‘StartHER' Grants Give Women Entrepreneurs a Boost

The Center for Women Entrepreneurs at Texas Woman's University was established to promote women-owned businesses

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Women took a big economic hit in the pandemic, with Black and Hispanic women, in particular, suffering steep spikes in unemployment. Yet even in tough times, there are women in North Texas ready to rewrite history and launch a new business in this very tough climate.

"If you can be a success now, you'll be even better when the pandemic is over," said Tracy Irby, director of the Center for Women Entrepreneurs a program in the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership at Texas Woman's University in Denton. In 2015, the Texas Legislature established a special center focused on creating successful new women-owned businesses. 

Its job is to promote women entrepreneurs in Texas, and "StartHER
Grants" awarded for the past four years are part of it. The funding comes with a requirement that women complete a small business training course.

The latest round of $5,000 grants awarded last fall went to 10 female entrepreneurs as part of the ongoing effort to boost women-owned businesses.

"There was such a variety of businesses, that's what we love about it. There were a couple of ed-tech companies, a coffee trailer, software, someone working with diabetes and a home staging company. So, a diverse group of businesses," Irby said. "Women are so creative and it's great to see the ideas they come up with for a business for themselves."

Nine of the 10 chosen for the StartHER Grant were from North Texas. In all about 150 women applied -- ready to take a leap in the middle of the pandemic.

"There's research that shows that as many as 86% of women-owned businesses are solopreneurs, and this helps them get that start and take it from there," said Irby, an entrepreneur herself with 25 years experience.

For those ready to jump into business for themselves, she offers this advice: "It really helps when they create a business plan so they can look at their business objectively and put in the numbers," she said. "Go in with realistic expectations. Make sure you have money to live on while you do it. If you have to have a part-time job, a full-time job 'til you can really kick it off fully."

And if you're not sure the idea swirling in your mind can work, Irby says, "you can start out easily asking friends and people you know what they think about it. And, do the research in the industry. See if there's anything similar out there. And if your gut is telling you, yes, sometimes you just need to go for it! "

The next round of StartHER grants will be awarded in September. Information is here.

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