The Connecticut Women’s Business Development Council provided area residents an opportunity recently to meet industry experts who offered one-on-one speed counseling and advice.

Fifteen minute sessions provided personal advice to each registered participant by a panel of four industry experts in an informative speed counseling forum held at the Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce, 5 Broad Street.

“The Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce is pleased to partner with CTWBDC, SBA, the City of Milford, Milford Public Library and Economic and Community Development to assist businesses successfully and affordably access counseling, education and information from starting a business, continuing to grow one, lending programs and all aspect of business,” said Gary Mullin, executive director, Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Knowledgeable leaders within four business industries included Carol Cheswick, Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC) Business Strategy Specialist; Samantha Cross, WBDC Financial Counselor; Colleen Roney, Price Waterhouse Coopers Senior Manager Assurance; and Sue Yasav, VP of Thoughtful Leadership Synchrony Financial, who each provided answers to important questions.

The CT Women’s Business Development Council educates, motivates and empowers women to achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency. Its mission is to “support economic prosperity for women and to strengthen communities through entrepreneurial and financial education services that create and grow sustainable jobs and businesses across Connecticut.”

Founded in 1997 as a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, the WBDC has over the past 20 years assisted nearly 20,000 women across 169 Connecticut become more business savvy by providing the tools and resources necessary to help women thrive in the business world. Clients have in the last three years generated approximately $155 million in gross revenue and have paid approximately $10.8 million in taxes to the state of Connecticut. “We believe that when desire, education and preparation come together, opportunities are created, ideas are ignited, dreams realized and economies are expanded,” explained the organization.

The WBDC provides support in many ways for those starting or growing a business, from entrepreneurial counseling and training which educates, empowers and guides clients to offering the necessary financial education needed. The WBDC’s Financial Education Program provides settings for clients with varying financial needs; one- on-one budget coaching, seminars and long-term financial coaching that assists with debt, credit related issues, increased savings and retirement planning as well as access to capital, business plan review, financial forecasting, pitch presentation, loan application preparation, lending referrals and more.

“The WBDC helps individual entrepreneurs with basic skills needed to start a small business, grow your business or obtain capital for your business,” said Kenyetta Banks, WBDC program manager. “We serve people in three regions, we just received a grant to open one in New London and we have Fairfield County and the Valley. We find we have a lot of clients that need information and quickly. Because of the lack of time with business owners, we thought we could have them come together and have a speed counseling event. They saw four different counselors that talked about finance, marketing, strategy, and personal finance. We thought it would be a great opportunity for the community in and around Milford. We had one in Westport in April and it was a great success and it’s easier for people to get their answers within this short span of time.”

“I am a volunteer on behalf of Synchrony Financial and we are headquartered in Stamford,” said Yasav. “As part of that we like to reach out and support small businesses. I’ve been in marketing for 30 years and give marketing advice to small businesses. One thing I stress is how to identify your target market, a lot of people are so busy running their businesses, it would benefit them to expand and look at their target market. And also, I’ve done a lot of work around value proposition, what is your positioning statement, what is the value proposition that you bring to the table. Also, I help women with consumer research and to really tap onto what are the drivers of what your customers want. Sychrony wants to give back to the community and make sure small bussinesses are supported and personally I enjoy helping small businesses with marketing.”

“I do all of the personal finance programming here (WBDC) and I think it’s extremely important for women entrepreneurs to understand their personal finance,” explained Cross, Financial Education Consultant WBDC. “It’s important to have your personal finance in order so you can get your business finances in order and get loans and grants. I’m passionate about educating and empowering women with their personal finances which helps them grow their businesses. In general when I meet with entrepreneurs I stress how important your own personal credit is - your credit score, credit health and making sure your credit score is as high as it can be. Secondly, setting up a personal budget is important so you have allocated money so you can succeed in your business including an emergency fund and available funds for seasonal businesses.”

“We are open (Stamford, Derby and New London) and are available to all entrepreneurs even those who haven’t started yet. Come in and utilize our resources to start, grow, fund and succeed in your business, and check your credit score,” continued Cross.

“We support clients in all endeavors, a lot of people think the WBDC is only for people who have a business, we also help people who are trying to figure out what they are trying to do, we help people get their personal credit in order, we are a nonprofit so most of our events are no charge or minimal and we also have a sliding fee for individuals who can’t pay at a certain rate. The New London office will celebrate its grand opening mid-July.”

Visit www.ctwbdc.org to book an appointment.