Category Archives: Women Business Owner

Business Mentoring is a Business Builder

mentoringA mentoring relationship can take form in many different stages of your career.  Recently it has become one of the most important relationships a young entrepreneur can establish.  The unconditional knowledge and advice a trusted and established entrepreneur can offer is invaluable.  Many successful business owners will credit a large portion of their success to a few key individuals who helped mold them into the business owners they are today.

It has been proven that new business owners see concrete results in their companies when they enter into a mentoring relationship.  New entrepreneurs who received mentoring increased their revenue by an average of $47,300 or 106% ( Htet).  It has also been shown that businesses who received mentoring created 4.75 jobs on average (2.5 jobs more than those that did not receive mentoring) (Htet).

Stephanie Hickman, owner of Trice Construction Company, found her mentor through the Clinton Foundation and strongly believes that finding the right mentor is extremely important..  She explains, “the mentoring relationship is one of the most personal relationships of your life, so there must be a level of chemistry and like-minded alignment that comes naturally between both individuals.”  Hickman cites trust as a necessary component for the relationship to be truly beneficial and valuable.

Now the question becomes how do you have a successful mentoring relationship?  Here are four tips to make your mentoring experience most successful!

  1. Set up specific goals and expectations with your mentor from the start of the relationship.
  2. Create a realistic implantation plan with specific steps towards achieving these goals.
  3. Establish regular meetings (even phone meetings) in order to assure the relationship is a priority for both parties involved. 
  4. Track and evaluate the progress throughout the duration of the relationship.

The Women’s Business Development Center offers a mentoring program through an online portal supplemented by programming including webinars and in person meet-ups to strengthen  the relationships between mentors and mentees.

Mentoring

Works Cited

Htet Lin Thu, Jason. 2013 Business Outcomes Report. Rep. Micro Mentor, n.d. Web.

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Five Sure-fire Business Building Tips from Top Women Entrepreneurs

What does it take to not only survive but thrive as a business owner? Who better to ask than the two entrepreneurs who will be honored at the WBDC’s 27th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference on September 26th!

Carolyn Gable, CEO of New Age Transportation, Distribution & Warehousing Inc., will receive the Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year award, and Lili Hall, president and CEO of KNOCK, inc., will receive the Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year – WBE Success award. Here, they give us a taste of the business-building tips they’ll share at the 27th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Luncheon.

  1. Be positive and believe! A business owner’s biggest challenge — to stay positive –starts “on the day you have your first thought about business ownership,” according to Carolyn.

    Carolyn Gable

    “It’s easy to stay positive when the phones are ringing off the hook, but expect many ebbs and flows along the way,” she continues. “Being a business owner means taking on the huge responsibility of always ‘knowing’ that things will work out.”

  2. Never take anything for granted. Lili, who self-financed the launch of her ad agency during the 2006 recession, admits she wasn’t always sure the business would survive. Today, after having lived through two recessions, she believes that maintaining an attitude of appreciation helped get her through the toughest times. “I’ve learned that having patience, perseverance and the right attitude always prevail,” she affirms.
  3. Let go of your ego, and don’t be ruled by emotions. Carolyn recalls angrily walking away from a lucrative piece of business because the client was reluctant to pay her what she believed to be was a fair commission. As she climbed into her car to leave the meeting, she realized that she hadn’t handled the situation properly. “Silly to ever let your ego or emotions rule in those situations,” she states.
  4. Hire the best employees you can afford.

    Lili Hall

    Lili suggests surrounding yourself with a collaborative team of people who are entrepreneurial in spirit and who are as passionate about the business as you are. You want employees who “are open to smart, new ways of doing things,” she says.

  5. Never ever give up. “Just when you least expect it, your next big account or big sale is on its ways to you,” Carolyn affirms. “Your next miracle is just a phone call or an email away!”

Ready for your own miracle? Then don’t miss the WBDC’s 27th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference, Women’s Business & Buyers Mart. Online registration is closed, but you can register at the door!  See you there!

