Empowering People
& Revitalizing the Community

Camden Nonprofit Launches Women's Business Center

Posted on 6/30/2016 by EDTP Coordinator in LAEDA News

CAMDEN- Mona Wilson had already owned her own business, an insurance and tag service in Pennsylvania. So when she launched a cupcake business after winning a competition judged by famed Philadelphia chef Jose Garces, she said, "I didn't think there was much I didn't know." The Camden native soon realized she knew a lot less than she thought, and turned to the Latin American Economic Development Association (LAEDA)’s Entrepreneurial Development Training Program to learn about branding, raising capital, handling staff and managing cash flow.

On Monday June 13, 2016, LAEDA announced the launch of new Women’s Business Center in Camden, intended to serve female business owners and entrepreneurs in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration provided a $723,270 grant for the center, the second of its kind in New Jersey. LAEDA, an economic development nonprofit, has offered training for African-American and Latino entrepreneurs since 1990. 

For Wilson, whose savory cupcakes highlight unexpected flavors such as caviar, octopus and hummus, LAEDA’s programs helped her run her business, It’s a Cupcake!, as it grew and evolved. A failed attempt at a retail storefront in Merchantville, too, was a learning experience, and again Wilson turned to LAEDA as she sought to regroup as a caterer. 

“I was definitely thankful to have LAEDA,” said the “40-something” Camden High School graduate. 

“And their programs are all free --- I mean, that’s unbelievable,” she added. 

The new Women’s Business Center seeks to address some of the challenges unique to women business owners, said program manager Bertha Sarmina, including access to start-up capital and quality of life challenges as they juggle work and family obligations. 

“Many women go into business on their own in search of flexibility,” she said. “But while owning a business can offer that, it’s also incredibly demanding.” 

Women are society’s “caregivers and community-builders,” Sarmina added, so the challenges for the Women’s Business Center is in recognizing that and helping entrepreneurs find strategies to cope and manage their time. 

Wilson agreed: “I used to work for the Post Office, where I would clock in and clock out. It’s not like that now. It’s continuous, not just the baking and the paperwork, but also networking to bring in more business, researching recipes, responding to clients…. As women, we’re not programmed to ever shut off. 

“For us, every minute away from the business is potentially money we lost.” 

According to the National Women’s Business Council, women on average start businesses with half as much capital as men ($75,000 to $135,000). Nationwide, women-owned businesses were responsible for about $1.4 trillion in sales in 2012; they employed 7.8 million people, the council said. 

The WBC will offer a jump-start program, a Women’s Business Academy, seminars and networking events and one-on-one mentoring and counseling. Courses initially will be offered in Camden but will soon be available online as well. Seminars will be offered in English and Spanish and include topics such as business concept development, marketing, accounting, business law, incorporation, insurance, regulatory compliance and business plan development. 

Speaking to dignitaries including Camden Mayor Dana Redd and representatives from the state and federal Small Business Administration offices, Wilson offered what she called “my 30-second elevator pitch.” 

“These are not your mama’s cupcakes!” she said. “That’s one of the things I learned at LAEDA: how to make that pitch to someone in 30 seconds.” 

For more information on LAEDA or the Women’s Business Center, call (856) 338-1177 or visit www. LAEDA

Written by Phaedra Trethan, reporter for the Courier-Post Online: (856) 486-2417; ptrethan@gannettnj.com 

Source of Article: Courier-Post Online