(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship (SBC), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), a senior member of SBC, and SBC Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today introduced the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015, which would will strengthen and expand support for women entrepreneurs through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) Program.

“Women-owned small businesses contribute a vital portion of our nation’s economy, surpassing other groups in the past decades to become one of the fastest growing sectors of the United States economy. Supporting their efforts and ensuring they are afforded the highest quality assistance available to enable their success are some of the most important steps we can take in fostering the startups and growth that these entrepreneurs bring to communities across America,” said Senator Vitter. “I’m proud to have worked with Senator Cantwell and Senator Shaheen to introduce the Women’s Small Business Ownership to establish a pro-business environment that allows women entrepreneurs to start, grow, and succeed as they continue to lead the way in job creation and innovation for the entire small business community.”

“Last year, as Chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I took a hard look at actions necessary to propel women’s entrepreneurship forward. Women entrepreneurs have created more 10 million small businesses and more than 23 million jobs – but we need to take additional steps. Today’s legislation will help break the glass ceiling women entrepreneurs face in this country by ensuring the next generation of women small business owners can get the training and counseling they need to turn their ideas into realities,” said Senator Cantwell. “I want to commend Chairman Vitter and Ranking Member Shaheen of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee for their hard work and dedication to assisting women entrepreneurs succeed.”

“Women have made great strides in our economy, but there’s much more work to do to level the playing field,” Senator Shaheen said. “By modernizing our Women’s Business Centers, this bill will help women across the country become job-creators in their communities.”

“I want to thank Small Business Committee Chairman David Vitter for his support of the Women’s Business Center program and his leadership in expanding and improving opportunities for women entrepreneurs. The Good Work Network Southeast Louisiana Women’s Business Center, with SBA funding through this program, has allowed the SELA WBC to develop two sector-specific programs. The first program allows directors of high-quality childcare centers to share best practices and to stay informed about rapidly changing regulations. The other program is in the food services industry—where the WBC is providing training for six food service vendors who will be incubated at Good Work Network’s Roux Carré food court. Sector-focused programs have proven to have a high impact and additional funding would allow SELA WBC to expand its programming to include more sectors populated by small, women-owned businesses that support families and sustain communities,” said Phyllis Cassidy, Executive Director, Good Work Network, New Orleans & Baton Rouge, LA.

“Over the past year, The Women’s Business Resource Center (WBRC) at the Urban League of Greater New Orleans served nearly 500 females that own businesses, are construction contractors or were interested in starting their own ventures. Some of them are veterans and formerly incarcerated women in re-entry programs. The consulting, mentorship and education provided are diverse and customized to each entrepreneur to maximize her chances for achieving the goals of her organization. We appreciate Chairman David Vitter’s support and this legislation to improve the Women’s Center program, which will enable us to serve many more women who need our help,” said Lynnette White-Colin, Director, Women’s Business Resource Center, Urban League of Greater New Orleans.

Vitter, Cantwell, and Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation will:

  • Establish training and accreditation programs for WBCs to ensure that entrepreneurs and small business owners are afforded the highest quality assistance available;
  • Increase transparency in oversight of the WBC’s financial assistance proposal process and financial examination process to ensure taxpayer dollars are used effectively and responsibly;
  • Improve accessibility and public relations by ensuring proper public notice of financial assistance and grant programs; and
  • Create a public-private partnership to support women entrepreneurs and conduct outreach and education to startup and existing small businesses through new networks and partnerships.

The WBC program offers business counseling assistance to women entrepreneurs and small business owners in a variety of areas such as access to capital, job markets, job creation, and training. There are nearly 100 centers located throughout the United States and its territories.

It is widely reported that women-owned businesses account for an estimated 30% of all businesses in the United States with estimated revenues of nearly $1.5 trillion and employ over 7.9 million workers. Click here to read more.

As SBC Chairman, Vitter has tirelessly advocated for women entrepreneurs. In March, Vitter hosted a roundtable discussion in New Orleans, La. with Louisiana women small business owners from across the state and the National Women’s Business Council to discuss the struggles businesses face, such as gaining access to capital, navigating federal regulations, and competing in government contracts, as well as recognizing the successful women-owned business climate in Louisiana. Click here to read more.