By Mara Lee
The Hartford Courant.
Affirmative action programs are a great way to expand your business, more than 200 women business owners were told at the Capitol on Wednesday.
The women heard from politicians, advocates and fellow business owners as part of Women Owned Businesses Day, organized by the Women’s Business Development Council.
Meg Yetishefsky, manager of supplier diversity for the state government, told a breakout group of about 40 women that the state has a very aggressive set-aside program. She said that as long as a Connecticut-based business has less than $15 million in revenue, is majority woman-owned, and has a woman in the top spot, it can qualify for quotas in government contracts.
“If you are a small-business owner in the state of Connecticut and the state is not your client, it should be,” Yetishefsky said.
There are 3,000 companies that have gone through the process of becoming certified as a small business by the state of Connecticut’s standards, and she said that many have grown past the cap.
She said that even if a woman business owner isn’t sure she wants to sell to the state, it can still be advantageous to get licensed.
“My colleagues at Aetna, The Hartford, Travelers — we work together very closely,” Yetishefsky said.
Lisa Powell, an economic development officer with the U.S. Small Business Administration, told the women that they can qualify for quotas depending on the size of the business and the race and wealth of the owners.
Being a woman-owned business alone is not enough to qualify for quotas with the SBA. However, women who are black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian American — if the owners have less than $750,000 in assets, excluding a home and the value of the business — can qualify.
Women at the meeting also could get entrepreneurial advice on how to get government grants or loans from banks, the government or nonprofit lenders.
Rep. Patricia Miller, D-Stamford, asked the women to email her their stories of how the Women’s Business Development Council has helped them, so she can send those stories around to colleagues in an effort to retain state funding for the nonprofit agency.
The group’s president, Fran Pastore, said that for the past two years, the council has received $500,000 from Connecticut taxpayers, a big part of the organization’s $2.2 million budget. In the governor’s budget proposal, there is no money for the council this coming year.
In the past two years, the council says, 200 small businesses were started by clients. Half of the group’s clients are members of racial or ethnic minorities.