Teaching the 'New Economy'

Teaching the 'New Economy'

Springfield’s Community Business Partnership offers classes for women entrepreneurs.

A new set of classes offered through Springfield’s Community Business Partnership is aiming to take the fear out of finances for women. The Financial Education Center for Women Entrepreneurs opened its doors at the Community Business Partnership’s Loisdale Road facility on April 19, with three separate courses for women with an eye on cracking the business market in Northern Virginia.

"(We want them to) not be afraid to ask the questions, not be intimidated, but to make the right decisions to make more money from their business, and to keep more money," said B.P. Walker, the director of the Financial Education Center (FEC).

To that end, Capitol Financial Partners started the FEC program to reach out to women, both to grow their businesses, and to provide a service for the community. They paired up with the Community Business Partnership (CBP), a non-profit formed in 1995 focusing on small business start-ups and entrepreneurs in Northern Virginia.

"We help small businesses, so we often get men and women who come here with a great business idea, but no financial skills. They may be an immigrant, or someone who’s lived here for a long time," said Kathy Wheeler, president of the Community Business Partnership, which receives funding at both the state and county level, as well as from George Mason University, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, and the Office for Women.

The new FEC offers three classes, each taking a step up the financial food chain, from basic personal finances, all the way to the details of credit, savings and investments. The first class, "Money Smart," is offered once a week for five weeks, and deals with the basics of checking accounts, savings and loans. "The Price is Right" deals with cash flow and break-even analysis, and "Never Kissed the Frog, Never Had To" deals with options in savings and investments.

The goal, said Walker, is to meet the needs of different groups which the Center has identified.

"Each level is taking them to a higher level of understanding," she said.

THE FEC is deliberately targeting these three groups within the more diverse group of women: the lower income and immigrant population, business owners of less than five years, and business owners of 12-15 years. Each one will benefit from what the FEC is offering, said Leia Francisco, chair of the Women’s Advisory Board for Capitol Financial Partners.

"This new center provides a unique, permanent and community focused program that helps women put all the pieces together," she said.

While the CBP has offered tools to assist with small business start-ups, job creation and revitalization, Wheeler said the FEC will provide more tools for them to be able to help the community.

"It’s filling in the missing cog to our organization that we didn’t have before. (Some people) are fearful of lending institutions, not familiar with our economic system, and we as an organization didn’t have the manpower or the tools to assist them. Now, this gives them a place to send them," she said.

One hope that Walker has for the FEC is to provide a place for immigrants interested in starting their own business, or who have recently started a business, to learn about the American system of business and its intricacies.

"The immigrant population in the metro area is growing. It’s a group we cannot ignore. They can be productive and viable citizens, contribute to the tax base, and we can provide them with the training," she said.

Classes cost between $10 and $25, and those in the child care business often receive a 50 percent discount, Walker said. The classes are aimed at women, but men are also welcome, she said.

"Women are the new economy. They are a significant and driving force," she said.