This week we sat down with State Director of the Women’s Business Center of Utah(WBCUtah), Ann Marie Wallace, about why Utahns should know and love WBCUtah. WBCUtah is a trusted partner of the Utah Microloan Fund. Together we help support the village it takes to help entrepreneurs grow and succeed.
About the WBC: The Women's Business Center of Utah, established in 1997 as a nonprofit funded in part by a federal grant, is an entrepreneurial center that offers services such as individual and group mentorship and online training for Utah women business owners and women who are thinking about starting a business. Most women (and men!) who want to start a business don't know where to begin and this is where WBCUtah can help – they can guide new entrepreneurs through the process of starting a business while also providing support and connections to other resources in the community. A little direction goes a long ways, and with follow-up support, what else does an aspiring entrepreneur need? The center helps women throughout the entire state of Utah through 8 Virtual Women's Business Centers in partnership with rural chambers of commerce and located on their websites.
UMLF: Ann Marie tell us about yourself. What’s your background? What made you want to take over the WBC?
Ann Marie: I really love what I get to do at the Women's Business Center of Utah! In 2008 I started serving on a committee overseen by WBCUtah, then I became a client in 2010 and experienced their help in starting my own business. I was very lucky when I applied for and was hired to mentor other women business owners as the WBCUtah's business consultant. And for the past five years I've been the director overseeing those same services that helped me become an entrepreneur. In the last few years our center has gone online and statewide and it has been thrilling to be a part of the expansion of services and impact to other women, like me, who are from a rural area in Utah.
UMLF: What are some of the awesome new projects your team is working on?
Ann Marie: So many! The WBCUtah is opening a second office in Cedar City, which will launch tailored services for women business owners throughout the southern half of Utah. Meanwhile, the center continues to grow its virtual network, which we hope to reach 25 by the end of next year. Additionally, WBCUtah.com is getting a major overhaul to ensure online services are forward-thinking, easy to access and use, and ever more powerful in helping female and male entrepreneurs throughout Utah.
UMLF: What is your favorite way that the UMLF and WBC work together?
Ann Marie: A majority of our clients who are preparing for microlending are considering Utah Microloan Fund. It is wonderful for us to know there is a non-profit microlender and we understand UMLF's loan process and time frames, which helps us better coach a client through the process and support them in their preparation. AND, we really enjoy the UMLF staff and culture!
UMLF: What is something you want UMLF clients to know about WBCUtah?
Ann Marie: I'd love UMLF clients to know that the WBCUtah is available at no charge to help them through the process of completing their application and preparing for their loan committee. We understand in general what the loan committee may ask, care about, and consider when deciding whether the microloan will be approved. The center has many free and low-cost ways to learn how to run a business, especially for those who have received a loan and get to put their business plan into action. Let us be your accountability partner so you can move your business forward.
UMLF: What do you love most about Utah business owners/entrepreneurs?
Ann Marie: I am impressed with Utah women business owners because, collectively, they are more successful than they know. I love looking at the annual rankings from American Express OPEN Report because it shows where Utah women soar! Utah women business owners rank #7 in the US in "economic clout", which is a combination of the number of companies that are majority owned by women, number of people employed, and the money they earn. Utah women business owners are innovative, hardworking, and better at it than most other women in our country!
UMLFL: Tell us about Foodtrepreneur. What made you start this rad event?
Ann Marie: The Foodtrepreneur Festival started to "educate & celebrate" food products and the business owners behind them. A few years ago, Rachel Hofstetter, former food editor of Oprah Magazine, moved to Utah from New York and wanted to start something with WBCUtah. Together we came up with and named the Foodtrepreneur Festival. The festival includes a panel to learn from successful food product entrepreneurs and then a showcase of local Utah food products. The first year brought 500 attendees! What I love about the event – it is not only a great atmosphere, which includes live musical entertainment a cash bar, but it also requires the business owners to be present so that participants can talk to them about their food product business, how they got started, and any tips they are willing to share.
