The Idaho Women’s Business Center will be opening a new office in Idaho Falls. The branch will hold a grand opening event at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at 2300 N. Yellowstone in the Idaho Innovation Center.
In addition to a ribbon cutting, Gov. Brad Little, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper, Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti and IWBC Executive Director Diane Bevan will all speak either in-person or virtually. In order to enforce social distancing, the number of people attending in person is limited. However, anyone can attend virtually by registering at idahowomen.org/.
The IWBC announced Cheryl O’Brien, former Idaho National Laboratory engineering program director, will head up its Idaho Falls branch.
"I took this job because I’ve had a big career. I worked at the national lab for over 30 years and so I know the corporate world. But this is a way that I can give back to my community, to use my skills that I learned in the business world to work with women and help women. To me, it’s a lot of fun," O'Brien said.
The organization has continued to expand across the state in the last year. It has opened offices in Nampa and Moscow. It will soon open one in Twin Falls. According to O’Brien, a significant reason for establishing a branch here was to better connect to rural communities across eastern Idaho.
"We're expanding all over the state because there’s no part of the state that doesn’t need economic growth in business. Particularly, we don’t want to leave out our rural areas of the state," O'Brien said. "Our focus is on making connections … in low populated counties and in our smaller cities."
Established in 2019 by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the goal of the IWBC is to support women in business across Idaho. The organization takes a three-pronged approach: It provides financial support to women in business by helping them find financial opportunities through small business loans and grants. It provides women support from other professionals by offering “business counseling, mentors, classroom training and peer-to-peer learning.” It creates connections between businesses by referring its members to each other and setting up networking events.
“We connect local women who can help each other — local women who have business experience with women who are struggling in business or trying to start a business,” O’Brien said.
The organization was able to open the new branch partly through a $20,000 technology innovation grant from the Idaho National Laboratory.
"Our economic development over here is really focused on diversity and helping small businesses. IWBC has done quite a bit to reach out to minority businesses and rural businesses. It really aligned with our mission in that regard. … We look for applicants that are going to build up the economy. We believe having a robust local economy benefits us all,” said Rae Moss, director of communications and outreach at INL.