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New York Program Cultivates Women Entrepreneurs

FILE - Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network attendees talk before a panel. New York City also is out to unlock the potential of female entrepreneurs with its Women Entrepreneurs New York City initiative.

FILE - Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network attendees talk before a panel. New York City also is out to unlock the potential of female entrepreneurs with its Women Entrepreneurs New York City initiative.

A push is underway in New York City to unlock the power of women entrepreneurs. In a unique, targeted city-sponsored venture, a group aiming to help accomplish this has been launched — Women Entrepreneurs New York City (WE NYC).

The program offers training and business services, along with networking and planning to support women entrepreneurs who are starting and growing businesses. It's sponsored by the New York City Department of Small Business Services.

Forty culturally diverse women entrepreneurs, many of them immigrants, attended a leadership conference this week.

Marian Cicelello, the trainer from Next Street, a problem-solving advisory company, led the discussion and role-playing exercises.

“I want women to walk away with the sense that they can do it, they should believe in themselves,” she said. “They are here to learn about confidence and leadership skills."

One African American woman, Deborah Simon, said, “After working 37 years, now I’m taking on a different role. A commercial cleaning business. My vision is, I’ve been working for six months now, and hopefully by January of next year I should have everything in place.”

Amore Philip, born in Barbados, but a New Yorker most of her life, is a public relations consultant who think networking is crucial.

“I am here to get more insight into growing my business, as well as to kind of learn more from those who are also business owners like myself, to connect, of course. Connections are very important,” she said. “In six years, my business is now starting to be successful. I’ve had some failures and I’ve had a lot of successes, and I learned how to really operate my business by being in business.”

Fresh initiative

Stats from WE NYC tell the tale. There are almost 200,000 women entrepreneurs, like Philip and Simon, in New York City who contribute $50 billion a year in revenue to the city. That's the most in the United States

With that said, men employ 3 1/2 times the number of people, own 1 1/2 times more business, and make on average 4 1/2 times the amount of revenue as compared to women business owners, according to WE NYC.

Regarding profitability, a study by the city in the fourth quarter of 2015 (WE NYC Study), revealed that nearly half of women entrepreneurs generate less than $25,000 in annual revenue. Also, WE NYC says 44 percent of women reported that their businesses were not profitable.

With those kinds of numbers, the city decided to do something about it, by focusing on some key challenges — including access to capital, financial planning, direct connection to mentors and business networks, and tailored business-skills education.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, in charge of the program, said the city plans to leverage public-private partnerships to focus on the key challenges that women entrepreneurs face.

The most recent Bank of America survey of women entrepreneurs called the availability of capital one of the biggest issues for women. Most women queried say they used savings or their credit cards to get their businesses started.

According to Dell’s new Women Entrepreneur Cities Index (WE Cities), New York City is considered the best place to be a female entrepreneur. It leads the world in fostering high potential for women entrepreneurs.

The top five: New York, San Francisco Bay area, London, Stockholm, Singapore. To make it to the top of the list, five important categories of city characteristics were identified: capital, technology, talent, culture and markets.

“Women entrepreneurs are America’s best bet for economic growth," said Elizabeth Gore, entrepreneur-in-residence for Dell. “It’s time for women to be politically engaged to ensure the right ecosystems are in place for them to scale. If politicians and entrepreneurs partner, dynamic policies can be put in place to close the circle and enhance the process from idea to enterprise.”

Prime businesses

Women have a strong presence in large industry categories such as health care, social assistance and personal services. Unfortunately, as we reported earlier, these industries generate lower revenue. Women have a relatively low presence in industries that represent the most revenue potential, such as wholesale trade, finance and manufacturing.

It was Rita, a retired school teacher from India, who summed up the conference and its goals this way: “I’m just curious how women do business. I can learn from it. I am potentially in business, but not yet. I want to tutor kids, after school STEM tutoring. This will help me develop my business.”

The city is encouraging women like Rita to understand they are not in this alone, that there is assistance and encouragement as they move into a new business enterprise and for many, a new role in life.