Moving the Needle for Minority Women-Owned Businesses

Photo provided by ECDI.

According to the 2017 State of Women-owned Businesses report, commissioned by American Express, “For the last 20 years, women of color have turned to entrepreneurship at an extraordinary rate. While the number of women-owned businesses grew 114 percent from 1997 to 2017, firms owned by women of color grew at more than four times that rate (467 percent).”

The story in Ohio was much different. The report indicates Ohio was one of the five lowest ranking states in growth and revenue of minority women-owned businesses.  

That was 2017, this is now.

With support from key partners, ECDI Women’s Business Centers of Ohio (WBC) have worked to move the needle in the direction of progress.

Since 2013, WBC has provided more than 3,100 hours of ongoing business coaching. Over 69 percent of the coaching was to minority women entrepreneurs.

This coaching helps overcome the hardest obstacle – obtaining capital. In a recent study by Guidant Financial, 80 percent of African American small business owners said lack of access to capital was the most challenging aspect of running their business. The WBC has provided capital to 536 black-owned enterprises.

To better serve start-up and growth-phase businesses, WBC recently launched a new, specially-designed training program—Start Here, Grow Here. The Start Here, Grow Here program offers two different workshop series including Start Here, trainings designed for entrepreneurs in the idea or start-up phase, and Grow Here, trainings designed for growth-stage small business owners looking to scale their businesses in a responsible and sustainable manner. Both training courses are combined with Action Labs, hands-on workshops that let students implement and practice what they learned in their respective classes. Start Here, Grow Here workshops are currently held in the Northern Ohio market, however ECDI will be rolling out the new WBC program in the Central Ohio and Cincinnati markets in the coming months.

For Latasha Farmer, owner of iSalon Plus, the path to entrepreneurship was personal. Hair loss can be devastating, especially when it happens to you or someone you love. When Farmer’s grandmother was suffering from cancer and lost her hair, she felt compelled to do something to help. Luckily, as a trained hair stylist with a degree in cosmetology, Farmer had the skills to act. She handmade a wig for her grandmother at home, and after Farmer witnessed firsthand the power of helping to restore someone’s confidence, she knew she was onto something big.

Farmer discovered how the WBC and growth-stage training could point her business in the right direction.

“Attending classes at the WBC has given me a variety of resources such as branding and finance. These classes are helping to lay a foundation to create a strong, sustainable business,” said Farmer.

More importantly, she has been able to scale her business. She went from just making wigs and providing hair loss services, to now a certified mastectomy fitter offering post breast surgery products and education to breast cancer survivors. Funding from ECDI’s LEAN Fund has allowed Farmer to expand her services in the medical industry, and her revenue has doubled since working with the WBC and ECDI.

iSalon Plus is MBE and EDGE certified. Currently, Farmer is waiting on her Surety bond, for full accreditation which will increase her revenue stream by more than 50 percent.

“These classes force you to get actively involved. They are a wonderful asset to entrepreneurs no matter what phase,” Farmer said. “There is always something to learn from the workshops. Providing a community where you can engage with likeminded individuals has helped my business. Once you come to the WBC you adopt a team for your business who push you further and help you reach your goals.”

ECDI and the Women’s Business Centers of Ohio are helping to level the playing field with innovative and high-impact training resources and loan products.

For more information, visit

This mutli-part sponsored series highlighting ECDI’s work in Columbus is presented with paid support by ECDI.

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 today to learn more.

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Douglas Craven has a passion for small business, creative entrepreneurs, and community development. As Director of Development and Marketing at ECDI, Douglas works closely with the CEO, President and Board of Directors in all development and fundraising efforts. Previously, Douglas was part of team Geben at Geben Communications, a PR firm that helps emerging brands and forward-thinking, established companies excel in a social world; Douglas managed teams, created strategy, crafted crisis communication and media amplification for national brands and large non-profits. With more than eight years with ECDI in various roles Douglas works tirelessly to find new resources and opportunities for the businesses they serve throughout Ohio.