"We hear from many clients that they love CWE, but are just too busy to make it into the office for a class. They are running their business while also taking care of their families, or they may have transportation or child care challenges."`
Carmen Diaz-Jusino, originally from the Dominican Republic, is the program manager for the Providence office of the Center for Women & Enterprise.
Diaz-Jusino has been with the organization for the past five years and was awarded the “Women Business Champion” award by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2010 as well as the “Extraordinary Women” award in Business Development in 2011.
She talked to Providence Business News about CWE, its growth over the last 12 years and the organization’s new online learning program.
PBN: What exactly is CWE and what kind of work do you do?
DIAZ-JUSINO:The Center for Women & Enterprise is a nonprofit organization that helps women and men start and grow businesses. We are an SBA-affiliated Women’s Business Center with offices in Providence as well as Boston and Worcester, Mass. We offer a wide range of training, technical assistance, one-on-one consulting, and networking opportunities to support entrepreneurs at every stage in the business development process.
PBN: CWE Providence was founded in 2000, how have things changed since then?
DIAZ-JUSINO: The most obvious change has been the most recent recession and the slow recovery period. As a result of these tough economic conditions, CWE has seen a 30 percent increase in clients over the past few years as more people are turning to entrepreneurship as a way to supplement or replace traditional income. We’ve also seen a big increase in native Spanish-speaking clients, and have begun offering several classes in Spanish to meet this demand. Another big change of course has been the growth of social media, and we have begun offering a number of classes to help business owners use social media to support their business goals.
PBN: You just recently launched an online learning program, what can users expect from the online classes?
DIAZ-JUSINO: CWE has partnered with ed2go to offer our initial online courses. The classes start every month and run for 6 weeks. They are self-paced courses - this means new lessons are released each week and the participants work on the courses whenever is convenient for them. They have access to instructor who will review their homework and provide feedback. There is a discussion board where they can pose questions to instructor and classmates across the country. A new section of each class starts each month and students can begin accessing material and doing the class work independently on this date.
PBN: Why did you decide to branch into the online realm as opposed to stick with a more traditional class schedule?
DIAZ-JUSINO: We hear from many clients that they love CWE, but are just too busy to make it into the office for a class. They are running their business while also taking care of their families, or they may have transportation or child care challenges. Online classes allow people to take advantage of learning opportunities 24/7, whenever their schedule allows. Offering both online and traditional classes allows us to reach as many people as possible who need help starting or growing their business.
PBN: What tech advice do you give to women looking to start or expand their business?
DIAZ-JUSINO: You don’t need to be an expert, but definitely take the time to educate yourself on the basics so you can make informed decisions. And while having a friend design your website for free might sound tempting, it’s rarely a good idea.