BISMARCK, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, today brought Cabinet Member U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet to North Dakota to highlight successful women-owned small businesses in North Dakota and discuss collaborative strategies to encourage and support women entrepreneurs.
At a roundtable discussion hosted by EarthKind® Founder and CEO Kari Warberg Block, Heitkamp and Administrator Contreras-Sweet heard from successful women small business owners in the region about how they started, maintain, and expand their businesses. They also talked about SBA programs focused on supporting women entrepreneurs and ways the SBA can help women business owners overcome unique challenges. North Dakota is ranked as the number one state in terms of growth and economic impact of women-owned businesses, up from number five just three years ago.
“North Dakota has great examples of successful female business owners, many of whom were at today’s roundtable, and who serve as models for others in our state to look up to,” said Heitkamp. “For us to continue to support the current and next generation of women entrepreneurs and continue to grow our state, we need to create a collaborative and helpful business environment. I’m grateful that SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet came to North Dakota so she could see firsthand the innovative business models women in North Dakota are using, discuss some of the obstacles these women face so the SBA can work to better meet their needs, and explain some of the SBA programs that specifically support female entrepreneurs. North Dakota’s women-owned small businesses are growing faster than in any other state, which means now is the time to build on this momentum and empower more women to take that first step.”
“As a woman entrepreneur, before entering President Obama’s cabinet, I experienced challenges in terms of access to capital and counseling,” said Contreras-Sweet. “SBA is committed to working with Senator Heitkamp and other congressional leaders to build on the great leaps already achieved by woman-owned small businesses and help them compete in the global marketplace with support from SBA resources like Women’s Business Centers, Women Owned Small Business contracting program, InnovateHER, and ChallengeHER.”
According to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, North Dakota has roughly 23,500 women-owned businesses, which account for approximately one third of the state’s small businesses. Women-owned businesses in North Dakota account for $3.9 billion in annual sales – a 234.7 percent increase since 1997.
“Women play such an important role to the future health and vitality of our Nation, and I couldn’t be more honored to host this roundtable with two such amazing female leaders, Senator Heidi Heitkamp and SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet,” said Kari Warberg Block. “As a member of the NWBC, which makes policy recommendations to the SBA in support of women’s business growth, I’ve have the great pleasure of conducting round tables across the country with small businesses. One of the most common themes is that there are not enough visible female role models. In general, we find that women need to see it – to believe it! That’s why I’m so excited to host this round table.”
The North Dakota Women’s Business Center works with the SBA and North Dakota Department of Commerce to provide services and training that will help women become small business owners and provides one-on-one business assistance, resources on getting started and financing information. In addition, the SBA’s Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program provides competitive contracting opportunities for solely women-owned or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses. Loan programs available through the SBA can help provide long-term working capital for operational expenses, to purchase inventory, to pay accounts payable and/or to purchase land.
Heitkamp has been a champion for small businesses in North Dakota, and has worked to support female entrepreneurs while encouraging more women to start small businesses. Last year, Heitkamp recommended Kari Warberg Block for a position on the National Women’s Business Council, on which Warberg Block now sits. The National Women’s Business Council is a federal Council comprised of 15 women from around the country that advise the President, Congress and the SBA on economic issues and concerns relevant to women business owners nationwide. Warberg Block was also honored as North Dakota’s 2013 Small Business Owner of the Year.