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Local Business SceneBattle Creek Sisters in Business Pitch CompetitionBY VALERIE BYRNESWomen of color are growing togeth- er to become an en- trepreneurial force in the Battle Creek community. The Small Business De- velopment Fund of the City of BattleCreek has partnered with ANP Consult- ing to provide a space for women of col- or to easily and actively join the business community. ANP Consulting utilizes a social innovation form that empowers women to be agents of social impact. It was started by the Parker Sisters of Ka- lamazoo, who grew up watching their parents be stewards of the Northside community that they grew up in.Fortune Magazine recently reported that African American women entrepre- neurs are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs across the U.S., growing at a rate of 322% since 1997. However, despite this growth, Black women re- main the least supported and least invest- ed in among entrepreneurs. This barrier for Black women and women of color generally is most often rooted in sys- temic racism and sexist stereotypes that must be acknowledged and addressed when working with these women en- trepreneurs. In recognition of the black women entrepreneur, Alisa and NicoleParker of ANP Consulting created Sis- ters in Business to create a safe space for women of color entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, innovators, thought-lead- ers, and creatives to network, strategize, and build.“In researching similar communi- ty-based models to support women of color entrepreneurs, I came across Sis- ters in Business and felt an adaptation of their programming could help foster the development of women of color entre- preneurs and business owners in the city of Battle Creek,” shares Valerie Byrnes, Business Retention and Development Manager for the Small Business Devel- opment Fund. “The Small Business De- velopment Fund felt that a partnership with ANP Consulting to develop Sis- ters in Business meetups would help to bridge the gap for women of color who were looking for business resources.”The Sisters in Business meetup se- ries began on Friday, August 17 with an informal meet and greet at BC Cargo. The series continued with several busi- ness strategy workshops. Each session begins with a power sister presentation; someone who has been successful in the Battle Creek business community shares their story of their entrepreneur- ial journey. In addition to the inspiration of the power sisters, the program is de- liberate about providing small businessresources and strategy sessions. “Sisters in Business has been giving us the tools, and I really appreciate the opportunity – a free opportunity – because you usually can’t do events like that at no cost,” said Deborah Johnson, local business owner of Deb’s Distinctive Designs and Deb’s Clip on the Go. “It’s given us women of color an avenue to know that we don’t have to limit ourselves, we can further our knowledge... and I think that overall we haven’t had anything like this in Bat- tle Creek before so this is an important thing for us.”The Sisters in Business meetups have been a catalyst to prepare the attendees for a first-ever pitch competition for women of color in Battle Creek. The Small Business Development Fund will host the first Sisters in Business pitch event on Friday, February 1. Pitches are limited to women of color entrepre- neurs and small business owners whose business is/will be located within city limits. The prize package is valued at over $5,000 and will include a cash award and professional technical ser- vices; with the potential for space at BC Cargo during the 2019 season. Finalists will be determined by community vote at the pitch event. For more informa- tion about the event or how to apply to pitch, please contact Valerie Byrnes at IN BUSINESS I SCENE 4401 23

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