Carroll center to aid women entrepreneurs wins grant

Regional nonprofit, due to open July 1, is to get $750,000 in U.S. funds

June 22, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A center to support female entrepreneurs in rural Maryland will open July 1 in Taneytown with a newly awarded $750,000 federal grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Taneytown site will serve as headquarters for courses, one-on-one counseling, mentorship, a computer laboratory and an "entrepreneurial library" of books and videos.

The center will be available to women from rural parts of Baltimore, Carroll, Howard, Washington and Frederick counties, said Bea Checket, founder of the Women's Business Institute, a Baltimore and Annapolis organization that won and will administer the grant.

"The only thing we ask that you come with is an idea," said Checket, whose private, nonprofit institute is among 25 in the country to win one of the five-year grants.

The grants are designed to support women who own, or aspire to own, a business.

Checket has offices, telephones and 15 computers donated by Farmers and Mechanics Bank at its branch at 222 E. Baltimore St. in Taneytown. She asked Faye Cannon, president of the Frederick-based bank, for office space, and Cannon gave that and more.

"All we have to do is move our files," said Checket, who got informal word of the award at the beginning of this month and is in Washington this week for training in the administration of the grant.

Bank helps out

Cannon said the center is one any bank president would be happy to support.

"Obviously, the statistics speak for themselves," said Cannon. "The rate at which women are opening their own businesses is phenomenal. We believe it's a great opportunity for, one, Taneytown to have the center, and also to provide the services to help women-owned businesses. It's good for the economic vitality of the city."

Checket said the center must match the federal grant of $150,000 a year for five years. The match can include in-kind donations such as rent, furniture and equipment by the bank, and fees that women pay for courses.

Use of the computer lab and the one-on-one counseling is free. Courses will cost from $35 for a one-week introduction to the Internet to $525 for a 12-week course for women who have been in business for more than two years and want to accelerate their businesses' growth.

Other activities will include a Women's Business Roundtable on Sept. 22, at which women can meet other business owners and bankers who can help them secure the capital to start or expand their enterprises.

Checket also intends to offer a course for established business owners to tap into government contracting, which can be done on the Internet.

She said she chose Taneytown for the headquarters because of support from U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a 6th District Republican who is an advocate for small businesses and a recent champion of those that are owned by women.

She also found a supporter in Nancy McCormick, Taneytown's director of economic development and a former entrepreneur who started a successful events-planning business in Michigan.

27 businesses in Taneytown

McCormick said Taneytown has at least 27 successful businesses owned by women, doing such nontraditional work as excavation for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and fireproof refinishing for a desk at the Pentagon.

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

Home-based businesses are important, she said, because they give women the opportunity to be with their children. But only 10 percent of businesses owned by women are home-based, she said.

Support from Bartlett

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. Female-owned businesses 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," he 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 awarding at least 5 percent of government contracts to businesses owned by women.

Fewer than 2 percent of those contracts are now with such businesses.

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