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Writing Winning Proposals – The Bid/No Bid Decision

By: Freida Curry, Director of the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) In last month’s Insider, I provided 6 steps for writing winning proposals.  The first step listed was ‘Make a Bid/No Bid’ decision.  In this issue, we are going to spend more time on this important step, and have invited Eileen Kent, President of Custom Keynotes, as our guest blogger.  Eileen, who has trained thousands of business owners nationwide in federal sales, proposal writing and GSA schedule contracting, is known in the industry as the “Federal Sales Sherpa” because she guides companies up the long and treacherous mountain path of federal contracting. 

The following are Eileen’s comments and suggestions about establishing a bid/no bid decision process: 

Eileen Kent

In my experience, one of the more rocky roads up the path to federal sales success is writing a blind proposal as a response to a bid posted on the public website FedBizOpps.gov. It’s as dangerous as walking up a mountain path with a blindfold on. You only have only a 5% chance of making it to the top three finalists.

If that is the case, then why do owners gamble their resources when there is such a low probability of making it to the top? Because owners believe their companies are perfect for the project – when, in fact, they often had no business bidding on it in the first place!

It is crucial that you take the time to evaluate and explore whether you should bid or not bid on an ‘opportunity,’ and I strongly advise owners and business development professionals to build a bid/no bid decision process that helps you decide which proposals to invest your time and talent.

Build a Bid/No Bid Decision Process

In my opinion and experience, you don’t stand a chance if you’ve never pre-sold to the customer inside the government. The goal is to “only write winners” (proposals) and that means you’ve already pre-sold the solution and you’re simply defending the win within theproposal.

A great way to judge your potential success is to ask yourself these questions below. If you don’t know any of the answers, you’re writing a blind bid and that means you only have a 5% chance or less of winning.

  1. Who is the incumbent?
  2. What does the customer think of the incumbent?
  3. Who are the other competitors calling on the client?
  4. Can the incumbent bid on this opportunity? What if they are a large business and the proposal states it is seeking small businesses? Could they bid with a small business teaming partner? If so, who is that small business? What does the customer think of them?
  5. Do I have the bonding capacity and the finances to be able to back such a project?
  6. Do I have the ability to provide the government agency the transparency it requires in terms of my costs, my team’s pay and my finance system? Would I withstand a Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) audit?
  7. Have I performed work at this agency before? How did I perform?
  8. What are the past performance requirements? Did I do something in similar size and scope – at that agency?
  9. What are the products the government agency is requesting? Do I have the name brand products it is requesting or the “equivalent?”
  10. Does the customer know me? Do I know the customer? Have we worked together? Did they ask me to watch out for this bid?
  11. Have I built teaming partners and lined them up prior to the bid hitting the streets?
  12. What is the contract vehicle? Do I have it? If it is an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, do I have the sales team to uncover and win each task?
  13. What are the billing processes and the invoicing procedures at this agency?
  14. If the government agency is asking for key staff, do I have THE people on my staff it  told me it wanted or am I just filling a position to fit their description?
  15. Is this opportunity in my specialty? Do they know me for this specialty?
  16. Do I have the security clearances for this project, or am I scrambling to get them now?
  17. Do I know the story behind the opportunity? Why is this on FedBizOpps? Why didn’t they use a current prime, a GSA schedule or another contracting vehicle to avoid all the “noise” of a public procurement?
  18. When did I hear about this bid?
  19. When is the bid due?
  20. Was I invited to bid, or did I just pull this off the public bidding website?
  21. Who do I know at the agency – the end user, the contracting officer, or the stakeholder, or all three or none?

My motto is “Write Less Proposals – WIN More.” If you put as much time and investment in knowing the answers to the above questions by developing strong relationships, great past performance and excellent teaming partnerships before the bid hits the streets – as you do writing the proposal – you should be in a good position to be among the top three finalists. And even if you lose, you’re in a great position to be the winner the next time around.

If you want to hear more from Eileen Kent, visit her website at http://www.customkeynotes.com.

