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WE Center Offers Workspace, Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – TaRee Avery runs most of her business – Dough House Cookies – out of her shop in the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County’s Canfield Library. But when she has to do the back-end work for her business, it is not an easy task, she said.

“I don’t have office space and I’m finding it increasingly hard to do bookkeeping,” Avery said. “There’s a lot of people at my house, and then at the shop I’m busy with customers, and going to coffee shops to do work gets old. So I’m really excited about the center opening.”

Avery is referring to the new WE Center located inside the Youngstown Business Incubator, which offers shared-use office space to women entrepreneurs. The center officially opened Thursday evening.

“For women who are working at home and have a business and need conference space they can have that here,” said Carmella Williams, director of the Women in Entrepreneurship program at the YBI.

The center is 800 square feet and offers 24/7 access to three desks, a conference table for six people, and a media space set up for podcasting or filming, Williams said, as well as access to printers and Wi-Fi.

“It’s a great way to network and for the women to pick up on each other’s skills and even barter between each other,” she said.

The co-working space is open to all women entrepreneurs, regardless of whether or not they participated in the Women in Entrepreneurship program.

The WE program creates economic opportunities for women through three accelerator programs: WE Create, WE Launch and WE Grow. These classes give women entrepreneurial education, training, mentoring and networking. Since the program started in 2015, 60 women have graduated from the courses, Williams said.

Use of the center is $150 annually for WE graduates and those currently in the classes to use and $200 annually for those who have not taken the classes.

Jessica Lynne has not been through the WE program, but said she saw a post by Williams on Facebook about the center and is interested in the WE Center space.

An independent consultant for Paparazzi Accessories, Lynne works out of her home to sell jewelry products. “I’m interested in networking and connecting with other women in business,” she said. “And I’m interested in holding vending events and women events here to network and sell our stuff.”

For Amanda Smith, who graduated from the WE program in 2016, she is interested in using the space to better help her focus on her paperwork, returning emails, and working on her social media and website, she said.

Smith owns Make It Mandy Catering, which offers savory and sweet treats, specializing in options for customers with dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free and vegetarian options.

“I love it. I think it’s a great avenue to offer people if they need some desk space to work,” she said. “A lot of us work from home so it’s a great opportunity.”

Funds to open the center came from local organizations’ fundraisers, as well as fundraisers held through the WE program.

The next WE program class begins April 18 for WE Launch. The nine-week class focuses on teaching the fundamentals of owning and operating a business and assisting in launching a product to market. The new center will be able to hold smaller WE classes and events and meetings, Williams said.

“For the women who are able to take advantage of this space it will be catalytic for their business and will allow them to grow faster, make new connections, and identify new markets,” said YBI CEO Barb Ewing. “It will be great for them and great for us.”

Pictured: Women in Entreprenuership director Carmella Williams helped open the new WE Center Thursday evening.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.