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PYSK: Jaime Freidrichs, Director, Missouri Women’s Business Center



Job description:

My team and I help women start and grow their own businesses by offering classes, business counseling, networking opportunities, and microloans. We can help people at any stage of business, from someone just starting with an idea to experienced businesspeople. And yes, while our focus is on women, we can help men too.

Years lived in Columbia/mid-Missouri:


Original hometown:

Brookfield, Missouri.


Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Public Affairs, both from MU.

Professional background:

Prior to this job, I worked at Woodhaven, a local organization empowering adults with developmental disabilities. I started as their receptionist in 2002 and soon moved into their development department, becoming director of development in 2008.

Favorite volunteer/community activity:

Anything that keeps me involved in Woodhaven. I’m on the planning committee for their Zombie Pub Crawl and the boards for their HUD homes, and I try to attend as many Woodhaven events as possible.

A favorite recent project:

Launching the Missouri Women’s Business Center! Central Missouri Community Action was awarded the grant to create it in March, and I was hired in late April, although I didn’t officially start until May 31. It has been a team effort with the staff at CMCA (especially my colleague Teri Roberts), committed volunteers, and many great community partners. You know who you are. I love teamwork, so taking on such a collaborative project suited me very well. And it has brought me into contact with such interesting people.

My next professional goal:

Ensure the Missouri Women’s Business Center is fully established, is reaching all eight of the counties we serve, and is sustainable for the future.

A Columbia businessperson I admire and why:

I admire Kat Cunningham, of Moresource, immensely. She is so generous in sharing her time and expertise. She was one of the first people I reached out to when I started this job, and she has already helped in many ways. I know the same is true for many organizations in Columbia. I admire how she’s been able to balance a successful business, a family, and so much community service.

Why I’m passionate about my job:

I get to play a small part in helping women achieve their dreams of business success, and that is such an honor. Also, I think that by empowering people to make their business ideas succeed, the Missouri Women’s Business Center has enormous potential to impact our community.

Why I’m passionate about my company:

The breadth of services offered by CMCA is so impressive. It has programs that connect to nearly every aspect of a person’s life, from prenatal services to Head Start and Early Head Start to housing and energy assistance to health insurance to foster grandparents. And that’s not even a comprehensive list.

If I weren’t doing this for a living, I would:

Probably devote more time to making documentary films with my husband, Chad. As a “weird second job,” I co-produce his films, working evenings and weekends. But I also see a downside to that; it’s nice to have my own career outside of movies.

What people should know about this profession:

The vast majority of small business owners I’m meeting go into business because they want to make a positive impact in their community. Before taking this job, I think I believed that mindset was more at home in nonprofits, but our local businesses are just as mission-driven.

The next challenge facing my industry:

I think I’m still too new to have an answer for this. I want to encourage anyone who sees specific challenges facing women in business to please reach out to me. One of our pillars of the Missouri Women’s Business Center is to be responsive to community needs.

Biggest lesson learned in business:

You can’t do it alone. Success is a team sport.

How would you like to impact the Columbia community:

One of the biggest opportunities I see in the Missouri Women’s Business Center, beyond the businesses we help start or save, is bringing diverse groups of people together. Because our services are here for people at any socioeconomic level, we are a space where people can connect with peers they might not otherwise meet. I would love to see the center cultivate business relationships between people in Columbia who have not done business together before.

Greatest strength:

I’m a very positive person.

Greatest weakness:

I mean this as a serious answer — I think my greatest weakness is that I don’t like to talk about weaknesses. It is the flip side of my greatest strength, which I think is often the case. Also, running.

What I do for fun:

Reading, hiking, travel (especially international). I’m also a soccer fanatic. My teams are Sporting KC, Arsenal, and the U.S. women’s national team.


Husband, Chad, and our 10-pound wonder-dog, Hodge.

Favorite place in Columbia:

Shelter Gardens — I have wonderful memories of visiting as a child with my grandmother, and it’s a great place for a walk or a picnic. Also, Chad and I got married there.

Accomplishment I’m most proud of:

Co-producing and co-writing “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth,” a documentary about the infamous St. Louis public housing complex. Five years later, Chad and I still hear from people who were touched by the film: those who feel they saw their story told for the first time, those whose minds were changed by it, and those who used the film to educate or spark community conversation.

Most people don’t know that:

I was addicted to the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” until just a couple years ago. I got hooked in middle school and continued to record and watch until my favorite character, Sami Brady, left the show.

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