Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative Celebrates Inaugural Graduating Class
Friday, October 6, 2017
The Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) recently celebrated the inaugural graduating class of 15 women entrepreneurs.
In attendance were Mayor Kasim Reed, Theia Smith, Executive Director of WEI, and members of the WEI Advisory Board, including Invest Atlanta President and CEO Dr. Eloisa Klementich. As the only city-funded initiative of its kind in the nation, WEI is a 15-month business incubator program that fosters growth and sustainability through business education, financial literacy, access to mentors and consultants, and peer-to-peer networking.
“I congratulate the 15 women entrepreneurs who participated in WEI’s inaugural year,” said Mayor Reed. “Their achievements over the past 15 months show what can happen when government and the private sector join together to provide access to resources, technology and hands-on mentorship. These women had the courage to lay their futures on the line and chase their dreams; their ambition inspires us all.”
The vision for WEI was sparked by Mayor Reed during his first mayoral campaign. Launched in 2014, and guided by a seven-member advisory board, WEI aims to align entrepreneurial opportunities for women in Atlanta with the City’s mission of elevating and strengthening its economic development efforts. Atlanta was recently ranked 18th out of 50 best global cities for women entrepreneurs in Dell’s 2017 Women Entrepreneur Index.
“WEI’s first 15-member graduating class shows that women entrepreneurs are fearless, pioneering and worth championing,” said Theia Smith, Executive Director of WEI. “Their passion and accomplishments will serve as a great example of what can be achieved by the next class of WEI entrepreneurs.”
Over the course of the 15-month business incubator, nine of the 15 entrepreneurs have hired additional employees; six entrepreneurs have collaborated with fellow WEI classmates to create additional business opportunities; one entrepreneur has grown her 2017 revenues beyond $1.1 million; and, to date, the revenue gain of the first class of WEI entrepreneurs’ businesses stands at more than $480K.
During the graduation ceremony, the City of Atlanta announced that Flatiron City, which has partnered with the City since WEI’s inception, will extend office space leases to two graduating WEI entrepreneurs free of charge; WeWork, a national shared office space company located in Buckhead, will also provide free office space for three months to all of the WEI graduates; Jump Fund, a Tennessee-based venture capital firm, will come to Atlanta to invest in the businesses of the WEI women entrepreneurs; and WEI will now be a part of the Invest Atlanta team which will ensure the legacy of support for the WEI business incubator program.
“I would like to congratulate the members of WEI’s inaugural class on their graduation,” said Invest Atlanta President and CEO Dr. Eloisa Klementich. “Nearly 48 percent of women cite a lack of community support as a key challenge to starting a business, and in its first year, WEI has already created a vibrant, collaborative, and supportive community of entrepreneurs. These WEI businesses have generated more than $480,000 in revenue and created jobs, and they will continue to make a positive impact on Atlanta’s economy for years to come. I’m glad WEI has joined the Invest Atlanta team, and I look forward to working together to support future women entrepreneurs.”
The 15 women entrepreneurs honored during the WEI graduation ceremony were:
- Lynn Lilly, CraftBox Girls;
- Melanie Rhodes, MelanCo. Enterprises/DSS Experts;
- Samantha Hodgkins, SparkFire Active LLC;
- Joanna Douglas, Parketing;
- Dawn Belisle, Delights by Dawn;
- Jeannell Darden, Cococurls;
- Jennifer Bluemling, Borrowed By Design;
- Sherry Popovic, cME compete;
- Cicely Gay, Amplifiers Inc.;
- Logan Williams, Rapid Parking Solutions;
- Adrienne Brown, Adrienne J. Media;
- Tiffany Ray, Generation Infocus;
- Monica Hooks, m-oracle;
- Sheila Woodhouse, DoxMed; and
- Tonya Hicks, Women Do Everything.
WEI recently completed the application process for the new 15-member class of women entrepreneurs. The businesses chosen to participate in the 2018-19 WEI incubator program will be announced in December 2017.Tweet