WMU News

New WMU center gives boost to women in business

February 25, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Giving women business owners a boost is the goal of a new Women's Business Development Center recently established by the Haworth College of Business at Western Michigan University.

The center will provide support to women business owners and potential owners through low or no cost training, problem-solving consultation, current business information and support group opportunities.

According to Pat Guenther, director of the center and associate director of WESTOPS, WMU's Office of Public Service, the center was established in response to needs expressed by area businesswomen in a series of focus groups in November and January. Forty-two women from throughout southwest Michigan worked with trained moderators to define the services and structure they want from such a center.

Guenther said it has become clear that the challenges and information needs of businesswomen are often different from those of men.

"Women need and demand more detailed information, they want to have the background to feel confident," she says. "While they are also detail oriented, they can be big picture people as well. That's why they are very good at starting and owning their own businesses."

She anticipates that the Women's Business Development Center will be especially helpful to the woman business owner who is addressing issues of government procurement, certification and financing.

The new center will draw upon the resources of the Haworth College of Business and WESTOPS, with university faculty and volunteers from the business and professional community serving as speakers, trainers and mentors. Guenther hopes also to work with the college in linking client businesses with student interns, providing real-world experience for students and the current thinking on business solutions for clients. In addition, the center will work with WMU's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to develop faculty research projects that would draw outside funding.

A Web site is also being developed for the center that will provide a database where client businesses can list their services, request help from each other and send email to the center. The site will include a calendar of events, information about the center and its programs and news items. It will also provide connections to other business development sites.

A steering committee has been formed to provide advice and feedback on the center. Members of the Women's Business Development Center Steering Committee include: Gloria Bellware, Bon Vivant Travel; Jackie Bishop, Edward Lowe Foundation; Jill Bland, Economic Development Bureau, Kalamazoo County Chamber of Commerce; Tory Cobb, Memories Ink'd; Carmen De Young, W.E. Upjohn Institute; Nancy Foncannon, Quality Systems Consulting; Margean Gladysz, Kalamazoo Public Library (retired); Barbara Gordon, City of Kalamazoo; Maija Jirgens, Jirgens Modern Tool Corp.; Marsha Koestner, Checker Corp.; Hannah McKinney, Kalamazoo City Commission; Judy Moore, Kalamazoo County Chamber of Commerce; Rosalie Novara, MRC Industries; Carla Noe-Emig, consultant; Willie Mae Pierson, Pierson Real Estate; Betty Serafino, Spring Tools Co.; Charlotte Sumney, Kalamazoo County Commission; Teresa Tharsh, Northside Economic Potential Group; Karen Van Drie, Portage Public Library; and Dr. Trudy Verser, WMU's Haworth College of Business.

For more information, call Pat Guenther at (616) 387-2714.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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