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THE BUSINESS CHAMPS OF WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA—SBA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Michelle Christian, left, and SBA Pittsburgh District Director Kelly Hunt, right, reward WBC Director Anne Flynn Schlicht.

Pittsburgh is often referred to as the City of Champions. The Penguins, with back-to-back Stanley Cups, and the Steelers, with six Super Bowl Championships, have contributed to this distinction.

Now, the Chatham University Women’s Business Center can be added to the list of winners. The U.S. Small Business Administration recently announced that the center has been recognized as the best of more than 100 similar WBCs across the nation that assist women in starting and growing small businesses.

The center will receive the national 2018 Women’s Business Center award from SBA Administrator Linda McMahon during the agency’s 55th National Small Business Week Awards Ceremony later this month in Washington D.C.

The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University creates economic opportunities for women through entrepreneurial education and training, mentoring, and networking. Building on Chatham University’s tradition of educating women for 145 years, The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University has provided quality education and training for women entrepreneurs since 2005. Rebecca Harris is executive director. The WBC is an entity of the center.

“Chatham is so deserving of this award. They have a myriad of programs and workshops specifically geared towards women’s business ownership and mitigating their unique entrepreneurship obstacles,” SBA Pittsburgh District Director Kelly Hunt said, acknowledging that the WBC has only been in existence for two years.

It is reported that from its inception in April 2016 to February 2018, the WBC has provided 987 hours of counseling to 468 clients, which has directly contributed to 82 new businesses and $3.8 million in raised capital through a combination of equity, SBA loans, and private loans.

A BLUEPRINT OF SERVICES—Grandma Joan’s Food Truck owner Jackie Wright with the support of the WBC is ready to tease the taste buds of her customers with her soul food cuisine. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

“The WBC has been a blueprint for me and my business,” said Jackie Wright of Grandma Joan’s Food Truck. “I have been using them for counseling, financial, legal and tax guidance. They are also helping me with my business plan. I enjoy working with them because they provide the guidance and push that I need while working at my own pace.”

Wright said her fully-equipped food truck will serve soul food using her mother and grandmother’s recipes. Even though she will serve breakfast, her specialties will include mac and cheese, baked chicken and ribs. Operating as a pop up, Wright said Grandma Joan’s Food Truck will travel to festivals and special events throughout the city. She also caters. A native of the Hill District, Wright has also operated Kelly’s Kingdom Childcare Centers on Webster Avenue for 18 years.

“It is such an honor and great recognition for the work we have done over the last two years,” said Anne Flynn Schlicht, director of the WBC.

Schlicht said it could not have been attained if it were not for the WBC staff, consultants, community and resource partners.

The mission of the WBC, funded in part by a cooperative agreement with the U.S. SBA, is to provide services geared specifically to women and underserved populations, minority entrepreneurs and veterans throughout Western Pennsylvania. The WBC offers aspiring and existing business owners free business counseling, training programs, technical support and mentoring focused on business planning and financing, access to capital, federal contracting, and business expansion through international markets and exporting.

Michelle Christian, along with over two-dozen WBC clients, were on hand celebrating the WBC’s success. The newly-appointed SBA Mid-Atlantic regional administrator said, “Chatham’s Women’s Business Center truly exemplifies SBA’s mission of helping entrepreneurs to start, grow and expand their businesses. WBCs seek to ‘level the playing field’ for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world. We should all be grateful for their efforts.”

 

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