Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"New Directions" for Women Entrepreneurs

Last week I gave a "Blogging for Business" presentation (one of my favorite topics!) at the Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement (WCECA), a nonprofit organization located in downtown Manhattan, and met a fabulous group of budding "fempreneurs" (pictured right).

Arlene wants to start a film production company to make video resumes for actors, Idalis is creating a line of makeup bags, Shevon is developing a line of vegan, gluten free foods, and Yanique makes eco-friendly home furnishings. Maresa and Leonette are both starting coaching practices to help women in transition, while Kim is in real estate management. These are just some of the businesses that are being "incubated" at the WCECA.

Established in 1970, the WCECA's main objective is to provide marketable skills to women of color who are in "marginable and tenous places in the paid labor force." To this end, they created a program called "New Directions" for low income women with the aspiration and commitment to start their own businesses. Participants meet twice a week for twelve weeks, and learn how to" build and run a successful business, create a sound business plan and prepare for the obstacles and rewards of entrepreneurship." Workshops include business plan writing, marketing, networking, legal issues, financial management and business strategy. High tech mediums like Internet blogging and online marketing are also covered. This valuable course, which is offered twice a year, is totally free of charge. Most of the women who participate find out about it through word of mouth, and the class size is usually 10-15.

Kathleen Vaughn (sitting front row, far right in the picture), who has been with the Center since Sept. of last year, is the program coordinator. "Ours is an organization founded by and for women, so we are very attuned to the challenges women face today," she explains.

Kathleen says that one of the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs face is putting together the (dreaded!) business plan, so three to four of the classes are focused solely that. They are taught by an instructor from American Express who keeps the ladies on track by assigning homework they have to send to her via email.

"We address the professional and personal needs of budding female entrepreneurs. In addition to tech skills we also provide guidance on goal setting, stress management, personal health and nutrition and planning for change," adds Kathleen, whose dedication to the women is evident. Before introducing me, she read an inspirational poem to get everyone in the right state of mind. And when she went away to Vermont for a week she hired one of the past participants, who has a pet sitting business, to take care of her kitty.

After the class was over I walked out with a warm feeling and a spring in my step, happy to have helped other mogulettes-in-the-making move a little bit closer to their dreams.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's great to see you guys help budding women business owners to be successful down the road.