Woman-focused center wins national, local accolades

Katty Ibarra

The Small Business Association San Diego District Office announced its 2023 Small Business Award winners, with the local awards event taking place on May 9.

The San Diego & Imperial Women’s Business Center was named the National Business Center of Excellence Award, also receiving the regional Excellence Award. The WBC was nominated by San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center Director Daniel Fitzgerald.

The WBC is a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration, hosted by Southwestern College at the Center for Business Advancement at the college’s National City Higher Education Center campus.

The WBC provides training and consulting for pre-venture, microenterprises, and other small businesses. Their consulting and several of their training programs are offered in both English and Spanish. Two of their biggest successes are their family childcare provider business start-up training, and their Mindset Reset program, which helps women business owners work through unique life and business challenges opening pathways to success. Additional programs are offered to support women entrepreneurs and business owners by facilitating their path to starting, financing, marketing, and managing their businesses and much more. The WBC’s target market is women of color located in low-income communities.

The San Diego & Imperial WBC started in April 2018 with the award of the grant to Southwestern College. Ibarra was selected as the first director of the program. Ibarra built the program to now be a leader in helping women entrepreneurs start businesses, help women business owners improve their confidence and entrepreneurial mindset, and particularly helping Spanish speaking women start and grow their in-home childcare businesses. In the past three years the WBC has aided via counseling and training to 3,138 businesses, helped 160 new businesses start, and helped 294 businesses access capital to grow their business.

“We are very excited to have 2023 SBA National and Regional resource partner award winners this year! We are not surprised at their wins, as we consider them the best in the country at what they do. Our local resource partner network goes above and beyond in the assistance they provide to entrepreneurs and small businesses. They are collaborative and are always looking for new ways to expand and improve their offerings. These awards are well deserved, and we appreciate all they do to further SBA’s mission to support small businesses at every stage.” said Ruben Garcia SBA’s San Diego District Director.

Ibarra said that she just came back from a weekend in Washington D.C, at the National Small Business Awards held April 30 and May 1.

“It was an amazing event. I was part of a panel to talk about the services of the WBC,” she said. “It was an amazing experience to be recognized on a national level. We were also invited to the White House. We were able to meet the president and vice-president, so it was a very exciting and inspiring experience. We had a celebration on May 5 here at Southwestern College.”
Ibarra said the SBA Women’s Business Centers is a national program that has been around for 30 years with 147 nationwide.

“We provide technical assistance for women entrepreneurs that want to start and grow their business,” she said. “We are open to the public in general and have specialized programs for women. We offer one-on-one business advising, business strategies, marketing strategies, and business plans. First, we talk with the client and see where their business is at, what their goals are, and how we can help them move forward.”

Ibarra said then they can create a “scope of work” and begin working with clients.

“We have different advisors,” she said. “We have marketing specialists, a financial advisor, and based on the needs of the clients we are moving them forward with training and business advising at no costs to the clients.”
Ibarra said that it is much like the Small Business Development Center, but it has unique programs that the SBDC does not.

“We have a mindset program that helps women increase their motivation, their confidence, so they can use that in their business,” she said. “We give them strategies so they can motivate their clients, balance their time so they have a work/life balance. And it helps women balance emotional intelligence. This program is also in Spanish.”

Ibarra said another difference is with its personnel.

“Because we are a smaller organization, we have specialized personnel. When they reach the point of needing more assistance, we send them to the SDBC.”
Ibarra said the WBC is funded through the Southwestern College Foundation, but it needs to match the Foundations’ funding, so it receives grants from the SBA and the state of California.

Ibarra said it also works with different departments at the college because it wants to close the gap between students finishing classes and wants to start their own business, practice their learning, and introduce them to the entrepreneurial world.