New Columbia center looks to help women start, grow businesses

The Missouri Women’s Business Center officially opened its doors on Wednesday, ready to help women in mid-Missouri start their own businesses and to assist those who already have businesses.

“We want to promote women as entrepreneurs in our community,” director Jaime Freidrichs said. “We also want to provide avenues for newer businesswomen to learn from experienced women business owners.”

The center, located in the Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) building in Columbia, will offer classes and counseling as well as provide microloans for startup capital for small businesses.

The center will serve Boone, Callaway, Cole, Audrain, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau and Osage counties, and will have a satellite office in Fulton. Darin Preis, executive director of CMCA, said that the center will have community organizers in each county and will work with local chambers of commerce to build momentum for its programs.

Last fall, a colleague told Preis about a grant offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration for establishing women’s business centers. Preis felt that Columbia would be a good fit for the program, and he submitted an application in January. In March, CMCA was awarded a five-year grant worth $672,000 for a women’s business center.

“It’s such a good fit for this area,” Preis said. “There’s an entrepreneurial spirit here, you can almost reach out and touch it.”

Organizers and supporters of Columbia's new Missouri Women's Business Center pose before a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the organization's official opening ceremony on June 1, 2016. | Courtesy of Wally Pfeffer
Missouri Women’s Business Center Director Jaime Freidrichs (center) addresses the crowd at the ribon-cutting ceremony for her organization’s Columbia facility. | Courtesy of Wally Pfeffer

Freidrichs said that the center has already received a great deal of diverse interest from women who own or want to own businesses.

“We can tell how great the need is and how excited people are,” Freidrichs said.

She added that the businesses can be “anything from an in-home daycare to solar energy. It really runs the gamut.”

Preis said that the center connects with CMCA’s mission of eliminating poverty, especially among women. “Two-thirds of adults living in poverty are women,” he said. “And women are the great untapped potential in our economy.”

“We’re helping them frame themselves as entrepreneurs,” Preis said.

The Missouri Women’s Business Center will be hosting a series of training programs, “Operation JumpStart,” starting July 9. The series will provide women with tips and advice on starting, maintaining and financing businesses. For more information, contact Teri Roberts at 573-777-5276.

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