The ongoing coronavirus pandemic sits at the center of an economic downturn described by the New York Times as a “she-cession.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported a record high, double-digit unemployment rate for women. More than half of the 20 million-plus jobs lost last April held by women of color. As it has done for 118 years, YWCA Central Alabama is stepping in to give women the tools to create work for themselves and others as local entrepreneurs. The YW has launched a new initiative with a two-generation approach to empowering women and girl entrepreneurs.
YWCA’s WE360 Business Essentials is a life-changing partnership with Ureeka, an online platform dedicated to helping women and local entrepreneurs of color own their own businesses. WE360 is funded by YWCA USA through a grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation. The first cohort of 36 (chosen from 68) applicants from the metro-Birmingham area are participating this spring. The second cohort of entrepreneurs will be announced in the fall.
“Many women lost jobs and resources during the pandemic,” said Angela Abdur-Rasheed, the YW’s Senior Director of Economic Empowerment. “For some, creativity born out of uncertainty is their only option.”
CEO Dr. LaRhonda Magras said YWCA Central Alabama decided to use this time to help rejuvenate current business owners and empower more women and girls to create economic opportunities in their communities. “Working for oneself is the very definition of empowerment and dignity,” she said. “When we pour into women, our entire community benefits from the investment.”
Local entrepreneurs making strides
Examples of the local entrepreneurs growing their business and brand through the YW’s WE360 are:
- Javacia Harris Bowser of See Jane Write
- Latanya Moore of 5Thirty2 Boutique
- Brittany Hogan of Empowered to Conquer
- Wanda Jordan of Elle J Boutique
- Dee Edwards of Accurate Tax Services
- Aquilla Stanback of Lillie’s Cup
- Comedienne Joy, known for her Bham Eat. Drink. Ride. Food Tours and Dining Out with Comedienne Joy television show
“I absolutely loved my YWCA WE360 Ureeka mentor,” said Comedienne Joy. “I had my first one-on-one coaching, and finally I’ve found someone that I believe can take me to the next level. For years, I’ve been asking for programs to support existing business owners like me. Now I have just what I’ve been missing.”
Ureeka engages the entrepreneurs at a pace that is perfect for them and connects them with personalized coaching and mentoring, strategy experts such as Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, training on scaling business, support raising capital, vetted service providers and more.
Participants may apply for a select number of financial grants to bolster their businesses and have access to continued support through REV Birmingham as they complete the program. The inaugural cohort’s six-week program began on March 18. To apply for the second cohort or learn more, contact Angela Abdur-Rasheed at email@example.com or 205-322-9922 ext. 206.
YWCA Central Alabama is a social justice and United Way organization dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. To learn more, visit www.ywcabham.org.