Maryellen O’Mahony | Rhode Island director, Center for Women & Enterprise
1. Please explain what the Center for Women & Enterprise does. The center … provides opportunities for women entrepreneurs and business owners to increase professional success, growth and financial independence. CWE offers education, consulting and microloan programs to aspiring business owners. Our goal is to provide clients, both women and men, the resources they need to learn new skills and build confidence to support successful business ventures.
2. How would you characterize the community of women entrepreneurs here? There is a great deal of networking, mutual respect and support among women entrepreneurs [locally]. Women we work with often approach business ventures very cautiously, more so than men. They are very creative and have the ability to look at things objectively and see the big picture. You will find many women-owned businesses operating in the service sector.
3. What’s the biggest challenge facing aspiring entrepreneurs in Rhode Island? The biggest challenge is funding. Sometimes it’s hard for entrepreneurs to align their aspirations with a realistic outlook on their finances. Shifting the mindset to saving money beyond personal finances to focus on lending, crowdfunding, etc., can be an obstacle. An ongoing challenge and dialogue for women is maintaining a work-life balance – women still hold onto a majority of family responsibilities, on top of their business ventures, and striking that balance can be challenging. Having the confidence to take on these opportunities simultaneously is a hurdle.
4. How does that challenge differ between women and men? As much as we work to educate boys and girls equally, their upbringing favors the assumption that men are the breadwinners and women maintain responsibilities at home. Women attempt to bridge these gaps as they build confidence in their business ventures, but there is still work to do. … Most women have a “need to know all the details” mentality, seeking various outlets for support. Men tend to make business decisions without those additional layers.
5. How does CWE help entrepreneurs overcome such challenges? CWE consults clients as they check things off their priority list – whether it is legal or financial advising, building a business plan or simply boosting their confidence, we are there to guide them along the way. … We provide coursework, consulting and have conversations that address the concerns and questions they have.