Working to empower New York City’s women entrepreneurs

Working to empower New York City’s women entrepreneurs

Working to empower New York City’s women entrepreneurs
April 5, 2016

Women’s entrepreneurship is an issue I care about deeply. Having grown up in Grenada with my grandmother, who supported our household as an entrepreneur, I understand firsthand that business ownership can empower a family for generations. Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration are committed to addressing the myriad issues faced by women and girls in New York City, and we know that entrepreneurship is a critical pathway to economic security and opportunity for women.

Women entrepreneurs are also critical to New York City’s economy, employing over 190,000 people and generating approximately $50 billion in sales annually. Vanessa Best is one of these thriving women business owners. As CEO and founder of Precision HealthCare Consultants, Vanessa began a fledgling medical billing firm more than 20 years ago, obtaining her first contract with a doctor who opened a practice after leaving a prestigious New York City hospital. There is nothing novice about Precision HealthCare Consultants today. Vanessa’s company provides clients with all phases of revenue cycle management, clinical documentation improvement programs and office management training. She has four employees. Her company is a city-certified minority/woman-owned business enterprise, and she is exploring opportunities to sell her services to government.

Vanessa is not alone. In the past decade, the number of women-owned firms grew by 43 percent, as compared with 25 percent growth in men-owned businesses. Yet, despite the important economic impact and vibrant growth of women-owned businesses in New York City, there exists an unacceptable entrepreneurship gender gap: Men own 1.5 times more businesses than women, employ 3.5 times more people and make on average 4.5 times more revenue. Our research also uncovered that while all entrepreneurs face challenges when it comes to accessing capital, education, information and business networks, women often experience these challenges more acutely.

To address this challenge, this administration with the vision of Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen has launched WE NYC (Women Entrepreneurs NYC) – a first-of-its-kind initiative in a major American city to expand the economic potential of women entrepreneurs across the five boroughs, with a specific focus on the needs of women in underserved communities. Over the last year we have engaged more than 1,500 women business owners to co-create solutions and services that can make a difference in the everyday lives of women looking to start and grow a business in New York City. In the coming months and years, WE NYC will offer free support to thousands of women, providing the education and connections they need to succeed.

Through WE NYC, Vanessa and 16 other entrepreneurs will mentor women across all five New York boroughs through the WE Connect Mentors Program, sharing knowledge about what it really takes to run and grow a company. We are also offering free business courses on topics like credit building, funding and leadership with partners that include micro-lender Grameen America, Kiva, Citi Community Development, Babson College, Deutsche Bank, Ariva and Next Street. There is also an online portal in development by the New York City-based company Blenderbox to help synthesize resources for women entrepreneurs in one location. Outside of WE NYC, this administration is committed to strengthening our MWBE program and ensuring that city procurement reflects the great diversity of New York City business owners. In fact, we are on track to reach the mayor’s ambitious goal of increasing total city contract awards to MWBEs to $16 billion over the next 10 years.

We believe that as one woman’s business flourishes, so does her family and her community. WE NYC’s tailored services allow women entrepreneurs to unlock their full economic potential, uplifting thousands of New York City women and their communities, as well as serving as a model for governments around the world.

Gregg Bishop is commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services.

 

Gregg Bishop
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