The chief executive officer of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center says in its first year, the Women’s Economic Opportunity Center in Fort Wayne has helped women-owned businesses secure more than $500,000 in funding. Karl LaPan says the center has made it easier to connect women to services they can use to help start or grow their businesses. The WEOC’s ultimate goal is to deliver its services throughout the state.
LaPan says the WEOC has trained and counseled nearly 900 women in its first year. He says the services offered by the center has created a natural peer group for women business owners in the community.
"We see this kind of collaborative community-building that happens with women-owned businesses and how they support one another in making sure that they gain from the intelligence of both things that businesses have done extremely well and things that, if they were to do it over again, they may not do the same way," said LaPan.
The WEOC recently landed $150,000 in funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration and, earlier this month, named Sandra Wharton as its new director. LaPan says the WEOC plans to expand to the more than 80 counties throughout the state that are within its coverage area by partnering with women-focused organizations, entrepreneurial support organizations and economic development organizations.
LaPan says the WEOC is also seeking to enhance its online presence as a means to reach more women seeking to start their own businesses and give them a chance to grow at their own pace.
LaPan says a couple of main themes developed over the past year.