The seven simple words were the ultimate in praise for a woman hardwired to change lives: “You made a difference in the world.”
They were directed at Lynne Cutler, founder and president of Women’s Opportunities Resource Center, better known as WORC. Speaking was John Fleming, acting district director of the Small Business Administration, who was in Philadelphia earlier this month to declare Cutler the SBA’s Eastern Pennsylvania Small Business Champion.
There were several standing among the 200-plus audience members whose lives were touched by Cutler, including Rosliana and Mitchell Zigmund, Roz Brait, Gerry Fioriglio, and Cassandra Hayes, to name a few.
They are bakers, an operator of a home-care company, and the founder of a business specializing in customized promotional products, just some of the recipients of microloans, entrepreneurial training, and other support that WORC has provided to thousands in Philadelphia, its suburbs and northern Delaware – primarily, but not exclusively, women – since Cutler launched the nonprofit 25 years ago.
Over the years, the organization has issued 783 microloans – averaging about $7,500 and totaling $3.8 million – to help businesses start or expand. About 3,700 people have enrolled in its business-training classes. Under the Family Savings Program, WORC estimates nearly 1,600 families put away $3.4 million, which was matched by an equal amount. Combined with outside resources such as mortgages and education grants, the total economic impact was $52 million, Cutler said.
WORC was one of the first microenterprise programs in the nation that focused on entrepreneurship and asset-building to help lower-income people and families achieve economic self-sufficiency. Cutler suggests creating it was her destiny.