SCORE and the Pennsylvania Community Development and Finance Corp. presented a full-day workshop, Evolve Her — Advancing Women-Owned Small Businesses, for more than 100 women business owners at Folino Estate Vineyard & Winery, Kutztown, on Sept. 13.

Evolve Her aims to provide women entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to engage and grow their businesses, said Jo Lynn Entzminger of Pa. Community Development and Finance, a nonprofit certified development company which is licensed by the U.S. Small Business Administration and partner with lenders to provide financing to small businesses.

“It truly is the epitome of Evolve Her. They’re being able to hopefully dig deep within themselves to evolve to their potential,” said Entzminger.

Berks Schuylkill SCORE President Alyse Mitten of Hamburg, owner of Interlace Communications Inc. in Shoemakersville, said, “The goals of this event are to bring together women, as well as men if they want to come, to build their business and to connect… Walk away with knowledge and connections.”

SCORE is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration comprised of counselors who provide mentoring and education to small business owners.

“If you’ll look at the vendors we have (at Evolve Her), they are very slanted toward the financial end and the reason for that is a lot of times, women-own businesses need those extra funds for either growth or start up so having people here in a less office-space environment, it allows them to be comfortable with the person talking about their needs,” said Mitten.

The workshop sessions opened with “Inspire Her — How to Stay Motivated” by keynote speaker Nancy Coco, a certified transformational life coach. Using meditation exercises and self-reflection activities, Coco hopes to awaken in women their own inner resourcefulness and then also help identify the resources in one another.

“I think it’s all about resourcefulness and feeling our own strength and power as well as sharing our strengths with others to uplift everybody,” said Coco. “For women, it’s our personal well-being and it’s our professional well-being and so the activities I have for this morning are going to take us through mind, body and spirit, giving us a sense of our own strength and our wisdom in ourselves.”

Coco participated last year and hopes that this year’s participants gain, as she did, renewed confidence, ideas to implement in their own businesses and friendships.

“I think it propels women beyond whatever their business is. I think it gives us a growth spurt. We go home and we realize I can see the next step. I can take the next step. I can be in communion with others doing the work that I committed to myself and now I don’t feel so alone.”

More than 100 women participated this year in comparison to last year’s almost 80.

“I’m very thankful for everybody sponsoring this and I think the increased attendance this year really shows the value and the need for something like this. I’m happy to be included,” said Coco.

Evolve Her sponsors included Riverview Bank; Berks Schuylkill SCORE, Lehigh SCORE, TriCounty SCORE, District SCORE, First Commonwealth Credit Union, Key Bank, BB&T Bank, Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, Fleetwood Bank, Kozloff Stoudt Attorneys, Herbein CPAs+Consultants, Select Sales Creative Marketing Solutions, Northeast Berks Chamber of Commerce, Women2Women, Community First Fund, and Kutztown University Small Business Development Center.

“For a second consecutive year, the Northeast Berks Chamber is happy to partner with other business, economic development and community organizations to organize and promote Evolve Her,” said Northeast Berks Chamber Executive Director Lori Donofrio-Galley. “It’s an excellent opportunity for members. 60 percent of our membership is small business owners and solo entrepreneurs and the majority of those are women so our members really benefit from an annual program like this one.”

Educational sessions included “Fund Her” with Laurie Grube, Riverview Bank; “Grow with Her” with Kim Stout, SBA; “Certify Her” with Laurie Sterner, SBDC; “Best for Her” with Marie McConnell, Fitzpatrick, Lentz & Bubba; “Engage Her — Social Media and Digital Marketing” with Andrea Folino, and “Connect Her — Networking Done Right” with Joellen Reichenbach, Select Sales. Discussions focused on small business financing, women-owned small business certification, beneficial corporations and ways to grow a small business.

Elvolve Her participant Ellen Overcast, owner of Main Street Getaways Dream Vacations in Kutztown, said, “I’ve learned a lot already and met a lot of interesting people. I came last year and made some great connections that I’ve kept in touch with over this past year, so I’m looking to do that again today.”

Sherry Christman, owner of Elite Business Solutions in Hamburg, who also attended for a second year, hopes to find the strength within to know she can run her business successfully and grow it for future years. She has found inspiration and motivation, “in knowing that I do have it within me, I just have to believe in myself.”

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Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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