The Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell University offers free online program for women entrepreneurs. (Photo from The Bank of American Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell website)

The Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell is a collaboration between Bank of America and Cornell University. This free online program provides a learning portal that offer women entrepreneurs with the knowledge and resources to create and build successful businesses.

It has been successful for women, especially women of color, who aspire to be business owners and entrepreneurs. Women in the program earn a certificate in business from this Ivy League university.

The program is for women starting, running, or expanding a business. The curriculum was created by Cornell professors, and according to their website, in order to receive the certificate, participants must complete all six of the two-week courses.

The first course is, “Creating Your Venture-Start with Customer Discovery,” where students will learn how to better themselves as entrepreneurs and develop specific goals for their business. The second is, “Laying the Legal Building Blocks for your Venture.” This is where entrepreneurs will learn all about the legal aspects that comes with running a business.

Course three is, “Assessing and Obtaining Financial Resources for Your Venture,” where students study the logistics behind running a business. They familiarize themselves with the different sources of capital and which sources best fit for each personal situation.

Course four, “Growth Leadership for Women Entrepreneurs,” teaches how to assemble a team that can meet the needs of their business and how to cultivate a positive working relationship with not only employees, but clients, investors, and customers, and partners.

Course five is, “Product Development and Digital Marketing,” which the women learn all about customer analytics, how to grow and keep customer base across multiple channels, how to capitalize on their strengths as women to catalyst their marketing, and more.

The last course, course six, “Communication, Negotiation, and Persuasiveness,” is where participants learn how to better themselves as leaders in the entrepreneurship field. They are taught arbitration tactics as well as ways to be a persuasive entrepreneur. Each of these courses are tailored to ensure that the graduates leave having obtained the tools needed to successfully run and sustain a business.

Mikhaila Fendor, founder of Equilibrium: Center for Restorative Wellness, Conflict Resolution Specialist, and recent graduate of the Bank of America Institute, can vouch for her success post-graduation. She is the latest among hundreds of California women who have graduated from the program.

Equilibrium focuses on helping women of color find ways to address painful relationships with themselves and others. Their attention is helping those move towards emotional wellness using relationship building and communication strategies.

Fendor said the program taught her three main things, one in which is to be prepared by understanding what steps will be necessary to achieve an outcome and what barriers might arise. She also stated that it taught her to be flexible and willing to pivot.

“While building my business, I’ve experienced a lot of unexpected challenges,” she explained. “Responding to them has required a willingness to change the plan and a nimble response ability.”

She learned to have confidence and explained how women have so many obstacles against them while pursuing entrepreneurship. She went on to say that people may make women feel “tentative or unsure about their capabilities, but remaining steadfast and resilient is non-negotiable.”

She said the program helped her get a better look at her major blind spots and brought attention to areas of business development that she would have missed if not for attending the program. She tells the Sentinel that the program also provided a community of inspiring women who are building amazing, necessary and innovative projects.

For women looking to register in the program, a piece of advice Fendor has is to take full advantage of the opportunity – ask questions, keep your materials for reference later on, and make connections with other program participants.

Redonna Carpenter-Woods, senior vice president and market executive for Commercial Banking in the Los Angeles Coastal Market with Bank of America, said that the response of the program has been so positive that the bank doubled the size of the program from 50,000 to 100,000 participants.

“I see this as part of our commitment to the communities in which we serve and to women of color that truly lack access to the education, capital, resources and the network so I see this as an ongoing program,” she emphasized.

Carpenter-Woods expressed how proud she is that the Bank of America created this program. She calls it a “truly remarkable opportunity for women of color to consider, given how many have lacked access to such education and networking.”

She stressed how important this program is for women entrepreneurs because they are less likely to apply for capital than their male counterparts because they don’t feel as equipped and do not know where to go.

“Women aren’t necessarily raised in an entrepreneurial environment,” she stated. “The Bank of America Institute enables women to quickly gain the knowledge – and confidence – to be.”

Carpenter-Woods went on to explain how Bank of America is a leader in banking small and mid-size businesses. Around 40 percent of BOA’s small business clients are women, surpassing the national average.

“We’re very committed to investing in women-owned businesses, as well as closing wealth gaps in communities of color to advance racial equality and economic opportunity,” she stated. “The Cornell program focuses on empowering women of color to success in business.”

On the BOFA Institute website, graduates can list their business on the “Graduate Business Listing.” Links to their company’s website a brief description of their business is displayed. This is another opportunity for the women to promote their businesses post-graduation.

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