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Women Owned Businesses Get a Boost

February 21, 2011

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Beginning this spring, women-owned businesses will get a leg up when it comes to securing what are often lucrative government contracts. The Small Business Administration is setting aside contracts exclusively for women, and women entrepreneurs are finding there is strength in numbers.

North Carolina is home to one grassroots effort that's quickly gaining momentum. The SheBIZ Alliance was created last year. Since that time it has doubled in size, and more than $50,000 has exchanged hands between members.

Members meet each month to learn about each others' business and share expertise, founder Debby Hipps explains.

"They bond and form working relationships, and the friendship part of it just comes alive for everybody. When you build that bond, other women tend to support each other."

Several SheBIZ members will receive training on how to apply for the government contracts. Nationwide, there are $30 billion in contracts available.

SheBIZ moved into its own office space this month and now offers classes to members and meeting space. According to U.S. Census figures, women-owned businesses are growing at twice the rate of all U.S. firms.

In North Carolina, 27 percent of businesses are owned by women. SheBIZ members find strength in each others' success, Hipps says.

"We can be as successful as any man out there, and a lot of these women are showing they can do that. A lot of these women are single, and they support themselves having their own businesses."

SheBIZ has plans to expand into other parts of the state in the near future. Hipps says the organization plans to go nationwide within five years.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC