State legislators joined the Connecticut Women’s Business Development Council to host an informational webinar on Tuesday about resources available to women and minority business owners to weather the pandemic.
State Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, joined Bipartisan Women’s Legislative Caucus members State Representatives Donna Veach, R-Berlin, and Christie Carpino, R-Cromwell, and Women’s Business Development Council CEO Fran Pastore to share advice for small business owners.
“Typically, WBDC sees about 800 women a year from all over the state of Connecticut, but from March to November 2020, we increased that by 600 percent,” Pastore said. “We helped put an estimated $11 million in the hands of women entrepreneurs in the form of COVID relief funding.”
For example, WBCD’s Equity Match Grant Program has helped entrepreneurs across the state access capital through grants of $2,500 and $10,000.
Aiming to help underrepresented business owners build relationships with banks, improve credit, and cover short-term financial needs, the program has more than one million dollars on hand to support businesses in need.
“We came up with the idea for the Equity Match Grant program, and the state said this is a great idea, but you’ve got to raise some money,” Pastore said. “With the help of the lieutenant governor, my colleagues and I raised over half a million dollars, and the state matched that with another half million. This will be vital to help people purchase critical business assets and pivot their business during this crucial time, so that they can get through COVID and perhaps be even more prepared for another economic downturn in the future.”
Beth Scarborough, a business advisor at WBDC, also shared information about resources for helping women and minority business owners navigate the federal Paycheck Protection Program loan application process.
“This is one of the simplest and most accessible ways to access capital right now,” Scarborough said. “The Equity Match Grant is more forward-looking, and more complicated to apply for because we’re asking for financial and business plan information. Right now, the government is making funds available that are focused really on relief from impacts that we’ve had with COVID-19 for businesses that have had reduced revenues or have had to close.”
Women and people of color were far less likely to secure PPP loans in the first round than white, male business owners. Of the more than 60,000 Connecticut businesses that secured federal loans for pandemic relief, 78 percent were male-owned, 84 percent were white-owned, 7 percent were Asian-owned, 6 percent were Hispanic-owned and only 3 percent were Black-owned.
State Rep. Veach implored business owners to take advantage of WBDC resources, particularly the support offered for the PPP application process.
“I know, because I work for a small museum, that doing PPP the first time around made me want to rip my hair out,” Veach said. “The fact that there is a template that you can utilize and get you prepared and get all of your ducks in a row is wonderful.”
State Rep. Carney highlighted WBDC’s resources for women interested in starting small businesses, noting that many of the state’s workers who have lost jobs throughout the pandemic could consider turning to WBDC for help with creating new jobs for themselves and those in their community.
All of the legislators thanked the WBDC for its pandemic relief efforts.
“The fact that you have assisted 5,000 different individuals since COVID speaks volumes about the hard work and your dedication,” Carpino said. “Our small businesses have been really overwhelmed over the past year, and the fact that you’re giving all of this guidance to anyone who picks up the phone is tremendous.”