Miray Diner worked as a server when she first came to Moab 10 years ago with a desire to eventually become an entrepreneur. Kelly Walker decided to start her own business as a health coach after she retired from nursing. Both women found assistance in reaching those dreams via the Women’s Business Center of Utah in Moab.
Founded in Salt Lake City in 1997, the WBC is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Association. The nonprofit organization opened a southern branch in Cedar City in 2019, and then in May, thanks to federal CARES Act funding, was able to hire business advisor Sarah Barstow to assist people in the Moab area.
Barstow, 46, points people toward free resources and offers one-on-one free consultations to help women set up and run a successful business. The WBC teaches marketing skills, how taxes work, and keeping track of finances. There are free group trainings and 24-7 access to webinars.
Diner, 32, opened her first gift shop, 4-Moon Moab (35 N. Main St., Moab) in February. When she decided she wanted a second store – which is set to open July 1 – she consulted with Barstow.
Barstow is an experienced business owner herself. She owned the Rave’N Image boutique in downtown Moab for over 17 years. Diner knew Barstow from that time and said she “loved her store.” When she learned Barstow had become a WBC advisor she decided to seek assistance.
“I needed a little help,” Diner said. “It’s been good to sit down with someone who knows the city. She gives me confidence.”
She learned from Barstow about various options for obtaining a business loan. Thus far, she’s met with Barstow in person on four occasions outside at a city park.
“I love it; I look forward to those days,” Diner said. “The one hour goes by so fast. It’s nice to just focus on me and my business.”
Clients can meet with an advisor for one hour every two weeks. Some continue meeting over the course of a year, while others seek short-term assistance.
Currently, webinars are held virtually which can be watched at any time, although Barstow expects classes to be held in person once the pandemic is further under control. There are multiple resources on the website; online training sessions include such topics as QuickBooks, social media strategies, and marketing.
Walker meets with Barstow via Zoom for assistance developing her Castle Rock Wellness health coaching business. She said Barstow has steered her toward many useful resources. Barstow also sets goals for Walker to accomplish in-between meetings.
“Every time we meet she has one or two ideas that are like light bulbs to me – things I’d never thought of before,” Walker said.
During the WBC’s “Ms. Biz” four-week class in St. George taught by Debbie Drake, Walker said she learned about branding, marketing and finances.
“It’s great,” she said. “There are seven of us – all women business owners,” who help one another by sharing ideas.
Without WBC, “I don’t know that I’d be as far along as I am right now,” said Walker, who launched her business in May.
New classes are added online weekly, said Barstow. For example, on June 23, there was a class called “Make more money and free up your time.” The following day there was a tutorial on how to make your own YouTube videos. Classes can be attended in real-time or at a later date.
The Women’s Business Center also partners with KIVA, a crowdfunding international nonprofit that helps underserved populations obtain loans, said Barstow.
The WBC recently launched a free online directory: utahwomenowned.com. It’s a 100% free advertising online directory for female-owned businesses in Utah.
“It’s super exciting,” Barstow said. “We want to support women, especially coming out of the pandemic; a lot of women struggled with childcare. They were hit harder by the pandemic.”
Women’s Business Center operates under the umbrella of the SLC Chamber of Commerce, and though it focuses on the underserved female population WBC does not turn anyone away seeking assistance.
Barstow recommends visiting the website at ww.wbcutah.org to register and gain access to classes. Once you’re registered you can make an appointment with an advisor. Barstow said she sees a full range of clients, from those with an idea and questions about how to start to women who have been in business for years and want fresh ideas.
“We’re connecting people to resources,” she said.