Alcorn State hosts grand opening of Women’s Business Center in Natchez

Alcorn State University provides business resources to entrepreneurs with its new business center.

The Women's Business Center at Alcorn held its grand opening, Thursday, April 14, on the Natchez campus. In September 2020, the U. S. Small Business Administration announced grant funding for new SBA Women's Business Centers. The WBCs will be hosted in rural and underserved markets, widen the footprint, and partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Alcorn's Center will be funded for up to five years annually at $150,000.

The guest speaker for the event was Natalie Madeira Cofield, assistant administrator for the Office of Women's Business Ownership for the  U. S. Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C.

Cofield is a seasoned entrepreneur and executive with over 15 years of experience in securing diverse capital, building strategic partnerships, and leading state and local economic development policy advocacy to incubate and scale small business development and expansion initiatives in communities throughout the United States.

Cofield began her speech by applauding businesswomen for rising in entrepreneurship.

"Women are the fastest-growing entrepreneurs in the United States," said Cofield. "You all are a part of what makes this Center successful. We know that entrepreneurship for women comes in many forms, and women have decided to move forward in seeking their economic freedom. All women should have a center like this to walk through."

Cofield encouraged those aspiring to start a business to take the leap of faith and start working toward their dreams.

"This is the time for women to be in leadership. It's places like this where some of the greatest inventors come from. Everyone in this room should be able to make a business from their homes. If you have ever thought about entrepreneurship, you should give yourself that start. No one will give you a better chance than you."

Cofield concluded by motivating entrepreneurs to persevere in their business journey when times get tough.

"You're going to have to go through the ups and downs to make it where you want to be. People may doubt you when you start your business, but it's your responsibility to walk down that path. It can be tough financially and psychologically."

U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson applauded women for their contributions to businesses and society.

"Finally, women are getting their just due," said Thompson. "Women have been running things for a long time. This is your special moment, and I congratulate the leadership at Alcorn for choosing this path. Small businesses are the heartbeat of the community."

Representatives from the U. S. Small Business Administration gave remarks about this significant moment in Alcorn's history. Region IV Administrator Allen Thomas, Southeast Regional Office, sees a bright and productive future for the Center.

"This is special because it is generationally overdue," said Thomas. "This is the beginning. This Center will make a difference in the lives of people around this region and state. We've seen lots of women launching business, which is our future."

Deputy District Director Ashlei Donerson, Mississippi District Office, said that SBA is excited about its collaboration with Alcorn.

"We were elated to work with Alcorn," said Donerson. "With the leadership that Alcorn has, we knew that this area deserved a Women's Business Center."

Deputy District Director Jo Ann Lawrence, Louisiana District Office, hopes that the WBC can help business owners achieve generational wealth with the free resources it provides to the community.

"We want to assist in wealth building," said Lawrence. "Assisting business owners with building wealth is the key to improving lives. Take advantage of every resource that is available to you. The resources here are free, and we need you to spread the word. Make yourself a committee of one to spread this good news to those who have that entrepreneurial spirit."

Daye Dearing, director for the Women's Business Center at Alcorn, assured small business owners in attendance that the Center is here to assist them in their efforts.

"We're here to support small businesses, which are the backbones of our local economies," said Dearing.

Alcorn President Dr. Felecia M. Nave looks forward to witnessing the excellence that the Center will produce.

"This center has the power to change lives," said Nave. "This path will generate a new pipeline of women leaders. We can redefine our collective future. We have never been a university that only thinks of itself. We are a community partner, support system, resource, and wellspring. We are determined to leave things better than we found them. This is our mission because we are Alcorn."