Women Supporting Women

The Idaho Women’s Business Center brings resources to rural communities

Published online: Apr 19, 2021 Articles, East Idaho Business Emily FitzPatrick
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It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “women supporting women.” The Idaho Women’s Business Center (IWBC) puts this phrase into action by offering services to women starting and operating businesses in our region. Business is a male-dominated world, and the IWBC operates to form a path for women to break barriers and achieve their dreams. 

The IWBC opened its doors in October at the Idaho Innovation Center with funding from the Small Business Administration and private matching funds (including Battelle Energy Alliance), when many businesses were adjusting to new living conditions due to the continuing effects of the global pandemic. For IWBC’s East Associate Director Cheryl O’Brien this meant switching from immediate plans of meeting in person with rural community members to forming Zoom classes to provide key information to local and regional women.

One of Cheryl’s clients is Janna Van Witbeck of Blue Line Judo. As businesses around the world made readjustments to their practices, Janna wondered how she would be able to keep her judo business afloat while following government guidelines. Upon some reflection, Janna came up with the idea to market her business in Europe where judo is more popular and hold online classes.

With this idea in mind, Janna approached Cheryl for help launching her idea. Through the resources Cheryl has both at the Idaho Innovation Center and through the IWBC, Cheryl suggested applying for an Idaho STEP grant, and was able to connect Janna with Ryan Joos from Vulpine Marketing and begin making Janna’s vision come to life. With the help of Ryan and the grant, Janna was able to launch her marketing initiative and keep her studio alive during a period of uncertainty.

“I think so much of it is just the security of knowing that you're not alone,” Janna said. “You have somebody that you can communicate with. It's daunting. And of course, most of us are pivoting during the most stressful time in history that we've been alive and trying to pull off a miracle.”

Cheryl’s work with Blue Line Judo is just one example of the help she hopes to offer to women in the Eastern Idaho region. She is eagerly looking forward to post-pandemic days when she will be able to travel out to rural communities, such as Victor and Salmon, to teach classes in person and connect with more women looking to dive into business pursuits.

“The pandemic has motivated women to pursue their own businesses so that they can have some control over their own destiny,” said Cheryl O’Brien. “And this fits what we're seeing in national statistics with the results of the pandemic...It's mostly women who have gotten laid off, lost those jobs, and they no longer want to be at the mercy of an employer. They want their own business that they can control.” 


For more information about the Idaho Women’s Business Center (IWBC) contact Cheryl O’Brien at 208-996-1574 or cobrien@idahowomen.org.


Click here to read the April issue of Idaho Falls Magazine.

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