Guest Contributors

IBM’s Commitment to Women’s Entrepreneurship

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From the original pilot program that began with a class of 12 women transitioning from public assistance, the Women’s Enterprise Development Center Inc. (WEDC) has grown to become a thriving organization that offers a wide array of entrepreneurial programs and services to businesses at all stages of development. We founded WEDC in 1997 as a nonprofit microbusiness development organization to help women achieve economic self-sufficiency through small business ownership. Each year, we continue to explore the best ways to empower the entrepreneurs and small business owners who employ more than 50 percent of the American workforce.

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WEDC offers a variety of services including our comprehensive 60-hour Entrepreneurial Training Program, one-on-one business and loan counseling, seminars and workshops, Minority/Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE) certification & procurement assistance, a Veterans’ Entrepreneurial Training (VET) Program, microloan funding, and networking opportunities. We have graduated more than 1,000 women and men from all walks of life, and provided assistance and guidance to thousands more.

WEDC’s services are offered in English and Spanish to both women and men in the Lower Hudson Valley, New York. Our main office is in White Plains and our Mid-Hudson Valley Satellite operates out of Marist College’s Hancock Center in Poughkeepsie. We are the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Center for the Lower Hudson Valley, and the New York Empire State Development (ESD) Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) Center for Westchester County.

IBM has been a wonderful resource for WEDC and our clients. We began our relationship in 2005 when Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs program manager Mary Murray offered several SME Toolkit web-based workshops to our clients in both English and Spanish. The SME Toolkit offers a full complement of resources – from business planning to marketing & sales and technology – to help small businesses prosper and grow.

WEDC also received support from IBM that included help to create our new online community for women entrepreneurs in the Lower Hudson Valley. Our online business directory and marketplace now enable entrepreneurs to connect with each other, to sell their products at discounted or promotional rates, and gain visibility for their businesses.

But perhaps the most meaningful demonstration of IBM’s commitment was the direct participation of IBM professionals in one of our most successful efforts to support women entrepreneurs. As part of the celebration of IBM’s 2011 Centennial, more than 100 IBMers volunteered their time and expertise for an evening of “speed mentoring” for WEDC clients. Not only did these global enterprise experts contribute their guidance and insights on matters as diverse as information technology, sales & marketing, planning & operations, social media and legal issues, they made themselves available for follow-ups for 100 days. This program had a huge impact on our clients, some of whom are still in touch with their IBM mentors.

We are extremely grateful for all that IBM has done for WEDC and the women’s business community in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Anne M. Janiak is a founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Enterprise Development Center Inc. (WEDC), a nonprofit microenterprise development organization in White Plains, New York. WEDC helps women achieve economic self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship in Westchester County and the Lower Hudson Valley.

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