Dubuque staff exploring ways to boost female, minority entrepreneurs

City of Dubuque officials are exploring ways it can better support female and minority entrepreneurs.

As a participant in the National League of Cities’ City Inclusive Entrepreneurship program, city officials will look at resources available to entrepreneurs, such as budgeting assistance and strategic plan development, with the intention of expanding those resources or improving their accessibility.

Economic Development Director Jill Connors said the work will culminate in the city spending up to $15,000 provided by National League of Cities on an initiative to increase local entrepreneurship, which could take the form of a new city program or partnership with a local nonprofit organization.

In 2021 in Iowa, women made up about 43.3% of business owners, and 4.5% of businesses were owned by people of racial minorities, according to U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy.

Connors said female and minority entrepreneurs continue to face many challenges in pursuit of their business endeavors. While the city has made efforts before to support these local business owners, its participation in the City Inclusive Entrepreneurship program will help it identify where that support is falling short.

“We will make sure to identify where these gaps are and start to fill them,” she said. “What are entrepreneurs experiencing where they want help, either because it doesn’t exist or because they don’t know about it?”

Connors said there are services that communities should provide local entrepreneurs in order to stimulate their success, including assistance in writing business plans and financial planning assistance.

As participants in the program, City of Dubuque staff will work with National League of Cities experts and coordinate with other cities participating in the program to identify resources that might be needed in Dubuque.

Mayor Brad Cavanagh said much of the city’s participation in the next few months will be learning from other cities what initiatives have been most successful elsewhere.

“We’re going to learn what are the best practices that cities are using,” he said.

By August, the city will present a plan to City Council on developing new support systems for entrepreneurs in the community.

Eric Dregne is the director of The Innovation Lab, which already provides entrepreneurship support in the area. He said he believes the city’s participation in the program will pave the way for future partnerships to develop entrepreneurship support initiatives.

“We know that some needs are being met and some are not,” he said. “This is going to help us learn the best practices of other communities, and then, we can identify partners in the community who can help bring that support.”