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Conference connects women to business resources

On March 19, women from across the state will gather in Grand Island to network, learn and encourage each other during the second annual Women Entrepreneurs Conference.

The event is hosted by the REAP Women’s Business Center and the Nebraska Small Business Administration and will be held at the YWCA in Grand Island.

“We want it to be a one-stop shop for all of the business basics that they might have a question about,” said Elizabeth Yearwood, an economic development specialist for the Nebraska Small Business Administration.

The day-long event will feature guest speakers and activities that allow participants to interact and learn from each other.

“(Women) are very important to the economy,” said Barbara Foster, the lead economic development specialist for the Nebraska Small Business Administration. Foster noted that between 1997 and 2013, the number of women-owned businesses in the United States increased by 59 percent, a rate 1.5 times greater than the increase in the number of male-owned businesses, according to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express.

“I think that women are great networkers, they don’t hesitate to ask questions or to go up and talk to someone,” Foster said.

Whether they are discussing legal concerns, marketing strategies, record-keeping or motivational tips, conference organizers hope the event brings women entrepreneurs from all corners of the state together.

Monica Braun, the Women’s Business Center director for the Nebraska Center for Rural Affairs, said the conference is being held in Grand Island to attract business women from western Nebraska.

“It provides that opportunity for a support system, which I think is hard to find, especially out in the rural areas,” Braun said.

Organizations like GROW Nebraska, the Department of Revenue, the Nebraska Enterprise Fund, the Nebraska Business Development Center and others will be at the event to inform business owners of free or low-cost offerings that may meet a current or future need.

Last year the event brought more than 60 women together, and Braun, Yearwood and Foster are hoping for an even larger showing this year.

“I’m just hoping women come and women learn and then they go out and get started,” Yearwood said.

Registration is open to all and costs $35 to reserve a spot. To register, visit this link or contact Elizabeth Yearwood at elizabeth.yearwood@sba.gov for more details.