In 2010, business owner Ann Jagger was still feeling the effects of the Great Recession as she tried to get a loan for her digital printing company, Southport Graphics.
“All the banks seized up lending,” she said. “No one would give us any money. We went to four different banks.”
During her struggle to get a loan, Jagger attended an event at the Women’s Business Center of North Carolina and spoke with a staff member. That meeting connected Jagger with a bank that helped her qualify for a Small Business Administration loan.
“That made it possible for us to buy equipment that doubled our revenue in a year,” said Jagger. “Because of that loan, we were able to get another loan the following year for an operating income of $50,000. And because of that money, we went from $900,000 of revenue that year to about $1.5 million.”
The Women’s Business Center helps business owners and entrepreneurs like Jagger every day. The nonprofit’s mission is to empower female business owners to start and grow their businesses by offering tools and support. It’s an effort to diversify business and economic opportunity by involving untapped populations.
Executive director Briles Johnson and assistant director Melissa Terrell work hard to make their clients successful.
“You can do the services, but the impact is where the reward is,” Terrell said. “Seeing the growth of women in business and seeing them thrive is awesome.”
One of her first clients wanted to open an escape room in Durham. After feedback and planning help, the client opened and grew her adventure game business, which invites players to solve puzzles to get out of a locked room.
A few of the services provided by the Women’s Business Center of North Carolina are:
- Counseling: Work one-on-one with WBC staff to develop a business plan.
- Seminars and webinars: Learn about financing, marketing and other business topics.
- Networking: Grow business connections, and create new partnerships.
“I encouraged her,” said Terrell. “She had it already, but sometimes the women just need encouragement.”
While the center focuses on women in business, anyone who needs support can get help. And the majority of WBC’s resources and programs are free.
“We will help anybody in business, at any stage in business — from inception — or anyone with an idea through start-up, through stage one and stage two,” Johnson said.
From business counseling and certification to networking and seminars, entrepreneurs have access to a wide array of resources for low or no cost.
“There are some custom seminars that will carry a fee, and it’s not a big fee,” said Johnson.
Networking is one of the foremost resources at the center and is incorporated into much of the center’s seminars, events and other resources.
“It’s really meaningful and impactful when we’re able to connect our businesses, our clients together, and they start to work together,” said Johnson.
Clients and partners alike have gained business relationships and clientele from the center’s networking efforts.
One of the center’s partners, Payal Nanjiani, will lead a series called “Road Map to Business Prosperity” with the center this fall.
“I partnered with WBC, and it has opened up avenues for me to serve the small and medium business, especially women,” she said.
In addition to general services like networking, the center offers several specialized initiatives.
One of the highlights, New Mission Military Women as Entrepreneurs, is designed to help military women looking to transition from the military to entrepreneurship.
“We’re trying to definitely encourage getting them to the right resource, making connections,” said Terrell. “That’s really what it’s about in business — making those connections.”
The connections and resources the center generates help support the clients and the center itself.
“We have many successful clients that we work with, and the good thing about the ones that are doing well — they give back,” said Terrell.
The work the business center accomplishes is a full circle, Terrell says.
“I love what I do. Seeing these businesses succeed is definitely a fulfillment, seeing the impact.”
Jagger is one of the center’s clients who gives back by sponsoring events at the center.
Because of the growth Jagger’s printing company experienced after their loans, she was able to retire from the business early and spend time volunteering.
“Without those loans I would still be working there, trying to make the business grow,” she Jagger. “With those SBA loans, they catapulted us to a place where I’ve been able to do something I’ve wanted to do all my life.”