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Mentorship program set to offer support for female entrepreneurs

by Andrew Moreau | November 28, 2021 at 1:55 a.m.

This week, the Little Rock Venture Center will begin collaborating with 40 women to kick off the VCWoman Achieve program, the organization's effort to match entrepreneurs and startup owners with mentors who can help influence and improve careers.

The program formally begins with a luncheon scheduled for Jan. 12, though the 40 women -- 20 entrepreneurs and 20 mentors -- will begin building their relationships on Wednesday, which is Little Rock match day for the program. Northwest Arkansas participants will match up a few days later.

VCWoman Achieve is a statewide mentorship program bringing Arkansas' female entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop life-changing relationships to drive their personal and professional growth.

Female entrepreneurs will be exposed to professional coaching and networking opportunities from successful businesswomen who will share their experiences and groom the next generation of leaders in Arkansas, according to Mimi San Pedro, chief strategy officer at the Venture Center and a leading advocate for the initiative. VCWoman Achieve is an effort to promote diversity in the Arkansas business community by enhancing the career development of female entrepreneurs.

A coalition of government agencies, private businesses and nonprofits are collaborating to provide the mentors and other resources to support the entrepreneurs.

Beginning Jan. 4, mentors and mentees will begin setting goals. The teams will meet at least one hour every month, according to program guidelines. Teams will deliver quarterly scorecards to the Venture Center to update their progress, which is evaluated based on key metrics achieved by the mentor and mentee. Those metrics include networking around key issues such as raising capital and building community relationships along with the ability to review and enhance business plans.

VCWoman Achieve is modeled after other mentoring programs, though San Pedro said the scorecard is a piece that the Venture Center developed to monitor the teams.

"The scorecard is unique," she said. "No one else around the country is doing this. This is going to be a very disciplined approach to make sure we're moving the needle."

Mentees will compete for up to $10,000 in prizes in the yearlong program. More information is available at venturecenter.co.

GRINCH PRICING

Yes, that lump of coal will cost more to deliver this holiday season.

The Federal Reserve Bank reports that pricing for items such as children's toys, pets and pet products will be up across the board this year as inflation erodes spending power.

The consumer price index averaged overall increases of 2.3% from 1990-2019 but will jump about 7% this year on an annualized basis, the Fed says. In short, that means most everything will cost more.

The only decline is projected in airline travel, where prices will be down 6.8% compared with the 1990-2019 average of 1.9% inflation. New cars have the largest increase at 10.6% this year, versus the historic average of 0.5%.

That lump of coal? Projected at 6.7% versus 2.7% historically.

Toys are up just 0.2% while sugar and sweets are up 2.4%. Men's clothes will be up 4.3% while women's clothing is projected to increase 1.2%. Pets and pet products will be up 2.7%.

The projections for this year are increases from 2020 prices.

Overall, "it is clear the holidays will be more expensive than we might have expected two years ago," the Fed reports.

SIMMONS BOOST

Simmons First National Corp.'s bet to double down on Texas seems to be paying off fairly quickly.

Stephens Inc.'s banking research team backs the move and predicts the Pine Bluff bank's earnings and stock price will rise after the deal to purchase Spirit of Texas Bancshares Inc. closes in the second quarter of 2022.

The $581 million transaction will expand Simmons' presence in all key metro areas of Texas: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. The transaction should boost loan-growth opportunities for Simmons, the Stephens analysis said.

Stephens' report increases operating earnings per share projections to $2.05 next year, up from $2.02, and to $2.33 from $2.08 for 2023. The Stephens team also issued a new price target of $33 per share for Simmons stock, up from $31 per share.

After the deal closes, Texas will represent Simmons' largest market in terms of loans and second-largest market in terms of deposits.

SBA NOMINATIONS

Arkansans are being invited to nominate their favorite small businesses to win a national or state award.

The U.S. Small Business Administration office in Arkansas is accepting nominations for its 2022 national and district small-business week awards, including the annual small-business person of the year award.

Nominations must be received by 2 p.m. Jan. 11. Nominations can be mailed to the district office in Little Rock or submitted electronically.

All details are available at sba.gov/nsbw. The dedicated website also has the forms, criteria, categories and guidelines for submitting a nomination.

Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at [email protected] or at (501) 378-3567.

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