The Women’s Business Center: A support in the entrepreneurial journey

Story and photos by LIZ G. ROJAS

One of Utah’s best-kept secrets for aspiring entrepreneurs is the Women’s Business Center, located in downtown Salt Lake City within the Chamber offices.

The WBC is a nonprofit organization that is partially funded by the federal government through the Salt Lake City Chamber. Because the center is a 501(c)(3), it is expected to match the funding it receives through fundraising or sponsors.

The Women’s Business Center’s goal and purpose is to help increase the number of women-owned businesses in the state of Utah through consulting, training and networking opportunities.

The center has been operational for 17 years and has a consultant who provides a variety of different services. Services are free to the public and range from helping with business plans and cash flow projections to government consulting.

Former day-care owner Lorena Sierra missed the opportunity to work with the Women’s Business Center.

Lorena Sierra

Lorena Sierra

“I know a lot of times I needed help with grants and I wasn’t able to apply because I had no idea how,” Sierra said. “I wish I would have known of an organization like that [WBC].”

Sierra owned a day-care center in Utah County alongside her business partner for 17 years. In 2012, after her partner sold her half, Sierra ran out of funding options and chose to sell her business.

According to American Express, her center was 1 of 73,000 businesses in Utah that are women-owned, compared to the 9.1 million nationally that are owned by women.

The Small Business Administration defines a woman-owned business as one that is owned at least 51 percent by a woman. In addition, the woman can make independent decisions regarding the business without being undermined by anyone and is responsible for planning the short- and long-term activities.

Ann Marie Thompson- Program Director for the Women's Business Center

Ann Marie Thompson

Ann Marie Thompson, program director for the Women’s Business Center, says there is demand for a woman-oriented organization because there are different stresses for women than there are for men.

Most women are trying to start a business from home or as an addition to full-time responsibilities. They’re driven by flexibility because their first obligation is to their family. The majority of clients who meet with the WBC have these similar backgrounds and priorities.

Evette Alldredge, a local business owner, was guided by the Women’s Business Center and benefited from its services.

In a phone interview, Alldredge said that she arrived at the center with a partial business plan and high hopes. She met once a week for approximately five months with the center to create a business plan and explore all aspects of the planning.

Alldredge was able to present in front of Utah’s Microenterprise Loan Fund and received funding from the nonprofit for her business.

In April 2014, Evette Alldredge’s business, Super Gym Gymnastics, opened its doors.

However, even though the business center does direct its organization toward women, its services are for everyone. Thompson said that 20 percent of the WBC’s clientele are, in fact, men. She said, “We consult with anyone who wants to come.”

The Women’s Business Center has a broad range of connections and partnerships. Some of the partners are the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund and the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The center also works with the Salt Lake City World Trade Center and Salt Lake Magazine. The WBC refers clients to the World Trade Center if they need help learning how to import and export.

Salt Lake Magazine features the Women in Business section in the September/October issue. The WBC is highlighted in that issue.

Although the center is associated with the Salt Lake City Chamber it is not confined to the Wasatch Front. Thompson said Google Hangout and Skype are frequently used to communicate with clients throughout the state.

According to the Small Business Administration, twice as many women-owned businesses are opened every day, compared to three years ago. However, there are still barriers that haven’t been overcome by women business owners.

One of the barriers is the compensation gap. Even if a woman is the owner of a business, her salary is lower compared to others in her same position.

“Women choose to pay themselves less, not knowing what others are paying themselves,” Thompson said. “Women are also choosing jobs that pay less. ”

American Express reported in 2014 that the goal shouldn’t be to motivate more women to open businesses, but instead to financially support those who are already established and help them expand.

Regardless, the need for the Women’s Business Center in Utah is crucial. As Lorena Sierra said, “We do need a lot of support. We have the desire to have our own businesses but we don’t have a guide.”

The WBC is one of Utah’s best-kept secret support systems for aspiring business owners.

“If it weren’t for the Women’s Business Center I would not be where I am today,” said Evette Alldredge, owner of Super Gym Gymnastics, who continues to work with the center for a business expansion loan. “I am the most happy, successful entrepreneur.”

Salt Lake residents share perspectives on President Obama’s terms

Story and photo by RENEE ESTRADA

Could you imagine millions of people criticizing the decisions you make? Imagine millions of people weighing in on what you ate for breakfast, the clothes you chose to wear, and the car you drive.

In some respects this is what happens to the president, every day. Millions of people critique his decisions, speeches and beliefs. It is safe to say it is an exhausting position.

As if being judged by millions of Americans wasn’t difficult enough, he has the added pressure of representing a large minority group. According to the 2010 Census, African Americans make up 13.2 percent of the US population.

On Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, President Barack Obama was inaugurated into his second presidential term. There he promised to continue to lead the US, despite the exhausting nature of being the president. While the second term is often referred to as the “legacy term,” Obama’s second inauguration makes Americans reflect on the past four years and consider what may happen in the next four years to come.

