YOUNGSTOWN — Secretary of State Frank LaRose visited the Youngstown Business Incubator Friday and met some of the Valley's youngest entrepreneurs, including 8-year-old A'nya Reynolds.
Reynolds, owner of A. Rose Shea Butter Company, makes and sells shea butter creams and lotions.
"I got the idea to make shea butter and lotions, because I have sensitive skin and eczema, so I could probably inspire other little girls that have sensitive skin and eczema to use this product," she said.
During the visit, LaRose conducted a roundtable discussion with members of YBI's Women and Youth Leadership Program, including Reynolds.
Program participants shared their experiences navigating the business world as women and people of color.
Mandy Forlina, owner of Safety Training Group USA, explained how difficult it is to get a loan.
"Only 2.8 percent of loans go to women," she said. "I'm not looked at as fairly."
On the other hand, established businesses say they want to contract with women- and minority-owned businesses but have trouble finding them, LaRose said.
He suggested looking into the state's Women's Business Enterprise program, which provides a state certification and helps connect businesses to necessary services like information technology.
Senate Bill 105 will also help Ohio entrepreneurs, he added. The bill aims to streamline the legal processes required to operate a business throughout the state.
YBI Women in Entrepreneurship Program Director Stephanie Gilchrist testified in support of the bill, also supported by LaRose.
"When someone starts a business, the last thing they should have to worry about is the government," LaRose said.
Despite the past year's challenges for the business community, more than 170,000 new businesses were started this year in Ohio.
"You're an inspiration," LaRose said to the group, "because starting a business is a courageous thing."