U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Blog

Was this page helpful?

Women-Owned and Indigenous Small Businesses Thrive with EDA and MBDA Support

At the U.S. Department of Commerce, Women’s History Month is an opportunity to highlight the strength, tenacity, and determination of women in American society. It’s also a time to honor women business leaders and their contributions to the American economy and to encourage the next generation of female leaders to fully participate in economic opportunities available to build a more equitable, inclusive, and diverse economy that works for all Americans.

According to the Census bureau, women-owned firms made up only 19.9% of all businesses that employed people in the United States in 2018 and only 6.5% of those firms were in the manufacturing sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused massive disruption to the American economy and many small business employers were hard-hit in regions all across the country.

Thanks to programs available through Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) businesses have been able to access the working capital and gap financing they need to continue to stay in operation and keep their employees on board.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is the only federal agency solely dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises. MBDA programs, services, and initiatives focus on helping minority business enterprises grow and prepare to meet the industry needs of tomorrow.

MBDA’s American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian (AIANNH) projects support Tribal and native business growth. The project is proud to support and work in partnership with Tamarah Begay, founder and Principal-in-Charge of Indigenous Design Studio + Architecture (IDS+A).

Tamarah Begay founded IDS+A in 2012 as the first Navajo woman-owned architectural firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was inspired to focus on serving Native American and Indigenous communities to provide culturally unique, sustainable, and innovative designs. Her designs are engaging and encompass the natural surroundings while preserving history and culture. IDS+A uses a collaborative process to create designs with clients. The process brings a unique assimilation of ideas and creativity. Each community’s individual identity drives the project plan, physical form, and contextual response to the environment.  

Four Winds Diversified (FWD) Project MBDA Business Center located in New Mexico worked with Ms. Begay to secure the Small Business Administration 8(a) Certification and Women Owned Program Certification. Ms. Begay and the FWD MBDA Business Center continue to work together to pursue business opportunities Federal, State, Local and Tribal partnerships through referrals. 

IDS+A has expanded its footprint to encompass successful projects throughout the Albuquerque and the Southwest to include state and federally funded projects. Ms. Begay is a member of the Navajo Nation and has over 15 years of experience working with Native American tribes on public safety, judicial, educational, housing projects, gaming. Recent work with the Navajo Nation has focused on feasibility studies and master planning. She brings her broad expertise in cultural sensitivity to strengthen the design of projects with Native American and Indigenous communities.  

“This month we pause to remember and celebrate the courage, ingenuity, and perseverance of women who help make our world and our country a better place,” said MBDA Acting National Director Miguel Estién. “The Minority Business Development Agency’s mission, programs, and services demonstrate our commitment to support the needs and dreams of women of color entrepreneurs today and for generations to come.”

Commerce’s U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is the only federal government agency focused exclusively on economic development, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) plays a critical role in facilitating regional economic development efforts in communities across the nation.

EDA makes Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) grant awards to establish Revolving Loan Funds (RLFs) that make loans to businesses that cannot otherwise obtain traditional bank financing. These loans provide access to capital as gap financing to enable small businesses to grow and lead to new employment opportunities with competitive wages and benefits.

One resilient female business leader is Karen Primak, CEO of IPAK, Inc. a full-service packaging and fulfillment company offering inventory management, warehousing, and supply chain services to Fortune 1000 companies and to the state and federal government. IPAK, Inc. operates two facilities in Camden, New Jersey that delivers products all over the world.

Since having a small lemonade stand as a young child, Ms. Primak always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a dream of starting her own business. Launching IPAK has enabled her to build a company that supports the same spirit and give her employees the opportunity to grow into their potential. Of its 100 employees, 68% are women, 73% identify as people of color, and 55% reside in economically disadvantaged Camden. 

“As a certified HUBZone business, we’re committed to hiring from underserved communities. Leading an organization that understands that you need to meet people where they are and encourage learning and success has been amazingly rewarding and would not have been possible if I hadn’t started IPAK,” said Ms. Primak.

Throughout the pandemic, Ms. Primak managed to keep all of her staff on board, institute new protocols to keep them safe and kept her doors open for business.

However, due to the pandemic the company did see a decrease in revenue and so she decided to reach out to the Cooperative Business Assistance Corporation (CBAC), an EDA-funded Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) administrator to apply for a loan.

“I was introduced to CBAC by one of their other customers and knew they were legitimate because they were a certified CDFI and a member of an organization I value, the South Jersey Chamber of Commerce. We had an amazing experience working with them. They went through the loan process quickly, even though they were very busy, and it was the middle of the pandemic,” she recalls.

EDA’s RLF program assists businesses by capitalizing local investment programs that provide gap financing to small businesses. In September 2020 EDA awarded a $2.7 million CARES Act grant to the CBDC to capitalize and administer an RLF that will provide loans to coronavirus-impacted businesses in the city of Camden; Atlantic, Cape May, New Jersey.

“Their investment came at a critical time for IPAK, given decreased revenue due to the pandemic and our prioritization of the retention of our workforce. The funds were used for working capital,” said Ms. Primak.”

Thanks to the loan from CBDC, IPAK, Inc. continued to persevere through the pandemic, keep its business in operation and not let go of a single employee.

“I am honored to be part of an organization that is playing a vital role in helping Americans recover from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo. “Women’s History Month serves as an opportunity to highlight the contributions women make to the American economy, and to support the women business leaders who make it their mission to lift up underserved communities, so their dreams are realized too.”