Access Community Action Agency

Opening doors to job training and education helps businesswomen find success


Marian Matthews, front left, proud owner of the Henrietta House Bed and Breakfast in Ashford, poses with fellow participants in the Women Inspired program. The group produced a video to promote the program that helps women build businesses.

Many low-income women have the initiative and determination to become entrepreneurs, but they need guidance and access to resources. Lending this kind of “helping hand” is exactly what motivates supporters of the four Community Foundation’s Women & Girls Funds.

A $2,075 grant from the Northeast Area Women & Girls Fund and a $3,500 grant from the Windham Area Women & Girls Fund to the Access Community Agency’s Women Inspired: Next Steps program is helping women in those areas who want to start their own businesses. The program provides educational workshops, resources, mentoring, networking and the opportunity to apply for grants to help with business start-ups.

“We teach women about marketing, financial planning, and negotiating skills,” says Eva Csejtey, Director of Volunteer Engagement.  “They have to do it all — from elevator pitch to business plan.”

The work done by Access aligns closely with the Community Foundation’s priority to promote basic needs and rights, specifically by giving women access to job training and education that will lead to a better life.

Marian Matthews of Ashford is one of the women who followed through with every step of the six-month program. Although she had already started a business called Henrietta House Bed and Breakfast, she needed help with computer skills, accounting, marketing and meeting all the requirements of running a lodging business. Women Inspired provided all of that and more.

The Community Foundation grant to Access also enabled her to apply and receive a grant to purchase an absolute necessity: a fire suppression system for Henrietta House kitchen.

With the collective force of two Women & Girls Funds behind them, these budding entrepreneurs are taking important steps toward a brighter future for themselves and their families.

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