A cohort of 11 Black women entrepreneurs graduated from the YWCA’s Breedlove Entrepreneurship Center, an accelerator program that supports the growth and sustainability of Black women-owned businesses in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.
The YWCA Breedlove Entrepreneurship Center launched the initiative in 2021 believing with adequate funding and support, all entrepreneurs can have a catalytic impact on the communities they serve.
On November 14 at the Study Hotel on the University of Chicago campus, the 11 Black women entrepreneurs became the third cohort. Each participant received 10 weeks of instruction including branding advice from world-renowned branding and storytelling expert, Stanley Hainsworth, the former Creative Director of Starbucks, Lego and Nike.
There are only a few factors of significance that differentiate one entrepreneurship program from another. Most want to focus on entrepreneurs who are new start-ups. Teach them how to build a business model along with the financial and strategic knowledge necessary to succeed.
For Blacks, it’s not that simple, especially for Black women entrepreneurs. Although Black women represent the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs, they access just a fraction of the funding and support that white-owned businesses receive.
The YWCAs Breedlove Entrepreneurship Center initiative focuses on supporting later-stage Black Women entrepreneurs with annual revenues of $250,000 or more that are undercapitalized.
The participating business owners are empowered with the tools and knowledge on marketing, finance, sales forecasting and strategy, with an end goal to scale, gain more funding, or grow through acquisition.
Several past cohort members are already seeing success after completing the program. Two of them are:
- Genesis Bencivega, founder of Lorenzo’s Frozen Pudding, recently won a $25,000 pitch competition at the Courvoisier Entrepreneurship Awards. She is expanding to almost 60 Walgreens locations and sold out at Lollapalooza this summer.
- Cecelia Harrison, founder of ReveNewCycle Management and Consulting, received a $360,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust.
Among those graduating in the third cohort is Dorothy R. Leavell, Publisher of the Chicago and Gary Crusader newspapers. She has been the publisher of the 82-year-old Chicago Crusader for 54 years. When asked what she hoped to gain from the program she said, “I hoped to be able to hire more people, offer more opportunities and expand the print and digital footprint of the newspapers.”
Haire’s Gulf Shrimp is a family-run business on the South Side that has been around over 20 years. Aisha Murff participated in the program with the hope of expanding Haire’s with the resources available through the Breedlove Entrepreneurship Center.
A third cohort member won a Shark Tank-style competition held earlier this month. She will receive a full creative engagement from Hainsworth and his team at Tether valued at $50,000.
The Breedlove Entrepreneurship Center receives its inspiration from Madam C.J. Walker, America’s first self-made female millionaire who created sales jobs and a pathway to the middle class for many Black women. To learn more about the YWCA visit www.ywcachicago.org.
These are the third cohort graduates. To read their biographies visit the Crusader website at www.chicagocrusader.com.
- Dr. Amera McCoy, Minority Business Circle;
- Brianna Harison, Bri’s Dance Place;
- Victoria ‘Tori’ Prince, Tori Prince Beauty and the Chicago Skin Lab;
- Charmaine V. Rickette, President and CEO of Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken;
- Aisha Murff, Haire’s Gulf Shrimp;
- Nedra Dokes, President and Principal of Solo Beauty Supply;
- Binika Henderson, Heritage Real Estate;
- Kiley Russell, Love and Light Cafe;
- Jorie Hazel, Bill’s Grill;
- Dorothy R. Leavell, Publisher of the Chicago Crusader and Gary Crusader newspapers; and
- Donna Grant, Licorice Lounge LLC.