The First of its Kind in Illinois, WE Hub Will Provide Comprehensive Business Resources to Women Entrepreneurs Across the State
Chicago – Women Employed, which has been creating fundamental, systemic change for working women for nearly 50 years, this week launched an entrepreneurship resource for women entrepreneurs across Illinois. Known as WE Hub, the initiative will empower more Illinois women to improve their financial security, build their wealth, and achieve their own vision of success through entrepreneurship. WE Hub is particularly geared toward Black and Latina/x women who are looking to start and grow businesses, as they face even greater barriers to success in entrepreneurship.
As the first statewide entrepreneurship hub in Illinois focused on women, WE Hub seeks to curate the plethora of resources and services available throughout the state and bring it all into one space, giving women the options, resources, and tools to help put them on a path to entrepreneurship.
“As women look to step outside the traditional work model, going out on their own can feel intimidating or like an uphill battle,” Ibie Hart, Director of Business Development for Women Employed, said. “This is especially true for Black and Latina/x women, who have a harder time securing resources and who face systemic and structural barriers to business ownership. We deeply understand what’s at stake and aim to connect women with the tools they need to thrive and feel financially empowered.”
According to the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the number of Black and Latino/a/x-owned businesses starting up are increasing at faster rates than white-owned businesses. In fact, since 2007, the number of firms owned by Black women has grown by 164%. That number has only increased since the COVID pandemic began. Yet businesses owned by white people still outnumber businesses owned by Black and Latino/a/x people. In addition, Black and Latino/a/x small businesses tend to start with less capital on hand, making them less able to weather the downturns that many small businesses face as they establish themselves. Recent media reports state that only about 2.3% of venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs.
WE Hub will empower women entrepreneurs by:
- Gathering valuable resources and events from trusted partners in the entrepreneurship space throughout Illinois in one convenient place;
- Providing a supportive environment for women to connect and share experiences;
- Raising awareness about opportunities for grants, loans, and other timely capital-raising opportunities; and
- Creating curated and personalized toolkits to guide women on their entrepreneurial journey.
Women Employed is working with the Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) at the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO), among other agencies and organizations, to ensure women in all corners of the state have access to the WE Hub and its comprehensive business resources.
“The WE Hub will serve as a tremendous resource for women entrepreneurs in Illinois, especially Black and Latina/x entrepreneurs in Illinois,” Michelle Lura White, DCEO’s Women’s Business Development Manager at the Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE), said. “As we collectively work to tackle the opportunity gap for women entrepreneurs, we look forward to seeing WE Hub’s impact as they work to make resources more accessible, while supporting and advocating for women in business.”
Corporate partners are also getting involved in the WE Hub to provide a wide range of support and resources to women entrepreneurs.
“We are thrilled to partner with Women Employed on their innovative WE Hub, which we believe will undoubtedly advance and empower the next generation of women entrepreneurs in Illinois,” Tonia Etoh, COO at International Services, Inc., said. “Our Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility platforms thoroughly align with the WE Hub model, and ISI has committed to seeing the program grow through offering free business consulting services and micro-grants to Hub users – removing many of the barriers women entrepreneurs face in starting, growing, and managing their businesses.”
Women entrepreneurs in Illinois are excited to tap into WE Hub and many have already signed up to be members.
“The WE Hub will be invaluable to me and all female entrepreneurs,” women entrepreneur Margaret Omongbale said. “I’ve been navigating entrepreneurship on my own without the help of mentorship or guidance, which can make things more difficult. Having access to the WE Hub and someone to mentor me and help with taxes or funding will make a world of difference.”
More information on the WE Hub can be found here.
Women Employed (WE) is an almost 50-year-old advocacy organization that pursues equity for women in the workforce by effecting policy change, expanding access to educational opportunities, and advocating for fair and inclusive workplaces so that all women, families, and communities can thrive. Our mission is to improve the economic status of women and remove barriers to economic equity, and we are working towards closing the wealth gap at the intersection of gender and race. For more information, visit womenemployed.org, or follow @WomenEmployed on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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