Pat Blanchard’s job at Bankers Trust Co. in Manhattan was to make sure the wills and estates were in order administratively.
“It was my job to make sure the organization and structure was done so the terms of the will were complied with,” she said.
It suited her well. The Brooklyn-born Blanchard was raised in Queens, attended public school and then majored in history at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She then joined the bank.
“I love history. I love detail. I love organization and structure,” said Blanchard, who turns 62 in a month and uses her banking and subsequent experience to serve as director of the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center.
The center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Small Business Administration and the JAX Chamber Foundation. Blanchard said the center, created in 2004, has served more than 8,000 clients and has grown to work with an average 250-300 women a year.
A 10th anniversary celebration is being planned for October.
The center is funded through an SBA grant to the chamber foundation, program income, support, sponsorships and in-kind donations. Some programs charge a fee, while some services are free.
A program of the JAX Chamber Foundation, the center works with women entrepreneurs at all stages of business development. It focuses on entrepreneurial education, mentoring and counseling, business connections and networking.
Two of its resource partners are the Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida and SCORE, a Small Business Administration mentoring organization.
The Jacksonville Women’s Business Center works with entrepreneurs from the “aspiring” stage through the emerging, growing and accomplished levels. Mentoring programs include ATHENAPowerlink, Success Circles, Financial Matter$ and Marketing Matters.
Blanchard said the center works with women-owned businesses, defined as women who own at least 50 percent of a business and actively manage it. Men who are owners in those businesses also are welcome to participate.
The center also offers programs for women who don’t own businesses but who are executives within a company. For full information, visit JaxWBC.com.
“I kind of call myself the advocate of women,” she said.
Blanchard’s road to the center began 40 years ago.
She wanted to be a teacher, but instead joined the bank after college graduation in 1974, earning a promotion in 1980. Married, she commuted daily from Long Island until her husband was transferred in 1983 to Jacksonville with AT&T American Transtech.
Blanchard relocated with her husband and their todder son, Donald Blanchard III. Darron was born five years later and the boys now are 33 and 26 years old.
Her path to the Women’s Business Center continued when the boys were young and Blanchard volunteered at their school, Jacksonville Country Day School. She was homeroom mom, field trip parent, parent association president, library volunteer coordinator and then joined the board, on which she continues to serve as an honorary member.
The school hired her as an admissions assistant.
Blanchard’s journey then headed north to Waycross, Ga., where she commuted to build the business office for a car dealership. Divorced and with her youngest son still at The Episcopal School of Jacksonville, she continued the job until the owner sold the business.
Then in 2004, a decade ago, the destination appeared on the horizon.
Terry Bartow was hired as Head of School at Jacksonville Country Day School. His wife, Sandy, had founded the Kansas Women’s Business Center in Kansas City, Mo., and was recruited to start the JAX Chamber Foundation’s center.
Blanchard made the connections and in 2006 joined as Bartow’s administrative assistant.
Blanchard, who remembered her experience working with women at the bank, brought all her experience to the table at the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center.
She recalls at the bank “working with women who were thirsty for knowledge,” such as the sheltered widow whose husband died with a large estate that included three homes in New York, Florida and California.
“She didn’t want to be patronized,” Blanchard said. She wanted to learn how to handle the finances.
Along her way, Blanchard brought family along.
Her brother, Harold Samuels, now a corporate marketing executive at WJCT, moved to town in 1987. Their mother and father, a neighborhood pharmacist, moved to Mandarin after he retired in 1991.
Her two sons live and work in Jacksonville, and Donald and his wife, Rachel, are expecting their first child at the end of July. Harold’s two grown sons live in Jacksonville, too.
They all continue to visit the family’s Martha’s Vineyard property.
For fun, Blanchard gardens – plants, trees and shrubs, not vegetables. She visits the beaches, especially her time-share in St. Augustine. She enjoys music, particularly jazz, which is her cellphone’s ringtone. She grew up playing the piano, but stopped after high school. Harold still plays and has custody of the family piano.
“I’m very blessed to be doing what I do,” she said.