UMLF: Do you have any events coming up that you would like us to share?
Ann Marie: Yes, we have two upcoming events: WBCUtah "Meet the New Team" and the 2018 Appreciation Breakfast:
WBCUtah "Meet the New Team"
Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 2pm - 4pm
We have a whole new team serving Utah women business owners and we are providing an opportunity to meet them all and have a bite to eat. We feel collaboration is the best way to serve more Utah women, so we likewise want our team to meet those in the community that we can support.
WBCUtah 2018 Appreciation Breakfast
Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 8am - 9:30am
We are providing a hot breakfast with a chance to say "Thank You!" to our clients, partners, supporters, and volunteers for their help in accomplishing the WBCUtah's mission to help women build confidence, create opportunities and experience success. The 2018 WBCUtah Annual Report will be shared along with highlights of accomplishments of the center and some of its clients.
UMLF: And for fun, you’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
Ann Marie: Azure Blue. Because I love the letter "z" and because it's the "color of the sky on a clear day". :)
To learn more about the Women's Business Center of Utah and to stay caught up on all the action visit http://wbcutah.com/ and give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram.
On Friday September 7th we transformed our parking lot for our annual shindig. The occasion? A night of food, fun and festivities to honor our financial and resource partners throughout Utah. It’s no secret that our state is ripe for budding entrepreneurs and the numbers don’t lie. According to the Small Business Administration, 96.7% of businesses in Utah are small businesses. Utah also won America’s Top State for Business in 2016 by CNBC. So what does this have to do with a Friday night party at the UMLF? We know it takes a village to support and grow emerging businesses in Utah and we can’t do it alone. With an amazing network of partners we can meet existing demand for resources and time required by new and growing companies. Whether they need help with business plans, cash flow statements, counseling, mentorship, funding options or an ongoing network, we know our Utah partner organizations are up to the task of helping all small business owners succeed.
Invitees included our esteemed partners such as the Salt Lake Chamber, the Women's Business Center, SCORE Miller Business Incubator, Suazo Center For Entrepreneurship, Dixie State Business Resource Center Southern Utah, University Business Resource Center, Utah Valley University Business Resource Center, Box Elder County Business Resource Center, Sustainable Startups, Investable, Salt Lake County Economic Development and Westminster College to name a few.
So with everyone invited, what is a party without good food and entertainment? While there are many amazing companies in Utah to choose from, we were able to pull from our own network of amazing clients for the job. Dashing Events provided the styling and event rentals key to any successful event. Need to make a parking lot look good? Liz is your girl! (In addition to our office manager, Andi! Since our theme was New Orleans we knew we needed excellent food and music to do it proud. While listening to the tunes of David Halliday Music, guests were able to fill up a plate of gourmet soul food from Casual Cuisine and then top off their meal with a fresh crepe from French eatery Monsieur Crepes. Lastly, attendees could get their photo taken by the owner of Snap Shop Photo, get a mini massage from Mountainside Spa, sample tasty BBQ from Big Daddy Hill’s BBQ, pine over Stone Mountain Designs and peruse Everything Utah’s awesome local-themed gifts. Not bad for a work party if we do say so ourselves!
We would like to extend a big, big thank you to everyone who came to our event and to those who were there in spirit! Helping entrepreneurs grow their business is no easy feat and we sincerely appreciate the year-round support and hard work of all of our partners and are excited to keep working together for years to come. Also big thanks to our clients who helped us make the party a HUGE success. Lastly thank you to our financial partners who make all of our work possible: Zions Bank, Medallion Bank, Bank of the West, JP Morgan Chase, Synchrony Bank, Key Bank, UBS, American Express, First National Bank, First Utah Bank, Washington Federal, Ally, Merrick Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of Utah, Bank of American Fork, Mountain West Small Business Finance and Banner Bank. Until next year, cheers!