A new initiative was recently announced by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn aimed at supporting the growth of women-owned businesses, which he said has helped improve the state’s economy.
“Women entrepreneurs are one of our state’s key job creation engines,” said Gov. Quinn. “Our goal is to help women find the economic resources necessary to expand their companies and provide more employment for our state.”
To further assist women-owned businesses grow the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will host its first-ever Women Business Owners Symposiu 9 a.m. Friday, March 29 at the UIC-Forum on the city’s West Side, which coincides with Women’s History Month.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and Deputy Gov. Cristal Thomas will open the event.
The daylong event—which is free and open for women looking to start or expand a business—includes keynote speakers Ruth Ann Gillis, president, Exelon Business Services Co.; and Judith Roussel, director, U.S. Small Business Association’s Illinois District.
There will also be an exhibit hall, one-on-one counseling and free on-site daycare.
And the goal of the event, said Adam Pollet, director of the DCEO, is to bring together business leaders, lenders and technology experts to showcase the knowledge and opportunities available to help women-owned firms expand in Illinois.
“We are committed to connecting experts and resources to firms owned and run by women as there is a great opportunity for these entrepreneurs to create jobs and keep Illinois competitive,” added Pollet. “Women-owned firms are making a powerful impact on our economy.”
Leslie Graves plans to attend the event to find out how to incorporate her home-based catering business.
“I have been self-employed for two years now. I do okay in sales but heard I could do more if I get a business license, which would allow me to open up a bank account in my business name,” said Graves. “This way, customers could make the check payable to the business and not me. It would also help when it is time to file taxes and seek sponsorship from big corporations or bidding on government contracts.”
Three out of 10 firms in Illinois are owned by women generating a total of $53.4 billion in sales, according to census data.
There will be panel discussions at the event focusing on capital funding and financial growth, technology and infrastructure, new markets (private and public), and state agencies and programs. Attendees will also hear first-hand experiences of women who have built their own companies.
Topics of discussion will range from how to gain access to capital, how to get a foot in the door of large corporations, where to find free technology support, how to get certified for government contracts and how to use the U.S. Census Bureau web site for market research.
The list of panelists include Wendy Lewis, senior vice president, diversity and strategic alliances, Major League Baseball; Pat Harris, global chief diversity officer, McDonald’s Corp.; Marsha Serlin, CEO, United Scrap & Metal Co.; Katrina Markoff, CEO and founder, Vosges Haut-Chocolat; Joanne Tica-Steiger, director, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses; Sona Wang, founder and managing director, Ceres Venture Fund LP; Maria A. Colangelo, vice president, Wintrust Bank; Poonam Gupta-Krishnan, CEO, Iyka Enterprises Inc.; Kristin Barrett, vice president, Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center Project 1871, and Rita Haake, program manager, College of DuPage Center for Entrepreneurship.
Directors of four state agencies (DCEO, Transportation, Tollway, Veteran Affairs) and officials from three federal agencies (SBA, Census, Commerce) will discuss how to find business support and outline government projects that are fully funded and seeking contractors.
Women business owners are encouraged to attend the event where valuable resources for them would be available, said Carol E. Bell, deputy director of Women’s Business Development.
“We want women business owners to know they aren’t alone,” added Bell. “The state is a great resource. Providing these business leaders with support helps them evolve, develop and expand, which in turn leads to more jobs, stronger communities and a better state economy for everyone.”
To register or to find out more information, go online to www.ildceo.net/WBOS.