In Utah, which is an overwhelmingly red state, African Americans make up a mere 1.3 percent of the total population. So would African Americans and other Salt Lake City residents here be proud, disappointed, or indifferent about Obama’s first term and the years to come?

Kendra Arado, who is African American, is a junior studying stage management at the University of Utah. She volunteered on the 2008 Obama campaign before she was even eligible to vote.

“Of all of his accomplishments, I am most proud of his work on health care. The Affordable Care Act will benefit the lives of millions of Americans. I think that will truly be his legacy,” Arado said.

Bridges

Bridges, an Obama supporter, studying at her home.

Zoey Bridges, also African American, is a junior studying biology at the U. Bridges also volunteered on the Obama campaign this year. She felt this election was going to be much closer than the 2008 election and decided to help out. She too is most proud of Obama’s work on health care.

“His work on health care is incredible,” Bridges said. “I am so proud of that achievement because it directly affects me. My sister, who is a diabetic, will be able to get the coverage and care she needs … and that’s just amazing.”

Kurt Bagley, a U alumnus who is white, was a field director on the Obama 2012 campaign. He echoed Bridges’ sentiments.

“Obama’s biggest accomplishment during his first term was passing comprehensive health reform,”  Bagley said. “Had President Obama not been able to pass this bill, it could have been a decade or longer for any other legislation to come about and the country would have missed the opportunity to address health care.”

Americans, regardless of political affiliation, have worries and concerns about the president. Everyone hopes that he will steadfastly guide the nation through difficult times and be able to make calculated decisions in distressing circumstances. Some Americans may hope he accomplishes his goals or hope that he will reach across the aisle when making policy decisions.

Both Bridges and Arado shared the same concern for Obama.

“Honestly, I hate to say it, but I thought it was entirely possible he could have been assassinated during his first term,” Arado said. “That would have been devastating.”

Bagley had a different concern.

“My biggest concern of his first term was that his opposition in the House of Representatives would ruin the economic progress he had already made,” Bagley said.

Obama has another four years in office, so looking forward to the next term Bridges and Arado share some similarities in what they hope Obama will accomplish.

Arado hopes to see more job creation and Bridges said, “I hope to see the unemployment rate come down. I’m concerned that I may not be able to find a job after college.”

Meanwhile, Bagley, who is currently a legislative intern for Planned Parenthood, had concerns about global warming.

“I’m hoping that he will find ways to continue to reduce carbon emissions, and take measures to help reverse the effects of global warming,” Bagley said.

Making progress in Washington is no easy task. It takes an incredible amount of energy and persuasion to get people to agree.

Stanley Ellington, president of the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce, believes that some progress has been stifled because Obama is African American, and furthermore believes a lot of the negativity about Obama is racially motivated.

Bridges suggested that political stagnation is just typical of Washington politics.

Arado said, “There is too much partisanship getting in the way. Democrats and Republicans need to find common ground.”

While this is a small sampling of Utahns, it is interesting to see that these individuals can have such different perspectives about the president. What he may symbolize to someone may be entirely different than to another person who also supports him. It seems that no matter what he symbolizes to someone, every American has hope for not only his future, but also America’s future.

Jason Nowa

Ute Basketball a Story of Struggle

By Jason Nowa

The University of Utah Utes’ 2011-2012 men’s basketball (Voices of Utah) team has completed the most atrocious season in their history. This season marked the Utes first 20-loss season as they tumbled to an uninspiring record of 6-25. They finished 11th overall in their first season as a member of the Pac-12 Conference.

“This season was rough, no way around it, but from where we started we saw improvement throughout the rest of the season.” said junior forward Dijon Farr.

The Utes packaged numerous transfers together to make a team, as eight players left the team last year following Coach Jim Boylen’s exit.

Coach Larry Krystkowiak (Voices of Utah) spun the best team available to him, and though it was a struggle from the start, many team members felt they competed hard in the second half of the season after a distraction in the locker room was resolved.

The team’s best player, senior Josh “Jiggy” Watkins was dismissed from the team January18, due to violation of team rules and constant struggles in the classroom. Watkins was the team’s leading scorer and with assists, with 15.6 points per game and 4.8 assists in only 16 games. The loss of Watkins occurred mid-season, and set the Utes back even more.

A season of few ups but mostly downs hit phenomenal proportions when the Utes suffered a 40- point setback at the University of Colorado on New Year’s Eve. Then the worst loss in the program’s 104 years occurred in the regular season finale, when the Utes lost by 46 points at the University of Oregon.

The Utes’ best victory of the season was at home, against Stanford, which finished in the middle of the pack in the Pac 12. The first conference victory was a January 5 home win against Washington State, 62-60 in overtime. The Utes finished 3-15 in their inaugural season in the Pac 12.

Jason Washburn was the team’s pleasant surprise player of the year as he broke out with 11.4 points per game. The junior center led the team after the dismissal of Watkins, with 6.2 rebounds per game. Washburn was a big fill-in player after starting center David Foster’s injury sidelined him for the season.

Some close to the team say it’s hard to put a team together on the fly and expect to win as the Utes did, especially after so many players left the squad. Krystkowiak has to get a few years of his own recruits to determine the tenor of his success or failure.

