A group of entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners, several interested in availing BOOST funds, gathered together for the kick-off session of the Women Entrepreneurs Project’s second cohort last Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
The kick-off session was joined by 32 individuals, not including the hosting CNMI Women’s Association and CNMI Small Business Development Center members present. The project’s stance, mission, and background were presented and was followed by a guide on how applicants may apply for BOOST and the requirements needed for the application. After the discussion, assistance in business plans and BOOST requirements were administered to participants.
The cohort session gathered a mix of individuals—men and women—of different ethnic backgrounds interested in building a business in the CNMI. The Women’s Entrepreneur Project’s first cohort began in June 2022 and is currently hosted through the partnership of CWA and the SBDC. The project is focused on helping women entrepreneurs start their own businesses, but the sessions, and services are made available to both men and women.
The first session’s presenters were CNMI SBDC network director Nadine C. Deleon Guerrero and CNMI associate network director Mercilynn K. Palec.
When discussing BOOST with participants, Deleon Guererro cleared up several public speculations saying that she was not on the BOOST funding selection committee “I am not on the selection committee for that. But I am here to share information of what I do know about the program.” Deleon Guererro also noted that the $6- $7-million grant is focused on helping kick-start small business whose operations have either suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic or were unable to open as planned because of the pandemic.
Deleon Guererro also cleared the air and stated that the selection made for the BOOST funding was not based on a first-come, first-serve basis, but the opportunity for everyone to submit their request was open until Sept. 18, 2022, which she stated that portal will close, and the selected committee will begin going through the submitted letters/applications, and grading the submissions.
Deleon Guererro also mentioned several steps participants would take to make a better grading, adding that “The most reasonable requests are the ones that will be entertained.” Deleon Guererro noted that if $5 million was requested from one person, it was not likely to be granted.
Questions on whether or not business licenses, business owner citizenship status, and former loans would play a factor for BOOST funding consideration were also answered. Both Deleon Guererro and Palec made their services available to participants who needed guidance in the writing or submission of their BOOST applications/letters.
The cohort sessions will continue to be held every Wednesday from 2pm to 5pm and will conclude on Sept. 21, 2022, with each session designated on helping interested individuals learn and practice funding streams and financial statements, marketing, growing and sustaining a business, and business pitch.