on what sector they are in, as well as providing technical assistance in areas such as business planning, accounting, marketing, and technology.

    Q: What else do you want people to know about the Women’s Business Center?

    The CW WBC wants to support business owners at every level. We are here to help with next steps whether you are in the idea phase or growth phase. And if you happen to be a business owner who wants to provide mentorship and network with other small business owners, we want to hear from you too, as we develop a network of women entrepreneurs who represent the Upstate’s diverse communities and a variety of sectors.

    We have had such a great response so far and we hope to grow and develop to meet the needs of the amazing women who making the Upstate community a dynamic place to live.