The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the Tampa Bay Women’s Business Centre to offer free business coaching to female entrepreneurs.

“We are excited to partner with the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce and share our wonderful services including free business coaching, trainings, networking opportunities, and access to educational and financial resources,” said Dr. Kerry Szymanski, the director of the Tampa Bay Women’s Business Centre.

Membership with the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce is not required to participate. The Centre focuses on helping women-owned businesses in Hillsborough, Hernando, Manatee, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties.

The coaching, webinars, and trainings will be offered immediately. Here is a list of upcoming webinars, including topics such as  “Getting your local business on Google,” “Federal Contracting Certification,” and “Establishing Your Brand”. The trainings are currently being offered virtually, but may be offered in person once the new resource center opens, according to Szymanski.

“It is a wonderful resource for those who have a business idea, but are unsure where to begin. Our team of coaches guide entrepreneurs through the different steps needed to start a business, including how to register a business, write a business plan and get started,” Szymanski explained.

The Centre’s coaches also help entrepreneurs scale their businesses by offering links to resources that assist with access to capital, staffing ideas, and sales and marketing plans.

Coaching sessions and webinars will be offered in Spanish, as well.

“We have a particular focus on the unique barriers that minority business owners face, especially during times of crisis. Additionally, we have strengthened our diversity and inclusion by offering services in Spanish so that clients who may have a language barrier can still access much-needed resources,” Szymanski said in a news release.

According to Szymanski, the services will differ from programming already being offered by organizations such as Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and Catapult because the coaches cater specifically to women-owned businesses and they’re bilingual.

“Our coaches are highly skilled and have entrepreneurial and industry experience,” Szymanski explained. “We are able to see clients very quickly. There is no wait time. Our CARES coaches work with entrepreneurs to help them navigate their businesses through COVID and COVID recovery.”

According to Szymanski, some of the presenters of the workshops are from Square, Google, and Microsoft. Mastermind groups will also be offered.

According to the news release, this partnership aligns with the chamber’s goal of strengthening its relationship with minority-owned businesses.

“One of the major outcomes of the pandemic is that it further reinforced the disproportionate struggle of minority, women-owned, and veteran-owned business and realigned the Lakeland Chamber’s efforts towards addressing these segments of our economy,” the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce news release said.

The Tampa Women’s Business Centre opened in 2013. It is the only Small Business Administration-designated Women’s Business Centre on Florida’s Gulf Coast; it is a part of a cohort of 135 women’s business centers nationwide which are partially funded by the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership.

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Stephanie Claytor has been a broadcast and digital journalist in Lakeland since 2016, covering Polk County for Bay News 9 and currently free-lancing for LkldNow. She is an author of travel and children's books.

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