Recent Atlanta transplant, Ramona Mills learned firsthand what it meant to start up a full-service residential real estate business. As she began to realize she needed capital to make leasehold improvements and purchase operating equipment, her most glaring initial hurdle was securing access to capital, but she also came to learn that there was a lot more to consider.
Technology, innovation, and a supportive network in which to learn about such things are central in today’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Mills admits, “Finding that support system is vital in the start-up phase.”
As the new Director of the Women’s Business Center (WBC) in Central Ohio, a branch of the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), Mills is dedicated to providing Columbus women entrepreneurs with the supportive home base that she wishes she would have known about during her past life in Atlanta.
When she took the position this past April, Mills realized that the WBC had a lot more room to grow and saw the opportunity as a platform to assist minority-owned businesses. With nearly one million small business owners in the state of Ohio, 123,000 are minority-owned. Although ECDI largely focuses on supporting those that are systematically underserved, it is important to note that the WBC is not only limited to assisting female and minority entrepreneurs. All are welcome to take advantage of its resources.
“The WBC tends to be a best-kept secret and we are trying to change that,” says Mills. Thus, she has made it her mission to bring the WBC to the pulse of the entrepreneurial community in town.
As the third largest microlender in the country, ECDI can be the source of capital while the WBC ensures that the client has the know-how to make those lent dollars work for them and their business. The relationship is very much one of collaboration with a shared vision. Most small business owners rely on their personal savings or credit cards to stay afloat, while they fear rejection from traditional lending sources. ECDI, in collaboration with the WBC, can take away that fear by easing the financial and educational burden.
As Columbus is the 14th largest city in the U.S. and a hub for entrepreneurial capacity building, Mills is working to capitalize on that fact. In communion with the WBC, she aims to put people on a path to success while strengthening the female entrepreneurial community by providing the much-needed support system, coaching, and fundamentals that the WBC offers.
Moving into its sixth year, the WBC will continue to promote innovation in key areas as well as improve access to technologies that support job growth and increased profitability. For Mills, hers will be a conscious effort to help women entrepreneurs get on pace with business plan development and financial projections so that they are in a good place to finance their business.
Since 2004, ECDI has assisted Ohio’s entrepreneurs through its one-stop shop business services model, suited to meet the needs of all entrepreneurs, regardless of what business stage they’re in. From providing capital to entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses, to providing focused, business-specific educational opportunities to enhance entrepreneurial skill sets, ECDI works with their clients to meet their unique needs. Whether assisting a new client with a business concept or an accomplished entrepreneur opening a fifth location, ECDI’s “never say no” approach has allowed over twelve thousand entrepreneurs to take advantage of the services it provides. Visit ecdi.org today to learn more.