The Wyoming Women’s Business Center (WWBC) was founded in 1999 through a grant awarded by the SBA-Office of Women’s Business Ownership as a project of the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Our original office was located in Laramie and co-hosted on the campus of University of Wyoming. The WWBC Board made the important decision to become a 501c3 private non-profit in 2006 and relocated our offices to the Laramie Plains Civic Center (LPCC). While we remain an important economic development partner and resource to the University of Wyoming, we are a separate entity with services offered throughout the state of Wyoming.
WWBC sponsored the First Annual Wyoming Women’s Conference and secured funding and support from the Wyoming Business Council in 2001. The SBA and Wyoming Business Council remain important funding partnerships today. Early in our history, we established business roundtable workshops in cooperation with SBA in three Wyoming communities. These business training opportunities have been foundational to the services offered by WWBC along with business counseling geared toward women who are economically or socially disadvantaged.
In 2001, WWBC also established the state’s only microloan program with funds from A Territory Resource (ATR). We were proud to become Wyoming’s first intermediary lender through SBA in 2002, thus expanding the microloan program and setting the stage for what would become the Micro-Finance Center. With support from the Wyoming Business Council, a matched savings account program named, Individual Development Programs, was added. Over the past 17 years, our Micro-Loan program has assisted 144 Wyoming small businesses and nonprofits with more than $2.4 million dollars in loans.
Beginning in 2003, the WWBC Board received a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Family Services (TANF Bonus Funding) to develop the infrastructure for a statewide arts and crafts program called YinSITE (Sustained Income Through Entrepreneurship). This important grant was the beginning of what would become the Artist Development Center, established in 2008. Among other programs, The Artist Development Center opened the Works of Wyoming (WOW) gift shop in 2012 for Wyoming artists to increase their business knowledge as well as enhance their visibility. In 2016, the WOW store was relocated to its current, prominent location at the corner of Grand Ave. and 2nd Street in downtown Laramie. ArtConnect Gallery was established next door to WOW in 2018 to assist artists in developing their skills in marketing their artwork, presenting their artwork professionally, and learning how to price the work they create.
The growth and development of the WWBC was made possible through the tireless efforts of our current and past board members and executive leadership. We’d like to give special recognition to our past executive directors whose commitment to the empowerment of women cannot be understated. Thank you to Ann McCullough, Zonola “Zee Zee” Moore, Rosemary Bratton, and Debbie Gorski for your effort and dedication to Wyoming women-owned businesses.