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  • Women’s Business Development Council Championing Women-Owned Businesses During COVID-19

    April 27, 2020, Stamford , CT – For so many female entrepreneurs in Connecticut whose businesses have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, they don’t want to be told that everything is going to be OK. Luckily for business owners like Marlene Reynolds and Michele Massa, the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC) believes actions speak louder than words.

    Marlene, who has owned a shoreline Pilates studio in Essex for more than 15 years, found herself paralyzed in mid-March 2020 with the outbreak of the coronavirus. Little did she know after receiving a referral by a friend to participate in one of the Virtual Town Halls, led by WBDC’s CEO Fran Pastore, that she would stumble upon a hub of online and human resources ready to help her. It was Fran who encouraged Marlene to make an appointment with WBDC straightaway, and was soon after was connected with Business Advisor Jacqui Torcellini.

    WBDC Business Advisors like Jacqui are actively providing entrepreneurs with free​, one-on-one consultations, which are paramount for business owners like Marlene. “[Jacqui] has been such a great source of guidance, resources, and moral support,” she shares. “I feel like she treats me like an equal, but I also have this sense of being able to count on her for what I need to know and where I need to go.”

    For Michele, who owns a wholesale flooring company, her business has also been drastically reduced due to COVID-19. Her team of about seven, composed of sales reps and warehouse associates, has been reduced to one to maintain and meet the needs of her legacy customers.

    Kenyétta, a Program Manager with the WBDC, assisted Michele in finding to disaster relief funding options such as the ​Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)​ as well as the ​HEDCO DECD COVID-19 Business Response Program​, which offers a 0% 12-month line of credit for up to $20,000 to businesses impacted by COVID-19, specifically designed for women-owned and minority-owned businesses. ​Michele’s applications are currently pending, but she is hopeful for her business and encourages other entrepreneurs to do the same.

    “Keep being innovative,” she offers. “Keep looking at finding different ways that you can adjust, alter, or make improvements to your business. Use this time to utilize anything that will advance your business either for when this is over, or a way to adjust your business during this time.”

    In addition to partnering closely with state and local agencies, the WBDC is finding alternative funding opportunities through private organizations and foundations for business owners to support, such as the ​Hello Alice Business for All Emergency Grant​ or the ​Red Backpack Fund​. Talking with a WBDC Business Advisor can help business owners find and determine which options are suited for their unique needs.

    “I think this experience is teaching people that right now we all have to get out of our comfort zone because we’ve already been put there. So now we have to manage how we work outside of that comfort zone,” says Marlene. “The WBDC has given me tools & resources so that I feel stuck or lost, I can reach out for free.”

    CEO Fran Pastore and the entire WBDC want to be that wayfinding resource for business owners to help as many as possible get the help they so need. “This is a great opportunity,” she spoke of the HEDCO DECD line of credit program recently. “The State is a great partner and we’re really excited to participate in this opportunity for microbusinesses.”

    In addition to assisting entrepreneurs one-on-one with preparing and submitting loan/grant applications, the WBDC team also has a host of educational resources, including:

    1. TELE Town Hall events​ for timely updates from Governor Lamont and other state leaders on​ ​available resources, executive order, regulatory changes, taxes changes and more
    2. Virtual learning opportunities​, including entrepreneurial webinars and classes
    3. Survey tools​ to better understand and address the business’s evolving needs
    4. Community support​ from WBDC Business Advisors and fellow entrepreneurs through the WBDC Connect Facebook Group

    For women like Marlene, the community support aspect has been a game changer. “There really is nothing better than watching women want to lift other women up. It’s an awesome place to be.”

    To receive any of the above support, individuals are welcomed to call the WBDC at 203-751-955​0 or ​email​ to request a counseling appointment. To book a complimentary, one-on-one counseling session or to learn more about COVID-19 funding opportunities, contact Kenyé​tta Banks at 203-751-9877 or ​kbanks@ctwbdc.org​.​ More information can also be found at ​ctwbdc.org/covid-19-resources​.

    About the Women’s Business Development Council

    The Women’s Business Development Council’s (WBDC) mission is to support economic prosperity for women and strengthen communities through entrepreneurial and financial education services that create and grow sustainable jobs and businesses across Connecticut. WBDC educates, motivates and empowers women to achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency. Whether a client is starting or growing a business, WBDC drives business success in a tangible and accessible way by engaging clients with access to education, markets and capital.

    Now in its third decade, WBDC has educated and assisted more than 14,000 clients to launch and scale over 5,900 businesses. In their pursuit of economic independence, these women have created and maintained over 6,000 jobs in Connecticut.

    WBDC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, has offices in Stamford, Derby and New London, CT. Please visit https://ctwbdc.org for more information.