The American Women’s Economic Development (AWED) Corporation was founded in 1976 as a nonprofit organization to train women to either start or grow their own businesses. The women AWED serves comes from all socioeconomic backgrounds and educational levels. Since its inception, AWED has served more than 100,000 women through formal course instruction, one-on-one business counseling, seminars, networking events and peer group support. This gives them the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to achieve their goals of business ownership and economic self-sufficiency. In addition, as the first program in the nation developed to train women entrepreneurs, AWED has served as the model for more than 80 Small Business Association centers nationwide.
None of what AWED has done and is doing would be possible without the generous support of time and expertise from their all-volunteer faculty, the heart of their organization. They rely on the talented pool of 130 volunteers. The volunteers are small business owners and/ or corporate business people who specialize in the small business environment. A conservative calculation of the hourly value of these professional’s time is approximately $150,000 during the fiscal year of 2002 alone.
AWED’s programs are as diverse as they people it serves. Their courses are tailored to help women through every step of becoming a business owner, from start-up issues like whether or not to open a business, writing a business plan and receiving start-up funds. They also learn about ongoing business decisions like marketing choices, networking opportunities and hiring employees. AWED also offers a course specially designed for low-income women. The New Directions Initiative is an award-winning program for women who are public assistance recipients or employed at low wages. The participants receive entrepreneurial training, financial education and life skills along with a crucial support system.
The ongoing one-on-one business counseling is also conducted by members of AWED’s volunteer faculty. This provides a personalized setting for each woman to address her individual business concerns. She is paired with a professional trained or experienced in a vast array of fields to better answer her specific questions and provide guidance for business growth. The volunteers are experts in law, business planning, marketing, public relations, technology and more. AWED is proud to have helped women over the past 27 years achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. The women they serve as well as the commitment from the volunteer faculty have inspired them.