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Senator Heitkamp Hosts Discussion with Women-Owned Small Businesses, Highlights Need to Support Women Entrepreneurs

Number of Women-Owned Business in North Dakota Jumped 33% since 2007


BISMARCK, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heitkamp joined the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), North Dakota Women’s Business Center (NDWBC), local entrepreneur resource partners, and several local female entrepreneurs to discuss methods and policies to support women entrepreneurs and help their businesses grow and thrive.

Kari Warberg Block, founder and CEO of EarthKind in Bismarck and member of the NWBC kicked off the event. Research from the NWBC found women in North Dakota are opening businesses faster now than they were prior to the recession. According to the NWBC, the number of women-owned business in North Dakota jumped by over 33% since 2007 and is now at more than 20,000 businesses. Senator Heitkamp, Warberg Block, local entrepreneur resource partners, and about a dozen North Dakota women entrepreneurs discussed what has led them to pursue entrepreneurship, what challenges they face, and how to better offer support and investments so they can get their businesses off the ground and grow their business.

“The past few years in North Dakota have served as a real example of how women-owned businesses are resilient and often defy the trends of other businesses across the country,” said Heitkamp. “Today’s discussion continued my dialogue with North Dakota’s female entrepreneurs by looking at what motivates women to start businesses, what unique challenges they face, and how we can work together to create a supportive entrepreneurial spirit. Folks like Kari Warberg Block are examples of how great business ideas can come when you’re not expecting it, and that with the right support system, you can thrive. Policies in Congress also need to support women entrepreneurs, which is why I’m continuing to push for my bill that will support small businesses trying to get off the ground in states like ours. In addition to helping women-owned businesses financially, we also need to give them the tools to succeed by supporting their families through a federal paid family and medical leave policy which would help both business owners and employees.”

“When I started EarthKind at my kitchen table in rural North Dakota, I had nothing more than an idea and a purpose,” said Kari Warberg Block, founder and CEO of EarthKind. “We had a serious problem with mice on the farm, and I knew there had to be a way to deal with it – without using poisons. When a mouse ran up my leg in a truck cab one day, I instinctively reached for my perfume, and it just clicked – that’s when my startup to deter mice with smell was born. However, getting my product to market was a huge challenge – especially from a rural area, with no money or experience. I had to get creative, so I sold a lot of vegetables at our local farmer’s market to pay for my first patent.  Senator Heitkamp knows that North Dakota’s women business owners -- whether emerging or mid-sized -- contribute significantly to North Dakota’s economy, and to the U.S. economy as a whole.  She is a strong advocate in the U.S. Senate for investing in startups, small businesses, and putting forth family-friendly policies that support workers and growing families. At NWBC’s Solutions Lab – Bismarck, ND, Senator Heitkamp will further her work of improving the business climate for women business owners and entrepreneurs.”

Senator Heitkamp and Warberg Block were joined by North Dakota women business leaders including:  Deb Nelson, Dickinson ND, DLN Consulting; Sommer Jacob, Bismarck ND, Studio North and Northland Concrete & Excavation; Beth Nodland, Bismarck ND, Juniper Environmental and Juniper Workantile; Carla Schwartzenberger, Watford City ND, Razor Consulting; Chappy Windsor, Minot ND, Dakota Chappy; Daneen Dressler, Richardton ND, Stone Mill; Lorie Pope, Bismarck ND, Nexus Innovations; Denise McDonough, Bismarck ND, Independent Doctors; Susan Schearer, Harvey ND, Harvey Sand and Gravel; Lori Hohertz, Mandan ND, TAND Construction; Karmin Billadeau, Bismarck ND, Karmin's Kitchen; Katy Kassian, Regan ND, Tait and Kate Consulting; Jo Khalifa, Westhope ND, Mojo Roast Inc; Esther Morales, NWBC Executive Director; Annie Rorem, NWBC Director of Policy & Research; Deidre Hillman, NDWBC Program Director; Lexi Prezler, IDEA Center Program Coordinator; Local Entrepreneur Resource Partners: Sandy McMerty – North Dakota Department of Commerce; Bonnie Malo - North Dakota Department of Commerce; and Dale Van Eckhout – SBA.

Center for Technology & Business, which serves as the North Dakota Women’s Business Center, works with the SBA and North Dakota Department of Commerce to provide services and training that will help women become small business owners and provides one-on-one business assistance, resources on getting started and financing information. In addition, the SBA’s Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program provides competitive contracting opportunities for solely women-owned or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses. Loan programs available through the SBA can help provide long-term working capital for operational expenses, to purchase inventory, to pay accounts payable and/or to purchase land.