The 3-minute interview: Samira Cook

Local,Michael Neibauer

Cook is director of the D.C. Women's Business Center ( The operation, started in January, is an effort of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and is sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Do you have business experience?

I actually have my own business, a real estate consulting firm. And I've been helping businesses in the District for the past six years, first with the local government as assistant director for training and education with the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development.

What do women need to get a business up and running?

I will say I was intimidated by the process, getting a basic business license, how you draft a business plan. Those were things that were intimidating to go through without feedback. But I got feedback from female mentors.

Why do women-owned businesses fail?

When there's no place to go to help you strategically place your business, that's when businesses don't survive. Because of a lack of preparation, because they can't get the startup capital they need, they make mistakes they really should not be making at more mature levels.

What is the benefit of women helping other women?

Women can relate to each other in a way that men just don't. There's the same sort of gender dynamic as in regular education. The camaraderie and support is much different from a co-ed environment and even a male centered environment.

What will the center provide?

How do I write a business plan? How do I know what I've already written ... is correct? Counseling and training classes are key. More mature women-owned businesses will be able to mentor startup businesses. In addition to that we're providing growth opportunities through the federal procurement process, and that's another area where women aren't traditionally represented. Those are new clients for them, new markets for them, and it will help them expand and grow their business.

-- Michael Neibauer

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