Nearly 53,000 businesses in the Pittsburgh region are owned by women, according to recent federal data, and one local organization hopes to continue to bolster female entrepreneurship.
Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship is opening a new 3,000-square-foot hub with four new informational classes.
On the docket for the program expansion is digital and financial literacy, a prototyping and design lab and increased mentoring and mentor training.
“Depending on where you’re going and what you need, we can really cater to you,” said Rebecca Harris, executive director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship, or CWE. “Some of the components we chose just because we had been really involved and saw the need for some of these specific items.”
The CWE has been around for nearly 14 years, and has helped hundreds of women get their business going or supplement skills for those already running their own company. Harris said the women-centric model is well-received.
“We have found that when you pull women together, they actually help mentor each other, it happens organically,” Harris said.
Diane Danforth said she has found the classes invaluable in her preparations to launch her business, Americat Company. She said she plans to officially launch her locally-made cat product store this fall and has been involved with Chatham's “MyPath” program, which pairs entrepreneurs with mentors and other women opening businesses.
“It is helpful to have people, being peers, that I can bounce ideas off of,” Danforth said. “It’s been a nice group of networking professionally, but then also women that have turned into my friends.”
Danforth said she’s received advice for branding, financial issues, legal situations and human resources. Harris said the expanded hub will create opportunities for more women like Danforth.
“Our job is really to help women grow—to grow strategically, to hire, to take out loans, to really grow their businesses,” Harris said.
In the decade the center has been in operation, more than 200 women have taken entrepreneurship classes and opened their own business. There will be an open house for the new hub on Aug. 7.
(Photo: flickr/pers0n seo)