PORTSMOUTH – On June 1st, 2021, the ECDI (Economic and Community Development Institute) opened the Women’s Business Center of Central Appalachia in Portsmouth, Ohio.
The opening marked the first Women’s Business Center (WBC) to open outside of the three major metropolitan areas in Ohio – Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. Kelly O’Bryant, Director of the WBC of Central Appalachia, said the opening means Ohio is further investing in rural regions.
“We are very excited to be here working in the community,” said O’Bryant, who noted the WBC of Central Appalachia serves a nine county region in Ohio and Kentucky. “And we’ve really hit the ground running so far. We are approaching 60 businesses we work with and approximately 14 of those are new startups.”
The WBC offers business coaching, technical assistance, and even lending options to potential (and current) entrepreneurs in the nine county region it serves. And it’s important to note it serves those of all genders – not just women.
“Despite being called the Women’s Business Center, around 50% of our clients are male,” explained O’Bryant. “We work with everyone. But, we do provide more training programs for women in order to foster community and opportunities. Traditionally, women are under-capitalized. We want to change that.”
“But, we are here to serve everyone in our area.”
O’Bryant is a graduate of Shawnee State University and spent 20 years working at the OSU South Center in Piketon before coming to Portsmouth and the WBC.
“I started off as a summer intern and worked my way through the ranks,” said O’Bryant. “I started as a business coach, and as my skill set grew, I started working with more established businesses. I then went on to work with companies to get them into international markets.”
Because of O’Bryant’s work – the State of Ohio created an international trade assistance center which she directed for nine years.
In the last 9 months, O’Bryant has added two other members to her staff. Going forward, she hopes to continue to build in capacity and programming to serve the area.
“We offer many training programs, we will be hosting monthly coffee networking events in each county we serve, and we are putting together the first ever Ignite Appalachia Maker Market,” said O’Bryant. “That event will see more than 50 vendors – entrepreneurs, makers, companies – set up along 3rd Street in front of Shawnee State University. We will have live music, food trucks, and more. It’s going to be great.”
In June, the WBC will celebrate its one year anniversary by moving into offices at the newly renovated SSU Kricker Innovation Hub at 221 Chillicothe Street. Until then, follow them on Facebook for more updates or email [email protected] for more information.
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