CLIENTS PLENTIFUL FOR WOMEN¹S BUSINESS CENTER IN AMERICAN SAMOA

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By La Poasa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (September 20, 2000 - Samoa News/PINA Nius Online)---Women who want to know which channels to exploit in starting their own businesses in the territory have been turning to the newly opened Women Business Center.

Since the opening of the center, Director Pat Luce said that an average of ten clients come in a day.

Luce said that 22 women interested in starting up their own businesses showed up the first day the center opened.

The center is run by Luce, Program Manager Sa Viena and Internet Manager Lynn Uiagalelei.

Luce said that it is a federally funded five-year program which receives a total of $140,000 yearly. She added that the center hopes to hire additional staff when the program is running more smoothly. The center is also looking at involving volunteers with management and accounting backgrounds to assist with the program.

Hawai‘i Small Business Assistant District Director Jane A. Sawyer said that many of the women have more than one business ideas are interested in knowing the answer to the question: "Where do I start?"

"That’s where WBC comes in," said Sawyer.

Sawyer explained that the center assist the clients in making their business plans, setting up their businesses and, finally, dealing with the financial side of their operations.

At present, the center is working with government leaders and banking officials in the hope of opening up a micro loan program by the end of the year.

Sawyer said that people could go to the bank and get a Small Business Administration guaranteed loan, which means an individual must have "pretty much close to traditional financial requirements."

According to Sawyer, if people aren’t ready for this stage, there is an intermediate step before getting a Small Business Administration guaranteed loan and that is a micro loan.

Sawyer said that this means that interested individuals have to make an application to the Small Business Administration in Washington.

"As the result of that application, we will provide a fund or we’ll get them a low interest loan. This will, in turn, create a revolving loan for small businesses," explained Sawyer.

She added that businesses will still need to meet such criteria as completing a loan application, presenting a business plan and showing in the plan that they will be able to pay back the loan. An individual will probably not need to have collateral but just a personal guarantee on a loan under the micro loan program.

"The success of the micro loan fund relies on those businesses paying back these loans."

Another issue taken very seriously by the Women's Business Center is the exporting/marketing of traditional products such as ie toga and siapo.

Luce said that many women who are very talented in this area of weaving and carving traditional items can make money from selling their work to neighboring Samoa and other Pacific countries.

The Women's Business Center is located in the Native American Samoa Advisory Council (NASAC) office.

Luce said that the council, which focuses on promoting traditional weaving, carving and other cultural works, was very instrumental in drafting up their proposal.

The Women's Business Center will be working closely with the Department of Youth and Women’s Affair (DYWA) and the American Samoa Community College based Small Business Development Center in sharing their resources and expertise.

Sawyer said that Small Business Development Center and Women's Business Center staff members are undergoing training -- using the same business curriculum to train the counselors -- with the hope that they all will be certified.

The center is also using the Internet and is connected to the national Women’s Business Center website: www.onlinewbc.org

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to samoanews@samoatelco.com. For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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