CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more women are leaving jobs and starting their own businesses, but many need help getting started.
The West Virginia Women’s Business Center has been offering support to female entrepreneurs in all 55 counties and just opened a new center at Slack Plaza in Charleston.
“A lot of them are figuring out side gigs, side hussles and small businesses, so we’re actually seeing an uptick in the percentage of new business start ups hosted by women,” said executive director Nora Myers during a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday morning.
Rebecca Cobourne is one of those business owners who opened Braids and Twists on Summers Street in 2017. Working in a salon, Cobourne said she needed help applying for loans and getting certain documents squared away, so she reached out the the Women’s Business Center.
“I’m not very office savvy. I have all the skills I need for my hands, but I need some help with wording on paper,” Cobourne said.
The center provides free online training, mentoring and one-on-one advising. Myers said seeking out a mentor can help woman sustain their business for years to come.
“Small businesses that have mentors not only enjoy the start up process more and feel more confident in the start up, their revenue and profits are higher and the likelihood they’ll still be around in 3-5 years is double,” she said.
One of the biggest challenges West Virginia female business owners face is lack of access due to the state’s rural landscape.
“They have a lot of desire, but don’t know where the resources are to help them get started,” Myers said.
In addition to Charleston, offices are located in Morgantown, Fairmont and soon in Huntington.
Rebecca Cobourne, owner of Braids + Twists in Charleston, is grateful for today’s opening of the @wvwbc center here at Slack Plaza. Her goal is to help West Virginia’s foster care families with black children and teach them how to braid hair. @WVMetroNews @580WCHS pic.twitter.com/b4phabWhj4
— Carrie Hodousek (@CarrieHodousek) May 18, 2022
Cobourne told MetroNews if it wasn’t for the Women’s Business Center, she wouldn’t be able to expand her reach. She’s hoping to offer her services to West Virginia’s foster care families. She said she gets a lot of calls from parents needing help learning how to braid their child’s hair.
“There’s a lot of foster kids that are placed with families that aren’t sure what to do with their hair. We have a lot of black children placed with white families and they don’t know what to do,” she said. “There’s such a need, so that’s my next big mission.”
The center in Charleston has been working with women and minorities over the last 18 months, but officially opened for business Wednesday.
Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin, the city’s first female mayor, was on hand to make remarks about the importance of empowering women to pursue careers in business.