The Utes finished their season with a loss in the Pac 12 Tournament to conference champion Colorado, which upset UNLV in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Utes heading into next season will look to schedule more home games at the beginning of the year. This past season the Utes had only six non-conference home games far less than most Pac 12 teams. With a young team, home games scheduled for early in the season can be a great confidence boost. Team managers expect to overhaul the roster as numerous new players come in and some older player will likely transfer out.

“This year was a bad year for our team but coming back next year we hope to get our team situated and turn this thing around,” said junior guard Cedric Martin.

Expect Martin, and Farr to return next year. Kareem Storey, and Chris Hines are among four players who have been granted their release of scholarship to transfer. Center David Foster, nursing his broken foot, is recovering and should be ready for next season team managers mentioned.

Foster was the 2009 Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year as he led to a school record in blocked shots. Coping wit his injury, he said, took its toll. “It was tough to see and watch the guys all year long, but I’m on the road to recovery and look to really help our team become better next season.”

Hines, who at times during the season was the most explosive player on the team, mentioned that the Utes might surprise every team in the conference next season despite the fact that he is transferring.

There might be two new suspected starters in the lineup next year with redshirt transfer guards Aaron Dotson from LSU and Glen Dean from Eastern Washington University. Both started at their previous schools and are expected to be significant upgrades from this year’s starters.

Contrary to what pessimists believe, Utes basketball (Voices of Utah) could be on the upswing. With fall just around the corner, the roster will be set soon and practice will begin. With a healthy Foster and some transfer players coming in, the team could kick into gear. Returning players will bring experience and wisdom and Krystkowiak has every reason to feel upbeat.

“We are looking forward to next season and get everybody together to prove how good this team really can be,” said redshirt transfer guard Aaron Dotson.

Mediation saves families money

by TYLER COBB

Going to court for a divorce can be stressful, both monetarily and emotionally. In Utah couples are required to sit down with a mediator to work through their problems in an attempt to avoid a court trial and a hefty legal bill.

The State of Utah began requiring mediation in 2005 to help people avoid going to court by talking with a neutral mediator, trained in how to handle family conflicts and how to navigate the law.

Stewart Ralphs, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, said hundreds of low-income families need legal advice and most lawyers do pro bono work to keep costs low. But it costs even less when couples can solve problems through a mediator.

“We’re trained in law school to be very zealous advocates for our clients and go to the mat and take these cases to trial and bring in all the evidence and win, win, win,” Ralphs said. “Mediation is just the opposite – it’s trying to come up with a resolution for everybody as a winner.”

Ralphs said the organization generally works with mediators from Utah Dispute Resolution, a nonprofit mediation organization where most mediators work as volunteers to keep costs low for struggling families.

If the parties can resolve their dispute using mediation it’s much cheaper than going to trial, and there is a fairly high rate of resolution. “It can vary between 60 to 75 percent of the time, which is certainly cheaper than going through the whole trial process,” Ralphs said.

Mediators spend hours negotiating with both parties to reach a fair conclusion, but they have to remain neutral despite what is said.

The courts require that mediators spend at least 40 hours in training, which they can receive at the dispute resolution center. Nancy McGahey, executive director of the center, said most mediators the center hires are well-trained and have certain skills and personality traits that help them work with couples.

“People in dispute need time. As a mediator you need to sit with people and be comfortable with people who are emotional,” McGahey said. “It’s also important to know oneself and be aware of your own internal biases, especially when you’re starting to lose neutrality.”

At the Legal Aid Society, attorneys rely “very heavily” on mediation to avoid court dispute, Ralphs said. Going to court can increase costs for all families. Ralphs said the organization charges anywhere from $200 to $600 for family-law cases, just for lawyer and court costs. However, there are other expenses depending on the results of the court and how long it drags out.

“You come up with an agreement that people are actually going to implement and make work,” Ralphs said. “These are people that have got to live the rest of their lives together. They have kids together. They have property together, and they can usually come up with a better solution than a judge can in a one- or two-day trial.”

Many women and/or men who come to the Legal Aid Society for a family-law case have multiple factors they need to consider and resolve, especially those seeking a divorce. The couple will have to review childcare, health care, child support, property resolution and other issues.

The Legal Aid Society sees so many family-law cases that they usually request mediators trained specifically for family law.

McGahey said family-law mediators need additional training beyond most mediators.

“They’re more experienced and have more training,” McGahey said. “To be approved on the court roster, a domestic mediator needs 20 hours of practical experience, an ethics exam, a criminal background check and in addition, the person needs a minimum of 32 hours domestic training and a formal mentorship, which involves six mediation sessions at a minimum.”

With a good mediator, a session can be successful and help couples find a solution.

Some women requesting legal help come from an abusive or closed relationship and sometimes need to say what they’re feeling, Ralphs said. A mediator can provide an atmosphere to work through problems without arguing or yelling.

If mediation or negotiation doesn’t work, attorneys will start preparing to take the case to court. “The custody battle follows,” Ralphs said.