YWCA Empowers Women Entrepreneurs with We360° Program

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A new free program through YWCA Mahoning Valley looks to put women entrepreneurs on the path to starting a successful business.

The spring 2021 Women’s Empowerment 360° Business Essential program, or We360°, is a six-week self-paced online program designed to increase participants’ knowledge and confidence as an entrepreneur. It’s being offered in partnership with Ureeka, an online platform that provides resources and educational tools to entrepreneurs.

We360° is for women, particularly women of color, who are starting their own business, says Jessica Gibbs, YWCA program manager. During the program, participants will learn about business planning, creating business value, setting business goals, mapping out their journey through the business and how to get a competitive edge, Gibbs says.

“Within the program, we plan to have several speakers and we’re also going to do a pitch contest,” Gibbs says. There will also be opportunities for networking and mentoring.

YWCA looks to reach at least 40 entrepreneurs with the program – 20 with this initial spring cohort, and another 20 with a cohort in the fall, Gibbs says. At the end of the six weeks, participants will have a business plan and will be able to start building their business, she says.

A virtual kick off is scheduled for 3 p.m. on March 18. Those interested in participating can email Gibbs at jgibbs@mvywca.org.

The program aligns with the YWCA’s overall goal of empowering women and eliminating racism, says Varada Bhide, chief operating officer. Part of that is looking for ways to increase the financial status and economic status of women.

While many women the YWCA serves have ideas or hobbies they do on the side that could be transitioned into a business, “they have barriers that may stop them from taking that plunge,” she says. One barrier is being limited to “what is happening around us.”

But the Ureeka platform connects residents to business representatives throughout the United States. Bhide hopes this program will encourage women to “take that leap of faith” to start their own business, she says.

“I think it will be a great exposure to see where they could be in a few years if they use the resources available to them,” Bhide says. “The ultimate goal of everything the YWCA does is to empower women to be successful in their personal and professional lives.”

There are monetary incentives for completing the program, as well as cash prizes of $500, $250 and $100 for the pitch contest, she notes. The program is funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation, she says.

And because the program is virtual, it’s something that women can do from home while still benefiting from the educational and mentorship opportunities through Ureeka, Gibbs notes. Gibbs will also be going through the program with participants.

“I will be there to help them with any questions they have and learn about businesses in our community as well,” she says.