In the basement of an innocuous building on the fringes of downtown Boise, a number of power players in the local financial industry--the vice president of US Bank, the regional president at Zion's Bank, the branch president of Intermountain Community Bank--gathered around a U-shaped table. They talked nervously and clutched papers. But unlike in the movies, this meeting was free of cigars, kinked upward-growth projection charts and evil cackles. And definitely unlike in the movies, everyone sitting around the table was a woman.
The small staff and advisory council of the Idaho Women's Business Center gathered for a BW photo shoot in the Mountain States Group Building on 16th and Jefferson streets. Amid comments like, "I don't know what my better side is," they talked excitedly about the future of the new nonprofit.
"We opened the doors Jan. 3, but we haven't announced ourselves to the world because we've been getting everything in place," noted Sheila Spangler, IWBC manager.
The Idaho Women's Business Center was funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the United States Small Business Administration and is one of a number of programs under Micro Enterprise Training and Assistance, a division of the a Boise-based nonprofit Mountain States Group.
"Idaho was the last state in the Union to get the Women's Business Center," said Spangler. "There are 110 centers around the country and there wasn't one in Idaho."
Spangler and two other full-time staffers--marketing and communications specialist Stacie Dagres and business development specialist Karen Hungerford--provide business consulting services to clients in five Idaho counties: Ada, Canyon, Elmore, Gem and Payette.
"There are small-business development centers all over the country and they deal with the larger businesses, the ones that have been in operation for a while, where we are more hands-on for the start-ups and the new business owner, where someone might not even know how to read their financial statement or know how to do a break-even analysis, to sit down and talk with a banker," said Spangler. "We're going to walk them through step-by-step on that kind of stuff."
In addition to offering one-on-one counseling, the IWBC will also provide group educational classes on topics like crafting a business plan and technical assistance in areas like cash-flow analysis, marketing, loan packaging, lender referrals and networking, all available for a one-time enrollment fee of $35.
Though the IWBC won't turn away men who need its services, the focus will be on women and other marginalized groups.
"Our grant requires us to reach out to those groups that have been historically at a social or economic disadvantage, particularly communities of color, women, disabled, veterans," said Hungerford. "So 50 percent of our client base should be from those historically disadvantaged populations."
Hungerford added that the IWBC also has two Spanish translators available for clients.
"We don't want language to be a barrier; we don't want anything to be a barrier," said Hungerford. "When we have our client meetings, we are trying to make sure that we aren't speaking in business lingo or anything that might be unfamiliar, because not everyone that goes into business has a business education or a degree or exposure, but they have a great idea and they want to pursue it. They have a dream."
One of those clients is Alicia Izaguirre, owner of Dollhouse Cupcakes and Desserts, formerly Dulce Cupcakes. Izaguirre started her boutique dessert company eight months ago. When she approached the Hispanic Cultural Center in Nampa for business advice, she was referred to the IWBC.
"I love sweets and there wasn't a really good place around here where I could get that stuff at, so I just decided to create my own business and express my creativity through desserts," said Izaguirre.
Izaguirre has been baking out of a church kitchen, but with help from the IWBC, she is now expanding to a larger commercial kitchen to whip up sugary specialties like the Southern Comfort cupcake, which she describes as "a sweet potato pie and a pecan pie cupcake together."
"I do this all on my own. I don't have a second person doing it with me. My fiance helps me with deliveries and stuff but that's about it," said Izaguirre. "I'm just a one-woman show and so knowing that they're there to help me out is just awesome."
Dollhouse Cupcakes and Desserts will have a table at D.L. Evans Bank, at 213 N. Ninth St., on First Thursday, March 1, alongside the staff of the Idaho Women's Business Center.
D.L. Evans Bank is one of many downtown businesses participating in International Women's Day, which is celebrated every March to "recognize women's achievements throughout history and across nations."
For the second year in a row, a handful of Boise nonprofit organizations that support women and girls will set up informational booths at area businesses during First Thursday.
"This year, we have 23 nonprofits and we have 22 businesses that are participating, so it's grown and that's exciting," explained Shirley Biladeau of Soroptimist International.
For this year's event, organizers will hand out passports listing every participating nonprofit. First Thursday strollers can get their passports stamped at each location, then redeem those stamps for door prize tickets. All stamped maps must be turned in by 9 p.m. to Owhyee Plaza or Twig's Cellar in order to be eligible for door prizes.
"Women and girls contribute a lot to our community so we want to celebrate that opportunity," said Biladeau. "We also want to raise awareness of the needs of women and girls in our community."