Nonprofit Aims To Help Women Survive In Small Business

By Annika Cline
Published: Friday, March 20, 2015 - 4:55pm
Updated: Friday, March 20, 2015 - 4:56pm
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(Courtesy of Arizona Women’s Education Entrepreneur Center)
Cassie Uhl gives a presentation on how to run a business on Etsy, which is how she sells her jewelry.

Small businesses pop up every year, but within the first five years of operation, many of them close. One nonprofit hopes to get women in on the small business trend, in a way that helps them survive the formative years.

Cassie Uhl is wearing a pair of sterling silver earrings in the shape of half moons. She’s building her career on these earrings, and the other jewelry she designs.

"Well I think like a lot of handmade businesses like mine it started as just a labor of love, I was making things because I loved to. And then eventually people were like ‘Where do you sell this? Where can I buy this?’" Uhl said.

The answer was Etsy, an online marketplace for people to sell what they create. About a year ago, Uhl quit her job as an art teacher and started her new jewelry brand, called Zenned Out.

"I didn’t have any business background, I was just kind of like this is doing well, but I don’t really know what to do to take it to the next step," she said.

Enter Alicia Marseille. She's the program director for the Arizona Women’s Education Entrepreneur Center.

But they usually just call it AWEEc. The center had a soft-launch at the beginning of February.

"So since Feb. 2 we have 54 clients," Marsielle said.

A client is someone signed up for the center’s program, which includes trainings, one-on-one mentoring, workshops and even the option to take an online business course. And it’s all free, which gets to the center’s mission - to help women in low-income jobs or with no job at all to become their own boss.

"Our goal is to help them to understand that entrepreneurship and small business can be a form of self-sufficiency, and a way that they can create more income for themselves and their households," Marsielle said.

According to the Small Business Administration, which helps fund AWEEc, one major reason for small business failure is actually unexpected growth. And that’s exactly the situation Uhl finds herself in now - she’s growing, and she has to figure out what to do about it.

"I need to make a business plan and you know, I already asked Alicia, I said 'when I have this business plan written up is this something that I can come and show you so that I can make sure that it makes sense, that you know I’ve got the finances in order for it,'" Uhl said.

With the help of AWEEc she hopes to get through those first five years that are so shaky for small businesses. In the meantime she can keep in mind one of the quotes she engraves on her bracelets: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

The official launch of Arizona Women’s Education and Entrepreneur Center is next Wednesday. It’s in conjunction with a contest called InnovateHER, which searches for a product or service that has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families.

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