1628 Ltd., downtown Cincinnati’s coworking space has launched a new program called Women Empowered (WE). WE’s founder, Tamara Schwarting, saw entrepreneurs like herself struggling to gain access to support systems that could help their businesses thrive.

The cornerstone of WE is the digital hub which provides access to a women-owned business directory, resource center (including training and women’s events), and a comprehensive local listing of other organizations and certifications. We spoke to Colleen O’Connor, the Program Manager at WE to get the scoop on what’s going on.

What is Women Empowered?

O’Connor: WE is an inclusive leadership initiative dedicated to empowering women-identifying entrepreneurs and self-starters by creating a thriving community of mentorship, professional development, and support in a centralized physical and digital hub. Our goal is to reduce barriers to education and capital to grow Cincinnati’s business community through the power of working together.

How do the needs of women entrepreneurs differ from those of men?

O’Connor: The needs of women entrepreneurs do not necessarily differ from men, per se, in the sense that all businesses need access to capital, a good support system of an accountant, lawyer, a good business plan, etc. What differs is the disparity of access female entrepreneurs have to these things.

While women tend to start businesses at a higher rate, and especially women of color, their access to capital, education, and total revenue tends to be less than what their white and even male counterparts see. So in the sense of what women need that differs from men, they need support and opportunities to grow their wealth.

How has WE been doing so far?

O’Connor: We’ve developed a very strong network and so we’re continuing to broaden our reach in terms of entrepreneurs. We’ve built a lot of relationships over the last year even during COVID. Female entrepreneurs are looking, like other entrepreneurs, to get feedback, try to figure out a little bit more collectively how we can resume business as we come out of this pandemic. A lot of people had businesses that struggled last year.

We launched tri-monthly workshops that range in terms of the expertise and knowledge, from beginner to advanced business owner.

What kinds of workshops do you offer?

O’Connor: We offer monthly programming and workshops around business topics important to the entrepreneurs we work with, and problems we see businesses facing in our region. In 2020 we held three monthly workshops around topics of finances, marketing, leadership and personal growth, etc; and each of these workshops had a range of knowledge and expertise so that entrepreneurs could self-select into the workshop that met their needs.

This year we are scaling back so that we can focus on launching our upcoming initiative, WE Connect, a 6-month mastermind group with a dedicated curriculum to help support female entrepreneurs in the tri-state. Each month there will be a workshop and a breakout group session to help respond to businesses looking to regroup, refocus, and grow post-pandemic.

We know that we can’t understand everyone’s needs but that doesn’t mean that we can’t promote and hold up what other people are doing.

You can learn more about WE membership and search members by clicking here.