The Youngstown Business Incubator has hosted a number of events in Ashtabula County over the last year, and continues to offer support to business owners and those seeking to open their own business.
Ginny Pasha, business coordinator for Ashtabula County with the YBI, said the group has a Minority Business Assistance Center, which is a conduit for funding from the Ohio Department of Development.
“Minority is defined in the usual racial/ethnic terms, but also includes women-owned businesses, and interestingly, veteran-owned businesses as well,” she said. “Part of what I do is find and work with women who have an idea to start a business, and help provide some tools and resources to get them up and going. We also support in getting state certified, which is a pre-requisite for getting in the loop for the Department of Development funding.”
Funding from the ODOD is low interest, usually from zero to 1.5 percent, or three percent at most, Pasha said.
“If you take a look at what interest rates are now-a-days, you can see how attractive that is,” she said. “There are hoops that have to be jumped through, but if you are in business for at least a year, you would be eligible to jump through those hoops and qualify for funding.”
According to information from the Ohio Department of Development, there are a number of different loan opportunities available. The Women’s Business Enterprise Loan Program makes between $45,000 and $500,000 available to help stimulate the growth of existing women-owned businesses. The loans have a maximum interest rate of three percent, and must be repaid within 10 years for equipment or machinery and 15 years for owner-occupied real estate.
To be eligible, women must have 51 percent ownership and control of the business, or it must be certified by the Minority Business Development Division as a Women-owned Business Enterprise, and must be current on all federal, state and local taxes and current on all loan payments. They must also have not defaulted on previous financial assistance provided by ODOD.
The ODOD also offers a minority business bonding program, which helps provide bid, performance and payment surety bonds to state-certified businesses that cannot obtain a bond from traditional surety companies, for a two percent fee. The department has a direct loan program that provides low, fixed-interest-rate loans to businesses in partnership with a lender.
More information on Ohio Department of Development programs can be found at minority.ohio.gov.
Pasha has also been hosting a series of workshops, open to anyone thinking about starting a business, or already in business and looking to take the next step.
“I brought in an attorney … who talked about how to get your employer identification number and how to set up the organizational structure of your business,” she said. “So for somebody who’s thinking about going into business, that is really important. Nate Rockwell came in and talked about the business plan. Holly Mayernick came in and talked about HR for small businesses that are already up and running. It was just an array of things like that.”
Pasha has been working in Ashtabula County since last year.
She recently hosted an event where she helped field questions from business owners.
“One of the challenges that came up a couple of times is, in spite of a lot of progress being made, most frequently, women are still responsible for the children and the household,” Pasha said. “One of the small business women who provided service for the event last week actually couldn’t be there because her child had a ballgame. When you have really small children, like three-, four-year olds around, it is a challenge that women more particularly have to face.
“Overcoming those challenges, there’s just no easy answer to that,” she said. “I was a single mom for years with two kids. A network of family and friends was critical, but for women who are already working, access to quality childcare is important, very important.”
Women who want to start a business in male-dominated fields like trucking also face greater challenges, Pasha said.
“It’s a harder road to go for a woman,” she said.
Pasha said she hopes to host another speaker at some point in November.
Pasha said women planning to get into business should be sure they are getting into it for the right reasons.
“If you are going to go into business for yourself, you’ll never work harder,” she said.
She encouraged prospective business owners to conduct market studies and financial forecasts.
“I think women might want to just be very thoughtful in what they’re doing,” Pasha said.
Pasha has office hours at the Ashtabula County District Library every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon. Appointments are suggested, but she is available for walk-ins. Pasha can be reached at email@example.com.
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