By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
In 2018, Nakeia Drummond, owner of management and social impact consulting firm NLD Strategic, founded The Women’s Entrepreneur Leadership Lab (The WELL) in Baltimore with the intention of fostering a network of Black women entrepreneurs who could support each other and grow their businesses.
Over the years, The WELL has grown from 10 founding members to serving 80 Black female entrepreneurs, and it just celebrated its third birthday.
“When I started The WELL, one of the reasons I was so intrigued was the paradigm of being the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs but the lowest revenues of all entrepreneurs,” said Drummond.
According to an American Express report, the average revenue that a Black female founder earns is $24,000, which is less than any other demographic. This is in part because Black women often run their businesses as a side hustle, while also maintaining a full-time job to support themselves and their families.
The WELL supports Black women in growing and scaling their businesses, so they can transition from being a “sidepreneur” to a full-time entrepreneur. Its members’ revenues range from $25,000 to over $1 million, and the entrepreneurs have businesses that encompass all industries.
The organization supports its network of Black women business owners through five pillars: community, collaboration, confidence, capital and celebration. Each quarter, The WELL focuses on a different domain, including finance and accounting, marketing and branding, business strategy and operations.
The final domain pervades the entire year. It is labeled “you” and focuses on giving members permission to take space for themselves, center themselves and indulge in self-care.
The WELL also provides access to a virtual platform where members can share and curate resources that range from networking events to funding opportunities. It also hosts monthly meet-ups that feature a catered breakfast and expert-led discussions surrounding that quarter’s domain, as well as networking nights.
Its newest initiative is the Early Entrepreneurship Growth Program (EEGP), which is a 6-month, 12-session virtual accelerator for Black women business owners who have been open for less than two years and earn an annual revenue under $25,000.
The program runs twice a year, and cohorts cover business strategy, finance, legal, branding and marketing, systems and operations and technology and pitching. At its duration, The WELL hosts a pitch competition with first place winning $2,500 and second place winning $1,000. Applications for the EEGP are currently open.
According to Drummond, Black women face barriers to entrepreneurship because they are forced to bootstrap their businesses, and they don’t have access to mentorship, as many of them are first-generation business owners.
“Being in business requires that you can test things, that you can fail forward but have a safety net to land in because that’s the only way you grow a business,” said Drummond. “The space to iterate and the resources to iterate are a major challenge for Black women.”
The WELL’s network provides the support system that many Black women have been missing. Currently, The WELL has chapters in Baltimore and Washington D.C., and thanks to a sponsorship from General Motors, it will soon expand to Detroit.
The WELL accepts membership applications on a rolling basis, but welcomes new members in January and July.
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