For more information on proposal writing, certification, finding contract opportunities, and developing a government contracting strategy we invite you to schedule a free appointment today with a WBDC Illinois PTAC counselor by calling 312-853-3477 x 100.

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WBDC 4th Annual Technology Makeover Contest Winner – Rebecca Fyffe, ABC Humane Wildlife

We are all familiar with pigeons, especially those of located in the metro Chicago area.  And we all tend to have the same feelings about them – “gross, get rid of them.”  One Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) is making that happen: ABC Humane Wildlife. The company is led by Rebecca Fyffe who serves as the president and submitted the winning Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) Technology Makeover Competition.

2013 marked the first year the WBDC Technology Makeover Competition was offered on a national scale and only to Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Certified WBEs.  The WBDC received applications from California to Florida and found there continues to be a need for updated technology within businesses of all sizes.

Rebecca’s organization has big plans for the software and hardware they won:

“The WBDC’s Technology Makeover is the best thing that could ever happen to my company. It would allow me to make a powerful and instant change that I estimate would increase my leads by 40 percent or more immediately! Within 90 days of having new hardware (server and workstations) ready to run our custom software, we would have the program in place just in time for the peak breeding season for most of Illinois’ animals as well as peak nest building season for bees.”

tech makeover

From L-R: Mark Key, CDW; Rebecca Fyffe, ABC Humane Wildlife; Carol Dougal, WBDC

ABC Humane Wildlife was announced as the winner of the Competition at WBENC’s 2013 National Conference & Business Fair in Minneapolis in June.  As a part of the prize package, Rebecca received hardware, software and marketing services from AT&T, CDW, Market M and Microsoft, as well as tickets to the WBDC’s 2013 Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference and WBENC’s 2014 National Conference.

For more information on ABC Humane Wildlife, please click here.

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5 Tips for Building Business Relationships that Lead to Successful Corporate Contracting

Cynthia Johnson, WBDC Director of Established Business Services

Cynthia Johnson, WBDC Director of Established Business Services

Contracting with major corporations can bring big bucks to any business, but what are the best ways to accomplish your goal of building the key relationships that mean profit for your business? Cynthia Johnson, Women’s Business Development Center’s (WBDC) Director of Established Business Services, shares five tips for successful corporate contracting:

1. Do research – doing business with a corporation isn’t about what they can do for you, but rather what you can do for them. The best way to find out their needs is to really understand a corporation’s mission, history, goals etc. Small business owners, particularly women and minorities, should create a vendor profile on the corporation’s supplier diversity page. The vendor profile includes contact information and other pertinent information about your business and can be accessed by supplier diversity representatives and corporate buyers. On the supplier diversity page, not only can you find information regarding corporation objectives, but you can be notified of outreach events and other relationship building opportunities.

Connection Points

2. Network with fellow small business owners – networking is vital, so make it count. We have an entire program called Connection Points built around the concept of focused networking. Networking with those who are in related or complimentary industries can offer all involved parties the opportunity to share ideas, trends, talents for the purposes of building relationships and strengthening businesses.

3. Value Proposition – it is important to write and maintain a strong value proposition, a clear concise “living” document that is used to give potential corporate clients a glimpse at the value your business can offer them. Your value proposition can be used as a means to introduce yourself or to as a relationship building tool in a one-on-one presentation meeting with the potential corporate client such as WBDC’s Contract Connections Program. In a value proposition you should:

Lead with your business strengths – make sure you highlight your capacity to manage awarded contracts, your financial strength & stability, past successes, bonding capacity (if applicable) and that you exemplify outstanding client services & best practices. Simply stating “I’m certified” won’t do; you must also display that you will offer the same high performance that corporations expect of all businesses they work with, and as a value-add you are also a certified WBE, MBE, DBE or VBE*.

4. Keep current – Renew your certifications and don’t let them lapse. Make sure you have paid close attention to any deadlines and paperwork you may have to complete to make this possible. Keeping current also means continuing to grow within your industry. Joining trade associations, subscribing to industry publications, attending industry events and sharing information with your professional peers will help you to stay relevant and build your expertise. These items are also impressive to add to your supplier diversity vendor profile and value proposition.

