Cantwell’s Women’s Business Center Program Bill Passes out of Committee

Bill helps women small business owners start, grow their businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Small Business Committee passed U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015. The bill was also co-sponsored by Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015 would help women small business owners start and grow their businesses through increased business training and counseling opportunities and improve women entrepreneurs’ access to the global market. The bill also targets women-owned small businesses in minority and economically disadvantaged communities.

“Women-owned businesses are growing three times faster than their counterparts, while facing real challenges getting access to capital. Today’s legislation helps level the playing field by making sure women entrepreneurs have access to the training and counseling to start and expand their business. These businesses will help us continue to grow our economy with new, innovative solutions, and I will continue to fight for their success in the Senate,” said Senator Cantwell.

Specifically, the bill authorizes the Office of Women’s Small Business Ownership to grant up to $250,000 per women’s business center (WBC) in order to address the many barriers woman business owners and entrepreneurs face bringing the authorization levels up to speed with other Small Business Administration (SBA) programs. Despite being the fastest growing sector of business, women-owned businesses have still vast inherent potential for growth.

In addition, the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015 is designed to remove traditional barriers to women small business owners’ access to capital and training. It simplifies the processes for program application and grants, reduces the paperwork burden on small-business owners, and increases the transparency through enhanced peer accreditation.

More women today own businesses that ever before, yet they only account for only 4% of all commercial loan dollars, 17% of SBA loans and 4.2% of venture capital. Programs like WBC are critical to the success of women-owned enterprises in establishing self-sufficiency, participation in international markets and identifying gaps where participation could be increased.

Last year, Senator Cantwell, as chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, issued the 21st Century Barriers to Women’s Entrepreneurship report on the challenges and actions needed to women’s entrepreneurial success and entryway into the market. Following last year’s report, Cantwell introduced legislation to address three components found necessary to unlock the success of female-owned businesses – increasing access to federal contracts, increasing access to capital, and improving the training and counseling programs that support them. 

Women's Business Centers (WBCs) are a national network of almost 100 educational centers throughout the United States and its territories, which are designed to assist potential women in starting and growing small businesses. WBCs seek to equalize access to resources for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique impediments in the business world.