SALT LAKE CITY — Graduation day is often the culmination of lots of hard work and learning that brings optimism to students as they head into "the real world." The same can also be said of those embarking on their second careers in the world of entrepreneurship.

On Wednesday, 10 women entrepreneurs will celebrate the end of a 15-week journey that they hope will payoff for them as they strive to become successful business owners.

"We talk about time management, goal setting, work-life balance, marketing, accounting and bookkeeping," said program manager and instructor Danielle Lower. Students also learn how to develop an operations manual and figure out cash flow projections, she added — skills that will be critical in running a successful enterprise.

"The most important thing is helping them plan their business from a cash flow standpoint so that they can ask for enough money to get it started and also plan on how they are going to keep it going," Lower explained.

The event held on the Westminster College campus will include a panel discussion with participants, along with a ceremony honoring them.

The GE Banking on Women program was launched in 2010 to help women entrepreneurs jump-start their own businesses. The 15-week course is conducted through the Institute for New Enterprise at Westminster. Participants receive business-plan-development training, business mentorship, and access to financial advice and support.

Melinda Anderson spent 33 years as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines. Upon retirement, she had already worked on an idea for a start-up company in the catering business and was able to turn that notion into Casual Cuisine Caterers. She enrolled in the course to enhance her knowledge about running a business, but was grateful to discover the program offered other advantages as well.

"It brings about camaraderie among women, and is also a great support system for women," she said. Anderson said the program also helps women entrepreneurs break into sectors that were traditionally less accessible to them.

Participants in this current graduating class created small businesses such as a gluten free bakery, Anderson's catering company, a community healing studio and a mobile pizza and catering company.

Rachel Kimball, owner of Fire and Slice Mobile Wood Fired Pizza, received $25,000 from the Utah Micro Enterprise Loan Fund last year to get her business up and running. It was through the loan program that she learned of the BOW program.

"It really helped solidify my business plan," she said. "It was also great for networking with all the other women in the class."

Kimball said one of the major benefits of the course was the ability to develop relationships with other local businesswomen facing similar challenges.

"Everybody was very supportive and shared different ideas," she said.

Besides the small business financial education classes, mentoring and the opportunity to apply for microenterprise loans, the program supports job creation, retention and economic development in Salt Lake City, a news release stated.

As part of the partnership, GE Capital works with the Utah Micro Enterprise Loan Fund and the Institute for New Enterprise at Westminster College to offer training and support through the "NxLeveL for Micro Entrepreneurs" program. The program matches participants with mentors, provides access to funding for qualified participants and raises awareness for opportunities for women in the Salt Lake business community.

BOW alum Allana Lodge took her plus-size fashion line, Inspector 33, through the course with the goal of adding business skills to her creative drive.

“I have been given the tools I need to take some big steps and start my own business,” said Lodge. “I am more courageous and have confidence in my dream. I actually see my fashion line as a reality.”

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