5. Be Persistent, But Patient – building a relationship in the business world is like building any other relationship. You want to let your potential corporate clients know you exist and highlight your value to them, but remember building a relationship takes time. Follow up is encouraged, but don’t be overbearing, when making a call or sending an email give time for the supplier diversity representative to process the information. Strong business relationships can take months or even years to cultivate, but in time, using these steps you can set the groundwork to be a success in corporate contracting.

For more information or set up an appointment to develop your corporate contracting plan, please call 312.853.3477 or contact Cynthia Johnson at cjohnson@wbdc.org. For government contracting tips, click here.
*WBE: Women’s Business Enterprise. MBE: Minority Business Enterprise. VBE: Veteran Business Enterprise. DBE: Disadvantaged Business Enterprise

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Filed under Business, Established Business, Supplier Diversity, WBE, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Contracting Tips from WBDC’s IL PTAC Director

Freida Curry

Freida Curry, IL PTAC Director

Contracting with local and federal government agencies can be a challenging process without the proper guidance.  The Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) is here to assist in this process.  Freida Curry, IL PTAC Director sat down to give five tips to building an effective government contracting strategy:

  1. Laser focus on one or two government agencies in which to do business.  Do your research to find government agencies that buy what your business sells
  2. Create a capability statement for your business.  This “living” document lists your core competencies, past performance distinctions and other pertinent information about your business.  Click here to read more about capability statements.
  3. If you want to do business with the Federal government, you will need to register your business in the System for Award Management (SAM). Please click here to access the SAM website. If you want to do business with a local government agency, register yourself as a vendor on their procurement page.
  4. Report your economic impact! Reporting of your economic impact is directly tied to the funding PTACs receive to keep counseling free and keep workshops and seminars at a low (or no) cost. (Illinois businesses may report economic impact by clicking here.)
  5. Schedule a counseling session at no charge with your local PTAC. If your business is located in Illinois, please click here to register for PTAC counseling, if your business is not located in Illinois; please click here to locate the PTAC nearest you. PTACs can provide your business with:
    • Customized research to be applied to your government contracting strategy
    • A free service such as Bid Match to send contract opportunities tailored to business straight to your email
    • A review of your bid package, capability statement, SAM profile and many other government contract related documents

For more information or to schedule a PTAC appointment today please contact Kristin Travis at ktravis@wbdc.org or 312.853.3477.

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Celebrating Women Business Successes in Minnesota

The Women’s Business Development Center-Minnesota (WBDC-MN) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2013.  To commemorate this milestone, as well as Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) and WBDC-MN corporate partners, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference & Business Fair coming to Minneapolis this June, the WBDC-MN held its 7th Annual Celebration of Success.

Attendees were honored to hear from MN Senators Franken and Klobucher as they addressed the crowd via video.  Both spoke of the great things the WBDC-MN is doing for women business owners and the work that is still ahead. See the videos below:

 

The Celebration of Success was held earlier this year and honored truly deserving individuals and companies that support the growth of women’s business ownership.  Awardees included:

WBDC MN Pic of Award Winners

The WBDC-MN honored the achievements and success of local women entrepreneurs and supporters of women’s economic development, including (from left) Lisa Holter, shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., Advocacy Award; Lynne Alexander, chairman and CEO, The Bureau of Engraving, Inc., WBE of the Year Award; Kelly Wold Smith, owner/president, Futura Marketing Inc., Giving Back Award; and Molly Larsen, supplier diversity senior manager, Best Buy, who accepted the Corporate Partner of the Year Award on behalf of the corporation.

