January 24, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Women's Business Center of North Alabama Not Just for Women

January 21, 2012


HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- For area small businesses, the Women's Business Center of North Alabama has proven to be a good source of information, training and other help - including mentoring.

The center though, doesn't live up to its name.

Despite it being the "Women's" center, it is definitely not for women only.
The organization initially began to give women a place to nurture and support them in starting a business, said Joanne Randolph, president/CEO of WBCNA.

"But men would come, too," she said. "We have always embraced men; we had men on the board.

"Last year, we counseled and trained 2,700 individuals - more than half were men."

The WBCNA is also expanding its reach by establishing the Veterans Business Assistance Center. The VBAC provides training and resources to veterans in the area who are starting or expanding small businesses.

"We wanted to enhance our offerings to that sector," she said. "There are veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan who wanted to start a business or revitalize the businesses they left when they were deployed."

Highlighting the effort is an all-day event March 20 called "Empowering Our Veterans: Entrepreneurship and Employment." The WBCNA is partnering with Still Serving Veterans on the event.

"We have already reached out to veterans who are successful business owners and they have generously offered their support in helping other veterans get started and to grow," Randolph said. "Who better to help somebody than someone who has done it?"

She said the program has "three tracks: Help veterans start or grow a business; help veterans find jobs; and help companies hire our heroes."

"There will be workshops in those three tracks and the last part of the day will feature a job fair/business expo," Randolph said. "It's a day to empower veterans."

Meanwhile, the VBAC offers its services to all veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists, National Guard members and active duty business owners and start-up entrepreneurs in North Alabama.

Most of the services are free and there are some minimal fees for training, Randolph said. The services include one-on-one business coaching by veteran business owners; networking opportunities and business matchmaking; website resources for veterans; and comprehensive entrepreneurial training.

"We want to help veterans getting a job or making jobs themselves by starting businesses," she said. "Our nation's veterans are the embodiment of leadership, service and perseverance.

"It is only natural that many of these individuals are taking steps toward becoming entrepreneurs in their civilian life and professional careers."

Budd McLaughlin can be reached at budd.mclaughlin@htimes.com and 256-532-4527.

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