North Dakota has a rich collection of women-owned business stories— rural training facilities for ice skaters that inspire Olympic excellence, trucking and distribution companies that ship our agricultural goods, architects whose designs leave a legacy on our prairie, archeologists whose work protects and preserves the history of North Dakota’s Native Nations, and childcare providers who work tirelessly to offer a safe place for children to learn and grow while their parents earn an income. According to the Small Business Administration, nearly 43% of North Dakota businesses are women-owned and each of their stories represents a person striving to create a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.
Throughout 2022, the North Dakota Women’s Business Center’s (NDWBC) board and staff paused its traditional programming to evaluate the direct needs of women business owners like the ones described above to ensure their needs were being met effectively. NDWBC researched its market share, the business climate in North Dakota, conducted listening sessions across the state and collected data. The results indicated women business owners continue to face challenges including limited funding opportunities, social expectations, gender and racial biases, work-life balance, and in some areas, legal inequities and a lack of government support on the local, state and federal levels.
One specific recurring challenge came as no surprise, childcare. Whether the challenge is a childcare provider struggling with workforce shortages, cumbersome regulations and other red tape, or another business owner looking for a provider to care for their kids, the sentiment is the same. There is a lack of accessible and affordable childcare.
NDWBC is working to close that gap through advocacy efforts, strategic partnerships, and by facilitating equitable access to critical resources like funding, business training for childcare providers and long-term business support. Recently, NDWBC proudly partnered with Child Care Aware of North Dakota (CCA) to create an industry-specific program designed to accelerate the growth and development of sustainable, profitable group and center childcare businesses to help increase the availability of services statewide. `
This virtual course is helping women business owners from across the state upskill their business acumen and make connections with other childcare owners on a similar journey. The ten-week Industry Intensive course is derived from a successful initiative formerly known as the Women’s Leadership Program, which helped women in business learn about their leadership options, build confidence and diversify their networks.
NDWBC is proud to welcome childcare providers from across North Dakota into a new Industry Intensive program designed to accelerate the growth and development of sustainable, profitable group and center childcare businesses to help increase the availability of services statewide.
The new program, however, will focus on building sustainable business foundations, branding, financial management, recruitment and leading a team with NDWBC’s industry-specific curriculum. NDWBC Executive Director, Christy Dauer, is excited to offer businesswomen this opportunity.
“It’s no surprise North Dakota is experiencing a childcare drought, and the statistics are alarming. Childcare is vital to the success of our state and the vibrancy of our economy. Childcare owners face unique challenges in business and we are thrilled to be in partnership with CCA to collaborate and bring business resources to this group,” Christy said.
Childcare offers a business model with high labor costs and narrow margins, which makes high-quality and affordable childcare difficult to provide. This concern is a nationwide issue impacting families, communities and the workforce at large. According to CCA’s website, there may be over 120,000 children needing care in North Dakota. Wage earners who cannot find childcare often stay at home. This decision impacts the economy and affects women at a disproportionate rate.
CCA Start-Up and Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Jung shares how this partnership with NDWBC is tackling the issue.
“Child Care Aware of ND was the recipient of a grant from Strengthen ND that awarded the opportunity to pilot a shared services model for childcare programs. One prong of the shared service’s pilot is to offer business training and coaching. We are excited… to help build capacity along with building the program’s financial stability,” Verla said.
Building a program exclusively for childcare providers means working to solve the specific needs of professionals in the business. NDWBC Client Success Director Elizabeth Phares Oren is working toward that end.
“There is power around purpose and support. Bringing these women together to navigate pain points, identify solutions, and plan for the future is an opportunity to not only support them but also impact an industry vital to North Dakota,” Elizabeth said.
The pilot program will run from January to March. In addition, the class will feature a two-day financial workshop for the family (in-home) childcare providers in February and March.
NDWBC is proud to be the leading voice, resource, and partner for women business owners. To learn more about the Industry Intensives and other programs, visit ndwbc.com and follow @ndwbc on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.