MISSOULA — The US Small Business Administration (SBA) launched its largest expansion of women’s business centers in 30 years earlier this month. Twenty cities across the country were chosen to receive one of these new centers - including Missoula.
University of Montana Director of Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership Morgan Slemberger spearheaded the grant application for the center. She said she'd been waiting for years to see a women's business center in Missoula.
"When it comes to like venture capital, women only get 2% of all venture capital that's distributed, that's 98% going to men. If we look at bank loans, statistically more men than women who get bank loans. If we look at revenue coming in, men are making a lot more revenue as well," said Slemberger.
The disadvantages women face -- along with the hardships of COVID-19 -- will make the center more beneficial than ever before.
"There are a lot of women who are working really hard right now because of the pandemic to stay in business. So, as we consider what we can do for communities, that's a huge deal."
With a decentralized model, the MonTEC Women’s Business Center will be headquartered in Missoula, but serve the entire state with employees in Great Falls and Fort Belknap.
"Our real hope is that we can reach women who we haven't been able to reach before. We'll be putting money in the hands of people who need it and can develop the right programs for their culture," said Slemberger, "That's really what we're hoping to do with parts of this program."
The center will host business counseling, programs, and training for women entrepreneurs and business owners.
Slemberger told MTN News that the goal is to create financial independence for Montana women, noting that when our female entrepreneurs succeed, we all succeed.
"If we can work together to support women to get into business at whatever capacity, whether it's ownership, on a board, or just involved, likely your community will be better, your economy will be better, and business revenues will be better, so it's really a win for everyone."
The MonTEC Women’s Business Center hopes to hit the ground running in March, with programming starting no later than April.