Women Dealing with Domestic Abuse Get Business Training with the Help of Verizon Wireless

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Women Dealing with Domestic Abuse Get Business Training with the Help of Verizon Wireless

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Business training @VerizonGives for Domestic violence victims will enable a brighter future http://3bl.me/hyt76v
Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 9:30pm

CAMPAIGN: Domestic Violence Awareness

CONTENT: Article

This article was written by Jim Kinney and published in The Republican

HOLYOKE – For years, Brenda Bak, of Chicopee, had talked about taking her poetry and her photography and combining them into a business making and selling decorative objects for the home.

But other than a vague wish to take her work to craft fares, Bak didn’t know where to even begin despite her background in business.

That’s changed now that she has completed a 14-week entrepreneurship program for victims of domestic abuse. It’s paid for with a $75,000 grant from Verizon Wireless’ Hopeline Program to the Boston-based Center for Women and Enterprise which ran the classes. Students were recruited through local domestic violence agency Womenshelter/Companeras.

Upon completion of the course last week, graduates received a total of $20,000 in seed-money grants from Verizon. It worked out to $2,500 to $5,000 per individual.

Twenty women from Womanshelter/Companeras in Holyoke attended a one-day session. Only nine continued with the weekly three-hour classes. The classes were held at Holyoke Community College.

Bak, the only graduate of the program who agreed to be interviewed, said her experience with domestic abuse is years in her past. But she has kept active with domestic violence advocacy groups.

That’s how she learned she could get help starting her business.

“This very afternoon, I’m going to fix my website and then start planning where I’m going to go with my art,” Bak said. “I didn’t know how to market myself. I didn’t know who my core customer is going to be. I didn’t know what my niche is.”

Karen B. Cavanaugh, executive director of Womanshelter/Companeras, said victims of domestic abuse typically lose their homes, savings and jobs extricating themselves from their batterers.

“I don’t think that people understand the economic impact that being in a domestic violence relationship has on the financial well-being of individuals,” Cavanaugh said. “One of the reasons that people don’t leave is economic. So many times we find that people go back because leaving means they are ruined economically.”

Carrie H. Johnson, facilitator for the course, said that even if the graduates never actually start their own business, they have learned more about business in general and hopefully have regained some of their lost confidence.

Other business ideas include restaurants and small retail stores. Johnson is the one-time owner of two small businesses, including cleaning service she started with no money and grew to 165 employees.

Verizon hopes to repeat the program and expand it in the future, said Michael Murphy, public relations manager for Verizon Wireless in New England. The company has sponsored similar program in Vermont and near Albany, N.Y.

Verizon’s involvement in domestic violence issues started by providing voicemail and free phones to victims so they could access services and call for help in privacy. 

Keywords: Social Impact & Volunteering | Carrie H. Johnson | Events, Media & Communications | Holyoke Community College | Karen B. Cavanaugh | Social Impact & Volunteering | Verizon Wireless' Hopeline Program | Womanshelter/Companeras

CAMPAIGN: Domestic Violence Awareness

CONTENT: Article