SBA grants $450,000 for Women's Business Center WEB to help clients gain self-sufficiency; Entrepreneurship


The U.S. Small Business Administration awarded a $450,000 grant to Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore yesterday for the start of a Women's Business Center that would give technical assistance to its clients.

Amanda Crook Zinn, chief executive of WEB, said her organization's clients include low-income, minority and disadvantaged women who have a goal of self-sufficiency that can be achieved by starting their own business. She said 30 applicants are accepted for each three-month program, and its 16th class will graduate Dec. 15.

Sherrye Henry, an SBA assistant administrator for the program, said WEB has a support network that similar organizations around the country should replicate. She said the Women's Business Institute was the only other center in Maryland to apply for the grant.

"This organization is so outstanding, not just in Maryland, but within the country at large," Henry said. "It has produced a model -- mainly for low-income, minority women -- a web of support services from accountants, lawyers and marketing consultants who individually counsel and mentor, even after they graduate when they are in the shaky, start-up business phase."

Zinn said the $450,000 is a cooperative-agreement grant, which means WEB will have to match it with community contributions. WEB will receive the money in equal installments over three years, and have the opportunity to renew for a fourth and fifth year.

WEB will use the grant for a training program with two parts, she said.

"The first component is Internet training and access," Zinn said. "The second component will help increase the number of government contracts that women-owned businesses receive. In 1996, 2.3 percent of women-owned businesses received contracts. By the year 2000, it's projected that women-owned businesses will receive half of all government contracts issued."

Fifth District Councilwoman Helen Holton, a CPA, is a former mentor for WEB, which started training in 1991.

"WEB helps bridge the gap and let women become participants of the economy," Holton said. "How do we make 'Welfare to Work' a reality? WEB can make that reality a smoother transition."

Henry said that in order to be eligible for the grant, an organization had to be community-based, tax-exempt and nonprofit, and have a targeted outreach to a part of the community and a sense of mission on how to reach them.

"We judged the applicants on the breadth of vision, ability to deliver and the amount of community support they can demonstrate," she said. "We use taxpayer money, a relatively small amount, so we need to be sure that the money can go to a group that can make it soar."

Pub Date: 11/20/97

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