DANBURY — Women entrepreneurs learned from some of the successes — and failures — of their counterparts Thursday during the 18th annual Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce Business to Business showcase.
As part of the annual event that brings scores of businesses together from throughout the region to network and gain more attention for their brand, the Women’s Business Council offered a series of workshops and seminars for entrepreneurs, including a panel discussion about how to grow a business.
“Today is really about achieving success and the tools, tips and strengths that we need to get there,” said JoAnn Cueva, director of the council. “We wanted to present an opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn from others’ mistakes and how other businesspeople dealt with the challenges they are facing.”
Cueva noted that despite advances in recent years, women continue to face struggles in the business world.
“About 39 percent of businesses today are owned by women,” said Emily Carter, director of the state’s Small Business Development Center, “but those businesses are only getting 16 percent of the capital. Up until 1986, women were still required to have a man co-sign for a commercial loan.”
Beverly Dacey, the president of Bridgeport-based Amodex, a manufacturing firm, said she went to New York City to seek capital for an expansion of her business when she encountered the “wall of suits” who wouldn’t give her the time of day.
“Don’t ever think the road will be paved,” she said. “It will always be bumpy.”
Dacey said she found both the funding and the resources she needed to expand her plant through the development center, which offers low-interest loans and grants to small businesses through the Business Express program.
“The state has a number of assets for the business community that, despite being publicized, aren’t really all that well-known,” she said. “These are resources that can help you grow your business.”
Kristin Delfau, the founder and president of Delfau Tax and Financial Services, said she also sought counseling from the center when she decided to open her own firm.
After working for another company for about four years and on the verge of starting a family, Delfau said she decided to start her own company. Working from home, she said, allows her to have that balance of life and career that she couldn’t achieve as someone else’s employee.
“Do I have to get up sometimes at 4 a.m. to get something done for a client so I can take my child to the doctor that afternoon? Yes, but it’s worth it,” she said. “I may have to make sacrifices with the family for 12 weeks out of the year (during tax season) but that gives me the other 40 weeks that I can spend more time with my family.”
Many of the entrepreneurs who spoke during the event also featured their companies as part of the showcase. More than 100 companies from throughout the area participated in the event.
“It’s a great way to leverage resources,” Carter said, “to have both a learning opportunity combined with the showcase. The more information we can provide to entrepreneurs, the better.”
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