Region wins Women’s Business Center

Patty Cantrell
January 7, 2021

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced this week that rural west central Missouri will soon operate one of the nation’s newest Women’s Business Centers. A grant to West Central Missouri Community Action Agency (West Central) will support development of the New Growth Women’s Business Center (WBC), to be based in El Dorado Springs, Missouri. It will serve 15 counties: 13 in Missouri (Barton, Bates, Benton, Camden, Cedar, Dade, Dallas, Henry, Hickory, Morgan, Polk, St. Clair, and Vernon) and two in Kansas (Bourbon and Crawford). West Central received one of 20 awards made nationwide.

“We are honored to be chosen for this opportunity to build up business resources and assistance for rural women entrepreneurs,” said Chris Thompson, West Central’s President and CEO. “It is a testament to the creativity and commitment of organizations that have joined forces with us as the START HERE Business Acceleration Network to build a stronger rural future for all.”

START HERE members include Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission and its economic development team, the Small Business Development Center at State Fair Community College, University of Missouri Extension-West Central Region, Osage Valley Electric Cooperative, and the statewide entrepreneurship resource MOSourceLink. West Central affiliate the New Growth community development corporation convenes and coordinates the START HERE Business Acceleration Network and START HERE Revolving Loan Fund.

New Business Resources. SBA’s national network of 136 Women’s Business Centers offers one-on-one counseling, training, networking, workshops, technical assistance, and mentoring to women entrepreneurs on numerous business development topics, including business startup, financial management, marketing, and procurement.

Already, START HERE partners are working together to increase services available to rural entrepreneurs, including new microenterprise financing and the regional Farm to Fork Summit, coming up in February, with practical workshops for area food and farm entrepreneurs. The SBA award will help the region add much-needed on-the-ground business counseling services, trainings, and resources, such as business mentoring and support obtaining certifications for government contracting.

“The programs about to launch from the New Growth Women’s Business Center will be groundbreaking, innovative, and revolutionary for women entrepreneurs in rural areas,” said New Growth WBC board member Martha Sander, Executive Director of The Council on Families in Crisis in Nevada, MO. “Women-owned businesses are few and far between, with many traditional and non-traditional barriers that prevent success.”

Carol Galllagher, Professor of Organizational Leadership at Cottey College in Nevada is another New Growth WBC board member along with Dallas County Economic Development Executive Director Hollie Elliott and Benton County Economic Developer Jo Ann Lane. Gallagher said: “Women in our region are eager for opportunity, and this initiative will bring much-needed resources to those women determined to succeed in business.”

Lisa Zimmerman, Economic Inclusion Director at West Central will lead development of the New Growth WBC with West Central affiliate New Growth community development corporation. “More than ever, rural communities must recognize and lift up local women and men with skills and business ideas they can use to employ themselves and others,” Zimmerman said. “The current pandemic has underlined the importance of building local economies from local assets, including the power and potential of women entrepreneurs.”

Women-owned businesses lead the way nationally in business development, employment, and revenue. In the 2018-2019 timeframe, the number of U.S. women-owned businesses increased 21%, while all businesses increased only 9%. Total employment by women-owned businesses rose 8%, while for all businesses the increase was far lower at 1.8%. Total revenue for women-owned businesses also rose slightly above all businesses: 21% compared to 20% respectively. Source: State of Women-Owned Business Report.


West Central Missouri Community Action Agency is dedicated to empowering people to make a positive change by coordinating and administering resources. Programs include housing, emergency services, energy conservation, employment and training, and credit building. West Central’s service region includes the counties of Cass, Bates, Benton, Cedar, Henry, Hickory, Morgan, St. Clair, and Vernon. Learn more at

New Growth is a regional community development corporation affiliated with West Central. It is home to the START HERE Business Acceleration Network and START HERE Revolving Loan Fund. Learn more at and

CONTACT US to learn more at