When the Thurston County Economic Development Council announced this month that it had been awarded the official designation as an official Women’s Business Center by the Small Business Administration, women entrepreneurs throughout the region were cheering.

“Our organization has seen a tremendous uptick, so I am sure the need is out there,” said Alliance of Women Owned Businesses vice president and marketing chair Jill Neumeister.

The new program will partner with the Thurston EDC’s Business Resource Center to provide entrepreneurial and small business counseling to women business owners throughout the region.

For more than two decades, the BRC has provided services to both male and female entrepreneurs to increase their success at creating and retaining jobs and increasing company revenues.

While services have targeted women, minorities and entrepreneurs in rural communities, the chance to host a targeted Women’s Business Center is a unique and valuable opportunity.

Said Neumeister, “Having access locally to in-person professional and business development resources, geared towards entrepreneurs, is a positive step towards providing women with the support they will utilize to grow their business.”

The EDC’s executive director Michael Cade agreed.

“Through this program, we can continue our mission to help new and existing businesses expand and grow, and provide services to an important and underserved segment of entrepreneurs,” he said.

Specifically, the program will include face-to-face and online connections for professional women, who will provide networking, training, counseling and encouragement to others who are starting or developing new businesses. Ultimately, Cade is targeting the program to be a South Sound catalyst for in-depth, outcome-oriented business services to women entrepreneurs, many of whom are either socially and economically disadvantaged.

Just the networking part is key, emphasized Neumeister.

“Our AWOB members are from a wide range of businesses, among the many things they value highly are personal relationships,” she said.