A committee of women entrepreneurs in Spokane hopes to rally enough support by late spring to create an Inland Northwest chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
“NAWBO will provide women here with an opportunity to share experiences and different points of view - not to mention the whole networking side of things,” said Linda Clark, who supervises the steering committee that is recruiting members.
NAWBO is open to women who are sole proprietors, partners or corporate owners with day-to-day management responsibility.
The Washington, D.C.-based association is the only dues-supported national organization representing women entrepreneurs in all types of businesses. The 6,000-member organization has 53 chapters in the United States and is affiliated with Paris-based Les Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises Mondiales, with offices in 28 countries.
The steering committee hopes to recruit 30 dues-paying members to become founders of the Inland Northwest chapter. The group will be the first NAWBO chapter in Washington, Idaho and Montana.
According to NAWBO president Patty DeDominic, the chapter will give Spokane women who own businesses access to:
Opportunities to meet and interact with mentors and other women entrepreneurs at monthly meetings and national conventions.
“They’ll be plugged into a national and even international network of women business owners and resources for entrepreneurs,” DeDominic said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
Visibility in the business community, which can lead to corporate and civic advancement.
DeDominic said some members have gone on to become elected government officials and corporate executive officers.
Lists of vendors and sales representatives who want to contract specifically with womenowned businesses. NAWBO emphasizes contracts with the federal and state government, along with lending institutions and large corporations such as Boeing and AT&T.;
“Spokane women will have a chance to rub shoulders with the purchasing departments of large companies. You can imagine the value of that,” said Clark, who publishes Computor Link, the only weekly computer magazine in the Inland Northwest.
One of the goals of the Inland Northwest chapter is the development of women entrepreneurs in rural areas, said Coralie Myers, women’s business ownership representative at the Spokane office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“We want to reach out to everyone, regardless of whether they can attend every meeting,” Myers said.
The Spokane steering committee has already recruited several members from the Spokane Women Business Owners and Advocates Round Table, which is currently the only affiliation for women business owners in Spokane County.
The round table already has a mailing list of more than 500 affiliates, so recruiting 30 women as founders should be easy, Myers said.
“Unique challenges” of women business owners underscore the need for NABWO, DeDominic said. For example, women-owned firms are 22 percent more likely to report difficulties in working with financial institutions than are all business owners, according to a NAWBO newsletter.