Eastern Women’s Business Center Opens on ECSU Campus

Caitlin Davis

When Caitlin Davis stood before area community and business leaders, and Elizabeth City State University faculty and staff Tuesday, Oct. 3, the ECSU graduate was speaking as the director of the newly opened Eastern Women’s Business Center. Davis proclaimed that she is a proud ECSU graduate, and proud to lead an organization whose mission is to assist women in the region become successful entrepreneurs.

“I want to see success for our area because this is where I chose to call home,” she said.

The event was the grand opening of the Eastern Women’s Business Center, a luncheon held inside the K.E. White Center. The center has partnered with ECSU to bring opportunity to what was described as an “underserved” region, potentially spurring business growth.

The center will provide individual technical assistance, business coaching, workshops and group training sessions, and small business lending. Located in ECSU’s K.E. White Center, the Eastern Women’s Business Center will serve the region’s 21 counties, plus Pitt County.

Joining Davis during presentations were several officials from the Carolina Small Business Development Fund, the center’s umbrella organization. Lenwood Long, president of the organization, said he sat down with ECSU Chancellor Thomas Conway and they knew the Women’s Business Center needed to come to the region, and live on the university campus.

Long explained that the mission of the center goes hand-in-hand with the mission of the university, to bring opportunity to the region. He pointed to state statistics, citing the economic difficulties for the people of Northeast North Carolina as a primary reason the center exists.

“The main reason Chancellor Conway and ECSU is excited about forging this relationship is to expand our outreach to the communities we serve,” said Russ Haddad, special assistant to the Chancellor, speaking on behalf of Chancellor Conway. “As the Eastern Women’s Business Center will be serving the same 21 counties as ECSU, plus Pitt County, we share the vision of the Carolina Small Business Development Fund to create economic opportunity for all people, and in this case Northeast North Carolina.”

Economic development in the region is in need of a boost and one of the most difficult challenges facing entrepreneurs is, “access to capital.”

“Access to capital is the number one issue for small businesses,” said Long.

And that’s where the Eastern Women’s Business Center can assist future business owners, according to the Development Fund’s business development officer, Larry Biggs.

Biggs said in Northeast North Carolina alone, more than 43 businesses have been helped by the organization through access to funding. Many times, small businesses and small business owners do not qualify for traditional loans, but there are other funding opportunities available to them.

Kathy Davenport, owner of The Shoppes in Elizabeth City, said her business was in need of funding and Davis and the Eastern Women’s Business Center was instrumental in helping her move forward. Davenport says Davis has been working on her behalf, sourcing the necessary information, and providing the sort of assistance she required.

“So anybody who has a vision, and a struggle, find Caitlin,” said Davenport.

For more information about the center, go to www.carolinasmallbusiness.org, or call 252-621-3441.