As part of the continuing efforts to strengthen women-led businesses in the Commonwealth, the CNMI Small Business Development Center at the Northern Marianas College in collaboration with the CNMI Women’s Association recently graduated its third cohort of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Project.
The four-day training series, which took place from October 23 to October 26, 2023, was designed to equip women entrepreneurs with the essential skills and resources they need to overcome the challenges of starting a business. Participants engaged with industry experts, mentors, and successful women entrepreneurs. The sessions covered a diverse set of topics including business planning, financial management, and marketing. The training series also focused on personal development and leadership skills, helping participants gain the confidence and tools needed to succeed in the business world.
Donna Rivera, one of the program’s participants, said that she was delighted to be part of the 3rd cohort of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Project.
“Throughout this training, regardless of our stage in pursuing our entrepreneurial dreams, we received invaluable knowledge essential for becoming successful business owners,” Rivera said. “The presenters and CNMI SBDC team were incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise, which undoubtedly benefits our future endeavors. Being surrounded by women eager to learn and support one another in achieving success with our individual ventures was truly a treat. I wish everyone success and sincerely hope that NMC, CNMI SBDC, and CNMI Women’s Association will continue this project for the greater good of our entire community."
Presenters included Roman Tudela, CNMI SBDC Marketing Manager and Outreach Specialist who kicked off this year’s cohort training by introducing attendees to the CNMI SBDC’s wide range of programs and services. The session on day two, also conducted by Tudela, covered training on how to market services and products using social media. The session on day three featured SBDC Associate Network Director Mercilynn K. Palec, who provided navigation tips on how to write a business plan.
On the fourth and final day, the training series welcomed guest speakers from the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority (CEDA) and First Hawaiian Bank. CEDA Loan Manager Marie Coleman and Loan Officers, Abigail Atalig and Fredrick Cruz, introduced microloan lending products while providing guidance on how to access the CEDA website to obtain the necessary applications to submit for loan consideration.
First Hawaiian Bank’s Vice President and Area Manager, Vickie Izuka, and Senior Personal Banker, Rita Agulto, shared invaluable insights from a banker’s perspective on how healthy financial habits can lead to a positive impact on one’s lending power. Izuka and Agulto presented information on the various factors that affect one’s lending abilities through offering best management practices in order to maintain favorable credit scores, and how to read financial statements and use that information to correlate data to determine a business’ overall financial health.
Nadine C. Deleon Guerrero, Network Director of the CNMI Small Business Development Center Network, expressed her enthusiasm for the project's success.
“It was exciting to see the women go from keeping to themselves on the first day to fully interacting with each other by the next,” Deleon Guerrero said. “It is important that we continue to acknowledge the vital role women play in business. Through the Women’s Entrepreneurship Project, we strive to provide that safe space where women can engage with one another, share business tips and tricks with each other, and where the ultimate goal becomes lifting each other up and empowering them towards making smarter and healthier financial decisions that will catapult them towards success."
The success of the third cohort of the Women's Entrepreneurial Project is a testament to the strength, determination, and entrepreneurial spirit of CNMI women. The program's impact is expected to be felt throughout the region as these empowered women continue to contribute to the economic growth and prosperity of the CNMI.
Linda Cabrera, a representative from the CNMI Women's Association, added, "We are proud to be a part of this initiative that promotes gender equality and economic development in our community. The collaboration between the CNMI Small Business Development Center Network and the CNMI Women's Association has been instrumental in making this program a success, and we look forward to continuing to support the growth of women-owned businesses."
The CNMI SBDC Network promotes a business-friendly economic infrastructure in the community, builds entrepreneurial capacity and financial literacy within that community, and provides current and nascent small businesses with the technical assistance, counseling, training, and support they need to innovate, adapt, and grow.