  • WBE of the Year Award to Lynne Alexander, chairman and CEO, The Bureau of Engraving, Inc for her company’s success in leveraging its WBE status to secure business, and for outstanding contributions to the community and WBDC-MN.
  • Corporate Partner of the Year Award to Best Buy, for its outstanding commitment to supplier diversity and the utilization of women-owned businesses in its supply chain. Best Buy’s supplier diversity senior manager Molly Larsen, who accepted the award on behalf of the corporation, spoke of the evening and the award:

“Our program is relatively new so it is great for our team to be recognized for all the hard work we done over the past three years. The snowy weather didn’t keep folks away! The turnout, the food and the venue were fantastic.”

  • Giving Back Award to Kelly Wold Smith, owner/president, Futura Marketing Inc., for extraordinary contributions to the success of the WBDC-MN, its certified WBEs and the women’s business community.   Kelly says of the award:

“It is a milestone for me to have made it to a place where I can help others –I am so honored to be in a position where I can be honored for my contributions to a wonderful organization like the WBDC.”

  • Advocacy Award to Lisa Holter, shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., for strong commitment to women’s economic development and long-standing, generous support of the WBDC-MN.

The WBENC Regional Host Committee, featuring top WBE companies from throughout the WBDC’s nine state Midwestern region, was also introduced through the video below, created by Lili Hall, Host Committee member and president/CEO of KNOCK Inc.!  Learn more about the Host Committee here: http://www.wbenc.org/wbencconf/conf-host-committe.php.

Will we see you at the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Minneapolis June 25-27th? Best Buy’s Molly Larsen will be there and is looking forward to the conference, “I am always inspired by the dedication, talent, determination and creativity of the WBEs. They inspire me to continue to improve the program at Best Buy and find opportunities to purchase from them.”  Plus, Futura Marketing’s Kelly Wold Smith will “absolutely” be there, and suggests if you’re planning on attending to see “the lakes – I live in the western suburbs and personally I don’t think a summer trip to the Twin Cities is complete without a boat cruise on Lake Minnetonka!”

Click here to see more pictures from the celebratory evening.

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Women’s History Month – What It Means to Millennials

During a regular Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) blog post, we focus on small business, growing your opportunities and raising public awareness. For this article, we’re going to shift our focus to what Women’s History Month means to some of the Millennials or Gen Y staff members at the WBDC and why it is so important to celebrate now, more than ever.


We asked, “Do you think junior to senior high school girls are aware of the suffrage movement?”

Kristin Travis:“Yes, but just like abolition, civil rights, religious, labor union movements, in the minds of youth today this is something that happened a very long time ago, and these issues are such that I believe they (wrongly) think have been resolved.”
Rebecca Glaubke: “I believe that many girls are aware of the suffrage movement but most do not know the details about all that happened and what women had to go through in order to fight for the rights we have now.”

2013 marks the centennial celebration of the first suffragists marching for equal rights to vote.  In the past 100 years, women have seen great changes, both socially and economically, but have the core issues remained?

Bethany Hartley: “In 1913 we were dealing with being stereotyped and told what our position was by men, but today we deal with self-inflicted stereotypes.  The same issues are still there, parity in the workplace, independence, etc. just coming at us from a different angle.”
Kristin: “Our biggest issue is the way we are portrayed to ‘mainstream America.’  The way we are portrayed in reality TV is deplorable.  We are still shown in the media as those who are put in place solely to serve others (children and men): Susie homemakers, the mammies, the soccer moms, the wonder-women, the gold digger…the other.”

On the other side of the coin, change has brought about new issues.  We asked, “What do you think is the number one issue women your age face today?”

Rebecca G.: “I believe the number one issue for women in their early 20s would be employment and living situations. For many women who are my age, it is tough to find a job right away after graduating and being able to afford to live on your own and away from your parents. There are few entry level positions that pay well enough to pay for rent or housing, whether you live by yourself or with roommates. Having few options makes it stressful to find employment that will pay well.”
Carolina Diaz: “I believe the biggest issue for women my age is the struggle to balance personal life with a career.”

