Melanie Willoughby is the Executive Director of the NJ Business Action Center
Melanie Willoughby is the Executive Director of the NJ Business Action Center

By Melanie Willoughby, Executive Director, The New Jersey Business Action Center  

Women-owned businesses account for 39.6 percent of business ownership in New Jersey, which is above the national average of 20.9 percent, according to the 2021 U.S. SBA Small Business Profile Report. 

Female business owners often face hurdles when growing their business – including financing, hiring, scaling, finding commercial space and accessing available incentives. What many people don’t know is that there are state resources that help companies overcome these challenges and become profitable.  

For example, the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC) recently helped SpectraSpray Global LLC, a Morris County-based women-owned and operated health and wellness business. The company worked closely with the NJBAC to access grant funding acquired through the New Jersey State Trade Expansion Program (NJSTEP), a federally funded program facilitated by the Office of Export Promotion. With the grant funding, SpectraSpray was able to market internationally and recently announced a distribution partnership with UA-PHARM, a Ukraine-based pharmacy with over 80 locations.  

“I never imagined that the support received from the New Jersey Business Action Center would help to export my product,” shared Janet Ryan, founder of Spectra Global LLC. “The guidance and support of the NJBAC team opened up a whole new world for me. I look forward to exporting my product to additional countries with the team’s continued assistance.” 

In addition to grants, the NJBAC provides immediate mentoring assistance. The NJBAC works with companies, like Don Ricky Columbian Bakery, to secure important certifications. 

Don Ricky Columbian Bakery, an Elizabeth-based bake shop that has been in business over 40 years, worked through the NJBAC to obtain its Small Business Enterprise (SBE) and Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) certification status in New Jersey. The NJBAC also assisted with navigating the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s process for qualifying for concession space at Newark International Airport. 

“The help received from the small business advocates at the NJBAC was a key component of getting me the correct information and connecting me to the right people as I worked through the process of applying for concession space at Newark International Airport,” said Sandra Rojas, managing director of Don Ricky Columbian Bakery. “I’m ecstatic about the services that I received from the NJBAC in making our business aspirations and dreams come true.”  

The NJBAC also helps New Jersey women-owned businesses obtain free or low-cost technical support through its financial partnership with the NJ Small Business Development Centers. They also maintain a working relationship with the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship Corporation (WCEC) and The Latin American Economic Development Association, Inc. (LAEDA). The WCEC assists North Jersey businesses and the LAEDA covers the South Jersey region.

The NJBAC’s in-depth understanding of all the state’s programs and permitting laws can help female CEOs and entrepreneurs formulate sound and effective solutions. The NJBAC offers resources to business owners, covering everything from choosing a company name, to payroll and tax issues. 

This March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, we encourage women currently in business or just getting started to contact the NJBAC with any business questions. Our team of expert small business advocates can help navigate the ins and outs of doing business in the Garden State, offering guidance with planning, certifications, financial resources, technical assistance, expansion and more.

To reach the NJBAC small business advocates, please visit, call our 24/7 information line at 1-800-JERSEY-7. The NJBAC also provides a live chat feature where businesses can speak with experts, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. To access the live chat, visit:

# # # 

Melanie Willoughby is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC), an agency within the NJ Department of State. The NJBAC is a business-first resource that can help you get answers from government agencies, direct you to appropriate officials or contacts, facilitate meetings and follow-ups with regulatory agencies and so much more, all at no cost and strictly confidential. Follow the NJBAC center on LinkedIn at

AHHerald relies on advertising to support our operations.
When you click an affiliate link we may earn a commission.

Melanie Willoughby

Melanie Willoughby is Executive Director of NJ Business Action Center