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Highlights from CRS Statewide Survey of Vermont Women Entrepreneurs
- By Michele Cranwell Schmidt
The Center for Rural Studies (CRS) at the University of Vermont recently conducted a survey of Vermont Women's Business Center (VWBC) participants. This statewide survey was conducted in June of 2009 and contacted 1,446 past and current VWBC participants. A total of 304 clients completed the telephone survey, representing the larger client pool with a 95% confidence interval and plus or minus 5% margin of error. The study measured the impact of VWBC services on the lives of participants who sought to start or expand their own business. Survey results showed that 53% (86) of clients started a business after working with the program and 71% (61) of start-ups were still in operation after an average of 3 years (range of 5 months to 7.5 years). This survival rate is higher than the Small Business Administration’s 2008 national average survival rate of 66% after 2 years and 44% after 4 years. Respondents' businesses have created and sustained 174 full-time jobs and 76% of owners have also hired part-time employees to help run operations. A strong majority, 89% (139), indicated that their business has a positive net worth and calculated gross profit rates ranged from 10% to 100% for the majority of respondents (87%, 98). With most businesses generating a profit, two out of three owners reported earning household income from business revenue and 25% stated that this is their primary source of income. Participants were also asked questions to assess skill development and personal changes experienced because of VWBC services. Skill gains most commonly noted include marketing and sales (44%, 132) and writing a business plan (37%, 112). The survey also explored changes in participants’ personal outlook and perspective after working with the VWBC. Nearly half, 49%, feel more self-confident, 32% are more motivated and encouraged to carry out their passion, and 11% broadened the scope of their possibilities. VWBC services have facilitated many positive outcomes for Vermont women business owners. Participants expressed high satisfaction rates of services and individual assistance received from VWBC business counselors. Most (81%, 234) agreed that VWBC met their expectations and 63% (133) attributed their business success in part to VWBC services. Linda Ingold, Director of VWBC said, "I am pleased to see statistically how the Vermont Women's Business Center is effecting positive economic change for Vermont's women, families and the State as a whole ." CRS is a nonprofit, fee-for-service research organization. CRS provides process and outcome focused evaluation services for social service and government agencies. Service areas evaluated in the past ten years include microenterprise development, education and literacy, teen leadership, restorative justice for youth, and domestic violence services. For more information about this study or CRS evaluation services, please contact Michele Cranwell Schmidt, Evaluation Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (802)656-3021 or visit http://www.uvm.edu/crs. The VWBC is a statewide program of the Central Vermont Community Action Council (CVCAC) and funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. The VWBC offers programming tailored to the needs and experiences of aspiring and established women entrepreneurs from a central office located in Barre, Vermont and via subcontracts with Vermont’s four other Community Action Agencies. For more information please contact Linda Ingold at (802)479-7379 or visit http://www.vwbc.org.