From the perspective of the women we talked to, women’s rights is still an important issue – one that has only grown as the number of women in the workforce has increased.  The need for organizations that bring together professional women and educate the next generation is all too relevant. In closing, we looked for a solution, and it’s a simple one that falls on the shoulders of women at any age:

Rebecca Diaz: “Women need to be educated about women’s inequalities in order to fully understand the importance of women’s rights. Read books, articles, use social media and any resource to learn as much as possible. Younger women need to be proactive in advocating for women’s rights. No one is expected to change the world in one day – but encouraging our network of friends, colleagues and our community to enforce education and equality on any level is change in itself. Don’t perpetuate discrimination against women by ignoring and conforming to social and cultural stereotypes. Let’s open our eyes, ignite conversations and demand change.”

We encourage you to share your thoughts on the biggest issues you see for women, young and old.

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First in Their Field – Women in History

Happy Women’s History Month from the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC)!  To honor women throughout history we have created an infograph sharing “women who did it first”.  Click on the image below to view the complete infograph. What will your legacy be?

A look at women through history.  (Click to view infograph)

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Filed under Advocacy, Special Events, Women Business Owner, Women's History Month

The Tax (Wo)Man Cometh! WBDC Gets Advice from the IRS

Yolanda Ruiz

Yolanda Ruiz

With Tax Season quickly approaching, we at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) want to make sure you are the most prepared you can be when it comes to doing your small business taxes.  Who better to ask about taxes then the IRS?  For that we turn to Yolanda Ruiz, IRS expert and employee and frequent presenter at WBDC workshops on business taxes.

1.       What is the number one question you get from small business owners seeking assistance with their taxes?

“Unfortunately, many come to me when they are behind in their taxes asking about payment options. One of our partners noted ‘One of the major obstacles that business owners encounter with their businesses was not being aware of their responsibilities to the IRS. Most are repaying the IRS for lack of paying payroll taxes or estimated tax payments.’ It’s hard to catch up when you fall behind, knowledge is key.”

2.       What is a common misconception you see about taxes or the process of filing?

“Trying to reduce your tax bill is illegal. Actually, with tax planning you can legitimately reduce your taxes. Washington is constantly sending out incentives in way of additional write-offs and hiring credits (Section 179, Bonus Depreciation, HIRE). Utilizing these incentives will reduce your tax bill while expanding your business.”

3.        What resources are available to small business owners (especially those on a budget)?

“E-news for Small Businesses is an electronic newsletter that comes out every other Wednesday. It will provide you with information on current incentives (additional deductions/credits) for small business as well as free resources. To subscribe go to: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Subscribe-to-e-News-for-Small-Businesses

IRS also has VITA sites that offer free tax help to people who make $51,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. For a VITA site near you, go to – http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/

The IRS is proud to partner with Center for Economic Progress/ Tax Clinic. They can help you if you have a dispute or problem with the IRS to solve your issues quickly.  Also, they will be able to file current and previous tax returns. Call the Tax Clinic at (312) 630-0241 for an appointment, or go to http://www.economicprogress.org/clients/got-letter-irs for more information.

The IRS is proud to partner with The Law Project, a nonprofit that provides free services to qualified business start-ups: http://www.thelawproject.org

4.       What online resources would you recommend?

“The Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop online is composed of nine interactive lessons designed to help new small business owners learn their tax rights and responsibilities. It includes topics such as EIN, Business Structures, Recordkeeping, Classifying Worker and Business Taxes.

Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center on irs.gov – http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Small-Business-and-Self-Employed-Tax-Center-1

No more spending time navigating the IRS website, all that you need is on this page. “

“The purpose for tax education is not to make you a tax professional but to give you an awareness of your tax responsibilities and the many benefits that are available. By having an awareness of how your business should be run (for tax purposes) you can ensure that your accountant/tax preparer is compliant with filing and payments, you will avoid problems and you will allow your business to grow.”

The WBDC also wants to make sure you and your employees know about the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. If you file as a Schedule C, you as a self-employed individual may be able to receive the credit.  Click here to learn more.

The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families. With the additional funds, the majority of recipients invest back into their local economy and can truly help grow small businesses.  To learn more about the EITC, please click here.

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Filed under Business, Business Start-up, IRS, Taxes, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business