Institute for women entrepreneurs plans to open training center in Taneytown

Organization awaits decision on federal grant

June 06, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A center for aspiring women entrepreneurs in rural Maryland will open by this fall in Taneytown, possibly with branches in Cumberland and Salisbury, to provide practical training, such as how to procure a government contract and how to determine whether a business is worth starting.

The center could have a broader reach if it gets one of 25 Small Business Administration grants expected to be awarded this summer. It has a very good chance, said 6th District Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett.

"We have every reason to believe that this will be awarded shortly," Bartlett said Friday morning at the Taneytown Business Breakfast, where he was a speaker.

"We are going to open anyway," said Bea Checket, founder of the Women's Business Institute.

The nonprofit organization helps women start or expand businesses. It has offices in Baltimore and Annapolis, and it provides training that ranges from welfare-to-work programs to a course that caters to established women entrepreneurs who want to bid on government contracts.

"We have already started working on our fall schedule of classes," Checket said.

Businesswomen in rural areas are finding success, but don't have access to the training, networks and support that urban businesswomen have, Checket said.

"We're already doing programs around the state," Checket said. "We're interested in opening an office here in Taneytown to serve all of rural Maryland."

She said Taneytown was chosen because of support from Bartlett for women and small businesses and from Nancy McCormick, Taneytown's director of economic development and a former entrepreneur in Michigan.

"Why Taneytown? That's the question everyone asks," said McCormick. "The potential and the talent in this area is tremendous."

McCormick said Taneytown has at least 27 women-owned businesses, many of them going beyond the typical salons and stores. One woman is in excavation and has a contract with Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. Another does custom upholstery and refinishing for the Pentagon. Another is a home-based consultant who left a large corporation to go out on her own.

Home-based businesses are important, Checket said, because they give women the opportunity to be with their children.

But only 10 percent of women-owned businesses are home-based, she said.

Bartlett said he became a champion for women who own businesses after serving on a congressional committee on small business, and learning of their tremendous growth, success and place in the economy: they employ one of every four workers, he said.

"Women are starting up businesses at two times the rate of overall business growth," Bartlett said, and they're succeeding.

"They have a lower bankruptcy failure rate," Bartlett said. "The bankers haven't learned this yet, that women are more likely to succeed. It's still hard for women to access capital."

Bartlett said the federal government also needs to wake up to the success of women's businesses. Congress has set a goal of having at least 5 percent of government contracts awarded to businesses owned by women. But less than 2 percent of those contracts are currently with women.

Bartlett said that is probably because officials give contracts to businesses with which they have a history. He said that is bound to change.

The federal grants expected to be awarded this summer will each be for $125,000 a year up to $750,000 over five years.

Checket's institute has applied for the full amount for a center that would serve rural Maryland and possibly some of southern Pennsylvania.

"We have reason to be very optimistic that Bea Checket and the Women's Business Institute is going to be one of those selected," Bartlett said.

Pub Date: 6/06/99

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