The Women’s Entrepreneur Leadership Lab (WELL) is having a homecoming this week.
The WELL, which is marking its third anniversary, is a network of Black women business owners that facilitates peer-supported growth by fostering relationships that build community, collaboration, confidence, and capital.
The org is set to host Networking Night, its first in-person event since 2019, at Layers Loft in Hampden on Thursday, Oct. 21.
“What you can expect [from the event] is a whole lot of Black girl magic, Black excellence and a whole lot of women showing up 100% themselves,” said Nakeia Drummond, founder of The WELL and owner of NLD Strategic, an equity-centered management consulting and design firm. “When anybody shows up 100% themselves they’re maximized. So you can expect people operating and firing on all cylinders, from the people that greet you at the door, the food, wine, vendors, music. It’s just going to be a whole lot of Black girl magic.”
The org set out to address the lack of support Black women founders receive as entrepreneurs by banding together and creating a community to support each other. Technical.ly has reported on the lack of investment for women founders nationally, with Pitchbook data detailing that, in 2020, 2.2% of total venture capital investment was deployed into startups with all-women-founded teams, down from 2.5% in 2019. Black and Latinx women founders received .64% of all VC investment, per the ProjectDiane report in 2020, a 4x increase from 2018.
The data illustrates how far funding needs to progress to support Black women, who accounted for 42% of net new women-owned businesses, while only being 14% of the female population from 2018-19, according to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, which analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data, and extrapolated forward based on Gross Domestic Product data.
Thursday’s event is designed to provide an in-person taste of what The WELL offers members monthly, all year-round.
For almost two years, The WELL has been connecting with its members virtually. It was a drastic shift for the org, as it was for many groups, but it also yielded opportunity.
“The pandemic actually created some opportunities,” said Drummond. “Being in person means that you’re limited by geography, where when we moved online, we started expanding our community to women in other cities.”
The WELL now has chapters in DC, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles. The expansion is continuing, too. With the sponsorship of General Motors, there will be a Detroit chapter launching in January of next year.
The WELL also started a six-month, 12-session virtual accelerator pilot program for pre-revenue, Black women-owned businesses. The program is currently on its third cohort, assisting 20 founders that have been in business less than two years and have earned less than $25,000 in annual revenue to reach that $25,000 threshold, which is necessary to become a member of The WELL.
“Networking Night is a glimpse into how we interact with one another, what it feels like when you’re connected to other Black women on a similar path,” said Drummond. “Our hope really is just that you feel that. You realize either that you needed it and didn’t know or knew you needed it, but didn’t know what it would feel like and now know you definitely need it.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-