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Verizon to launch mentoring program for female entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19

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Coral Murphy
USA Today

Verizon will launch a mentoring program aimed at providing female entrepreneurs and business owners with a network of female business leaders to coach them on navigating a COVID-19 reality.

This is according to Verizon Business, which partnered with CircleAround, a new, for-profit media brand being launched by the Girl Scouts, and the National Association of Women Business Owners, to create the program, which will start in early July.

The initiative comes after a company survey found that 49% of women-owned small businesses would find it helpful to find access to a network of like-minded female business leaders to navigate a post COVID-19 reality.

“It’s my belief that women need to help each other,” said Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business. “We hope this program will provide a safe environment for listening, learning, helping and mentoring each other.”

The program will assign a business coach to each business to help female business owners understand finances in the current economy, how to restructure, expand or decrease a product line, as well as how to manage employees.

According to Verizon’s survey, women are less optimistic that they will be able to recover from losses caused by COVID-19. Over 30% said they were not confident that they will be able to recover, versus a 21% of male counterparts.

“When you look at this particular recession, women are much more negatively affected,” said Lynda Bishop, co-chair elect of the president’s assembly steering committee at the National Association of Women Business Owners. Women’s businesses “are also smaller and don’t make enough money to start with.”

According to Bishop, the food, retail and hospitality industries are heavily women-owned and among the sectors most affected by the pandemic.

Coming up with finance plans and managing employees and commercial building payments are among the most prevalent problems women-owned businesses face, according to Bishop.

Bishop also echoed that the program could help female business owners of color, who are affected even more than their white counterparts.

“This is affecting women of color in an even more significant way than one might automatically think of,” Bishop said. “Women of color have had a much harder time getting financing and getting relationships to help them obtain the money they need.”

Through the program, the Girl Scouts-affiliated group also hopes to mentor the women through the prism of Girl Scouts values.

“This is really taking it from one end of the spectrum to the next,” said Chris Butler, COO of CircleAround. “The work we do with Verizon is actually helping the next gen of women leaders.”

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