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New Business Center to be an Enterprise to Women Entrepreneurs in the Community

By Sasha Smith
sashasmith@minorityreporter.net

President and CEO of the ULR, Dr. Seanelle Hawkins stands with RWBC supporters, Entrepreneur Monique Chatman, SBA Assistance Administrator Natalie Madeira Cofield, Congressman Joe Morelle, RWBC Director Khara Grant, ULR Division Director of Business Development Miles and County Executive Adam Bello. Photo by Sasha Smith/Minority Reporter Media Group.

The Urban League of Rochester (ULR), located at 130 Platt Street, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its brand-new center for women entrepreneurs in the city of Rochester.

The Roc Women’s Business Center (RWBC) will be a hub for businesswomen, providing services and support that help start, grow and expand their businesses. It is the first of its kind.

The RWBC will be operated by the Urban League, who for over 50 years, provided the Rochester community with useful resources that positively impact local growth of the disadvantaged to “secure economic self-reliance, parity and power and civil rights.”  

“Celebrating and Prioritizing Women” was the message of the day, as President and CEO of ULR, Dr. Seanelle Hawkins, hosted and introduced various speakers and public figures as they filled the room.  

“The opening of the ROC Women’s Business Center makes a clear statement that women play a vital role in the growth, revitalization, and longevity of the business community in Rochester,” Hawkins said. “Through the generous support of the SBA and with the Urban League’s own knowledge of community needs, this Center will greatly expand the resources available to women entrepreneurs and business owners, from those who just have the seeds of an idea for a business, to those who have a large, established company and staff.”

According to ULR’s website, the RWBC will provide a unique array of services specifically for women entrepreneurs, including one-on-one counseling, training, networking, workshops, technical assistance, and mentoring on numerous business development topics, including business startup, financial management, marketing and procurement. The center is funded by the Small Business Association (SBA) and SBA’s 140th Women’s Small Business Center and due to receive $150,000 of renewable funding annually, to offer these supports to the community.  

Local business owner Monique Chatman, owner of Love Monkey Beard Essentials and CEO and Founder of The Groom Room Men’s Spa & Lounge, the first minority/black-owned day spa dedicated solely to men’s health and wellness in Rochester said when she first began her business was more like a hobby and it wasn’t until she collaborated with the Urban League that she began to take her business seriously. 

“I became a legit structured business. If places like this were open to me, when I started, I would be a millionaire by now,” she said.  “What a gift for a place like this, where we can come and sit and talk one on one with people who actually know the answers to the questions that we have. So I’m just grateful. And I hope that this helps me get to my million dollar year!” 

“The center will provide women with opportunities to gather with other like minded women,” said Khara Grant, Rochester native and Director of the RWBC.

In an interview with Minority Reporter, Grant spoke about the stress and being overwhelmed at times of being a mom, wife or one of the other various roles women play in their daily lives.  She said RWBC will serve as a place business women can freely come, ask questions, take classes, or simply use the wifi to prepare for meetings.  Grant said she has many upcoming events scheduled for the center, including a persuasive writing class coming up in February 2022. She encourages all who are interested in learning more, contact her via email at kgrant@ulr.org.

Grant is also president of KAMG Consulting, LLC, and has over 15 years of experience in business development, sales and marketing and project management. She was most recently an enterprise program manager with Cisco in Atlanta, GA and the perfect candidate to run this center.  

“Women and people of color are starting businesses at the highest rates but face historic barriers to their growth and resilience. With the launch of every new Women’s Business Center, we are advancing equity and focusing needed resources on creating strong enterprises,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, according to the SBA’s website. “This center is in response to the growing need of and for women entrepreneurs.”

Other speakers included Mayor -Elect Malik Evans, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Robert Duffy representing the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, Congressman Joe Morelle, U.S. SBA Assistance Administrator Natalie Madeira Cofield, NYS Senator Samra Brouk, and more all in support of the new women’s business center.

“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens. And I know this firsthand from the history of my own country,” said Mayor Evans, quoting Michelle Obama, as he spoke about women entrepreneurs in Rochester playing a crucial role in the growth of our economy.  

He spoke about jobs created by these women, providing employment opportunities for our community, closing with a famous quote from American Civil Rights Leader Susan B. Anthony, “Wherever women gather together, failure is impossible.”

For more information visit https://www.urbanleagueroc.org or visit the Business Development Center at 130 Platt Street.

There are “endless possibilities in Rochester,” said Morelle.

“And the Roc Women’s Business Center will enhance the important role of minority women owned businesses here.”