When April Lukasik’s second child was born, she couldn’t find a childcare center that met her high standards. So she started her own – and a small business was born, too.
“I had no experience, but as a mother and with a business background, I just put the two together, ” she said.
Lukasik opened the first of her Bright & Early Children’s Learning Centers in 1997, thanks in large part to financing she got through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA guarantees loans for small business owners who can’t get loans anywhere else, and also connects entrepreneurs to counseling, mentorship and government contracting opportunities. Lukasik has grown her business to now include four childcare centers across Connecticut and was recognized as the 2018 Connecticut Small Business Person of the Year.
“Without the SBA, I absolutely would not have been able to build the business I have, ” she said. “They were the only place I could find to lend me money with no experience and no real estate capital, and they took a chance on me. Twenty years later, I’m so grateful for the opportunity and the faith the SBA has had in me.”
The SBA works to help more entrepreneurs like April Lukasik start, grow and expand businesses of their own. October is recognized as National Women’s Small Business Month – a perfect opportunity to highlight some of the resources the SBA offers to women:
- The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership empowers female entrepreneurs through advocacy, outreach, education and support. It supports programs through each of the SBA’s 68 district offices, providing business training and counseling, access to credit and capital, and marketing opportunities.
- A network of 116 Women’s Business Centers, including nine new centers that opened this year, provides training, coaching and mentoring to entrepreneurs in communities around the country. These centers provide counseling and technical assistance, especially to women who are economically or socially disadvantaged. They offer comprehensive training on topics such as how to become a certified woman-owned small business, how to use social media as a marketing tool, and how to export products. And they are always developing new courses based on the needs of their communities. Last year, WBCs supported more than 150, 000 women, resulting in tremendous revenue and job growth for the businesses they served -- $1.7 billion in revenue and 17, 000 new jobs.
- The government has a goal that 5 percent of all federal contracting dollars are awarded to women-owned small businesses. The SBA trains entrepreneurs on how to evaluate their readiness for government contracting, register as a government contractor, navigate the federal rules, and qualify for contracts through small business set-aside programs. In 2017, $20.8 billion in government contracts were awarded to women-owned small businesses.
Now that April Lukasik’s own children are all grown up, she’s focused on growing her business even more. She has created about 70 full-time jobs and an important service for her community.
“The product I’m providing helps mothers and fathers. I just want to continue growing as fast as I can without compromising the quality of the service, ” she said. “There’s so much growth available, so I will continue looking to the SBA for support.”