Economic strife and the rise in unemployment struck numerous people around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With people out of work and still needing to provide for their families, many turned to entrepreneurship and starting their businesses, with Black women leading the way.
The Women’s Entrepreneurship Leadership Lab (WELL) is partnering with General Motors and the National Business League to advance and transform small Black women business owners.
“Black women are the fastest-growing sector of entrepreneurs in the country,” Kenneth L. Harris, Ph.D. National President and CEO of the National Business League, Inc said. “Regardless of race, creed, color, sexual orientation and or gender, but the least supported in terms of opportunity and growth of revenue.”
“[The WELL] is a network of and for Black women business leaders to come together to build community, build businesses to create wealth, allow us to create jobs and to push beyond boundaries placed on our dreams,” Nakeia Drummond, Founder and CEO of The WELL said. “It was what I needed as an early business owner.
“Initially one of the first things I learned was that I felt isolated and alone during the shift from being an employee to being a business owner over the first couple years,” she continued. “I started meeting with other women business owners and I realized that it wasn’t about being new in business, it was about being a business owner in general. The sense of isolation that you feel, the decision making you do, you need people who understand your context and where you are.”
The WELL and it’s Early Entrepreneurship Growth Program made sure to take note at the beginning and throughout the pandemic to see what would occur with Black women concerning the job market.
“We knew the pandemic would lead to more Black women starting Black businesses. Black women are also the largest group of ‘side-preneurs’ or side hustlers. I believe that’s a direct correlation to what we make, our pay and equity,” Drummond said. “Our job is to provide enough clarity, support and insight so that they can graduate beyond the ‘side-preneurship’ into a thriving Black-owned business.”
With premier partnerships from the National Business League and General Motors, including a $50,000 investment from General Motors, The WELL’s Early Entrepreneurship Growth Program will launch and graduate a national cohort of 20 members, host a pitch competition and provide 10 scholarships in carefully chosen target cities.
For a target city to be chosen, they have to display a desire to see Black women in business grow. Detroit, being the home to General Motors, will also serve as a home to a new chapter for The WELL network.
The WELL has plans with the $50,000 investment they received from General Motors in creating successful Black women entrepreneurs.
“It will be used in two parts, identifying and engaging women is the first. In our targeted cities, we are looking to recruit Black women who are just beginning in that 0-2 year time frame under $25,000 of annual revenue. The launching of the program is next,” Drummond said.
“Our desire is to grow chapters of our network. As the numbers grow in established businesses we still want to reach out and be mentors to early entrepreneurs. Our goal is having this model be proof that community is as important as capital. Us collaborating and going further together increases our abilities to grow as well as grow our confidence. Also, going after the money to grow our businesses and live our life.”
The WELL will dive deep into some of the most essential aspects of business and entrepreneurship throughout their program curriculum that is pertinent in sustaining a profitable and thriving business.
“There are six focus areas of the program with each month focusing on a different area. Month one is a business strategy to clarify who you are, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it,” Drummond said.
“Month two focuses on small business finance, understanding financial statements and the financial team you’ll need in place. Month three is legal so this includes all things copyrights, patents and trademarks as well as contracts that you need to have in place in regard to taking on clients.
“Month four is marketing and branding. It’s not all about what colors you’re using on social media but connecting things to your strategy, reaching back into month one and month four. Month five is systems and operations which will include all the things you need in place as a business owner,” she continued.
“Putting systems in place to help you replicate what you’re doing. Month six is a split between business technology that might support your business and lastly, how to pitch your business. There will also be a pitch competition at the end where women will have the opportunity to win a cash infusion into their business.”
With a fast-rising plethora of Black women entrepreneurs, having a solid foundation that displays progression within your business is paramount in standing out from the crowd.
“One of the things we are looking for is that there is some evidence that you are seriously in the process, yet, it doesn’t have to be fully polished. It could be a website, social media presence that you’ve started and are growing, or it could be that you actually registered your business in your city or state,” Drummond said.
“You could also show that you have informally been testing out your business. You’re not just showing up with an idea, that is not going to serve you here. We’re ready to start showing you how to put the pieces together to grow.”
The applications for membership and the online community for current and established business owners is open until June 27.
“Apply to be a part of the Early Entrepreneurship Growth program. Do not do it alone,” Drummond said. “No one who is successful hasn’t had a hand to reach out and elevate them. Be in a community where you have support and accountability.”