Women’s Economic Opportunity Center for Indiana opening in Fort Wayne


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News release from the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center:

Indiana Women’s Business Center Opening in Fort Wayne
Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC) Will Open “Women’s Economic Opportunity Center for Indiana”: An SBA Entrepreneurial Development Program Serving 83 Indiana Counties

(August 28, 2015) — The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has awarded a grant to the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC) in Fort Wayne to open a statewide women’s business center to be called the Women’s Economic Opportunity Center (WEOC) for Indiana (www.inweoc.com). The center will be housed in the NIIC’s 55 acre innovation park campus on Stellhorn Road, and will serve and support women and immigrant entrepreneurs looking to establish or improve their existing businesses in the Hoosier state.

Indiana ranks low (#44) in the 2015 Kauffman Entrepreneurial Activity Index (www.kauffman.org) and the establishment of WEOC looks to expand entrepreneurial activity throughout the state in two of the most important parts of Indiana’s business sector: women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.

The WEOC will provide innovative programs and services targeted at women, immigrants and other under-served groups in pre-revenue, start-up, and growth stages of development. WEOC will deliver counseling, mentoring, coaching and business development assistance — legal, financial/access to capital, marketing, business planning, and management team — to start-up, emerging growth, or established growing businesses in Indiana through a comprehensive network of statewide service providers and world-class online and business decision support tools.

“WEOC is a great extension of our current service offering,” said Karl R. LaPan, NIIC President and CEO. “It allows us to reach underserved entrepreneurs and growth-oriented businesses facing specific challenges with respect to what I call the 4 M’s of entrepreneurial business building — Money, Mentorship, Markets, and Management.”

“In executing this grant and addressing the barriers and challenges cited above,” continued LaPan, “We have collaborated and partnered with three established global leaders in the entrepreneurial field:”

  • Wendy Kennedy International (WKI) – https://wendykennedy.com/ – A proven online platform and portal utilized by governmental agencies with their scientific and professional teams, leading incubators, state governments, and world-class universities. This online web-hosted platform is a proven methodology for Founders to leverage resources, build compelling value-propositions, and be coached and mentored via internet or in person through a structured pre-incubation program.
  • Mentoring Women’s Networkwww.mentoringwomensnetwork.com – A comprehensive software, online and in-person training & workshops, and ongoing support program with a turnkey solution for women to connect, engage, and build community with mentors for one-on-one mentoring sessions. Educational tools and support systems for women are available through Mentoring Women’s Network.
  • The Tejara Global Business Development Center– www.tejaracenter.org – A one-stop-shop for immigrant and women entrepreneurs to access education, training, and mentorship for exporting their products or services internationally. Eligible companies will receive expert guidance in developing a strategic marketing plan and roadmap to entering overseas markets. Online webinars will be offered sharing the dos and don’ts of working overseas and provide expert advice on product customization, export control, regulatory considerations, banking/financing, and selecting brokers and partners.

The Executive Director for the newly formed WEOC is Lisa Gomez-Osborn. In announcing Ms. Osborn’s appointment, Mr. LaPan noted that she is a successful small business owner and administrator and started her first business through the assistance of an SBA WBC, then became a mentor herself. She now works with business leaders to take themselves and their organizations to the next level through self-discovery and personal commitment.

Lisa Gomez-Osborn, WEOC’s new executive director, reflected on the new Center’s core purpose: “There are substantial gains to be achieved by better supporting, linking, and connecting Hoosier women and immigrants to the specialized and sophisticated resources and providers that can catalyze their venture idea, performance, and the potential gains they have in ‘leveling the access’ to financing, talent, and markets. I am excited to launch and lead this effort.”

“The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center will launch the Women’s Economic Opportunity Center this fall. We are excited to offer a program that is focused on creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs of all ethnic and socioeconomic status. The NIIC, Executive Director Lisa Gomez-Osborn and the Mentoring Women’s Network will all take part in developing a comprehensive training, consulting, and counseling program covering a vast array of topics in order to maximize the proven potential of women entrepreneurs.”


Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC)
NIIC is a non-profit, community-based entrepreneurial resource center that assists in the growth and development of technology-based companies in Northeast Indiana. Formed in 1999 by a consortium of community and government leaders and organizations, the NIIC was recently recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as “one of the four best under-the-radar incubators out of over 1,250 incubators in the United States.

The NIIC is one of the country’s only ISO9001:2008 certified business incubation & acceleration program, serving entrepreneurs, business owners, and existing businesses who want to launch (or expand, or re-invent) a company. For more information about the NIIC, contact the NIIC Entrepreneur-In-Residence, Mike Fritsch at 260-407-1754 or mfritsch(at)niic(dot)net.

Additional Notes:

  • Fort Wayne is listed as #9 on the 2015 Forbes List of The Best Place for Starting a Business.
  • WalletHub has rated Fort Wayne as #11 on the list of Best Place for Starting a Business. Specifically, WalletHub evaluates metrics that are of prime importance for new business success: financing accessibility, office space, employee availability, median annual income, cost of living, 5-yr survivability rate, and businesses per capital.
  • WalletHub identified Fort Wayne as #10 in access to resources for entrepreneurs out of 150 metro cities.


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