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ND Entrepreneurs Gather for Roundtable on the State of Women Owned Businesses


Female entrepreneurs from across the state came together to discuss opportunities and challenges of the business climate for women owned businesses in North Dakota on July 8.

Bruce Purdy, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO), traveled to North Dakota to meet with the state’s only women’s business center, Center for Technology & Business, and to hear directly from North Dakota women entrepreneurs.

Center for Technology & Business provides free and confidential business advising services to women entrepreneurs across the state. “Women owned businesses play an extremely important role in North Dakota’s economy and we’re honored to work with some truly amazing and innovative individuals. These women are intelligent, they’re resilient, and their businesses are filling needs and niches across the state for the greater good.” says Deb Eslinger, Executive Director of Center for Technology & Business.

Approximately 25% of businesses in the state are women owned and the economic clout of women-owned firms in North Dakota is on the rise. North Dakota ranks second only to the District of Columbia for the fastest growth in the number, employment and revenues of women-owned businesses. “We’re extremely proud of the success women owned businesses are having in North Dakota but we know there is more work to be done so we’re very happy that Bruce had the chance to visit and hear first hand what these women need to grow and sustain successful businesses.” explained Eslinger. According to those at the roundtable, the largest need on that list is increased access to capital.

Purdy also had the opportunity to tour a few local businesses - Advanced Virtual Office Services, owned by Gail Hrdlicka, and Earth-Kind, owned by Kari Block. Both companies are Certified North Dakota Women Owned Businesses owned by long-time entrepreneurs that have created new industries in the state.

Hrdlicka owns the only virtual office service company located in North Dakota. Her services make it easier for solopreneurs and small businesses to operate in a professional atmosphere without large overhead costs. Hrdlicka admits that “It’s not easy to be a woman business owner and compete with corporate office.” Her advice to other women looking to start a business – “Be sure to always reach out to others when you need advice or want to brainstorm some ideas you have. Most business people want to see other small businesses be successful and are willing to share what they have learned.”

Block is the founder & CEO of Earth-Kind, inc and a pioneer in the natural pest prevention category. Kari invented Fresh Cab, which is the first and only botanical rodent repellent registered by the Federal EPA, the first bio -based scent diffuser made exclusively from farm grown ingredients, and has been recognized on a nationwide level for entrepreneurship and innovation. Purdy was able to tour the offices and hear Block’s success story of growing her environmentally friendly idea into a $40 million dollar company over the past 13 years.

Purdy, who is visiting several states this summer in evaluation of the Women’s Business Center program, was impressed with what he saw happening in North Dakota, particularly with the collaboration of resource partners across the state. Al Anderson, North Dakota Department of Commerce Commissioner; Al Jaeger, North Dakota Secretary of State; Michael Gallagher, SBA District Director; Josh Kramer, USDA Rural Development Community Program Specialist; and RayAnn Kilen, Regional Director of SBDC, were all in attendance at the roundtable to show their support of women owned businesses and to acknowledge the role of women in North Dakota’s economic success. “What a great Women’s Business Center!” said Purdy “If you are looking to start or grow your business in North Dakota, [Center for Technology & Business] is a great place to help your business.”