IEEE-USA EPIC Helps Identify Challenges to Women and Minorities Starting Small Tech Businesses

By Nikita Parikh

Pictured above: IEEE-USA EPIC meeting with members Isar Mostafanezhad, Nikita Parikh, Matt Francis, Elena Vasconez (Director at the Mi Casa Women’s Resource Center), Tatiana Lopez (Program Coordinator at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce), Gloria See, Paul Reynolds, and Paula Bustos-Giunta.

In recent years, the IEEE-USA Entrepreneurship Policy and Innovation Committee (EPIC) has fielded questions and requests from several government agencies — the SBA, the FCC, USPTO, and OSTP, to name a few — to help identify and assess the challenges women and minorities face in starting and sustaining technical businesses.

To better support our members and serve as a resource, EPIC invited representatives from the Denver-area Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Chamber of Commerce to join our committee’s July meeting this year. Elena Vasconez, Director at the Mi Casa Women’s Resource Center and Tatiana Lopez, Program Coordinator at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce spoke to the committee about the service their resources provide and the challenges that face the businesses they support.

The Women’s Business Center at Mi Casa and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce offer technical trainings, bilingual consulting, workshops, and free legal consultation among other resources to support and encourage entrepreneurs through all stages of their business. Not only do these organizations support businesses, but they’ve created programs that support the personal and professional development of women and minority entrepreneurs as well. In the combined 12+ years that they’ve been supporting the local entrepreneur community, Elena and Tatiana identified a lack of social and networking capital, funding, and social stigma as some of the primary obstacles minority founders face.

For founders who find themselves up against a wall, your local Small Business Development Center is a good place to go look for resources to help your business and find other founders, mentors, and advisors to build and grow your support network. As members of EPIC, we’re working on conducting research around the country to better understand, document, and present these challenges and their corresponding solutions. We’re excited to have Congressional interest in our research and look forward to helping shape the policy agenda to support under-served entrepreneurs.

Nikita Parikh serves as the Vice-Chair of the IEEE-USA Entrepreneurship Policy and Innovation Committee. She is a startup founder and currently works as a software engineer at Obie in Chicago. In her spare time, she teaches English to recently resettled refugees.


Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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