Incubator Connects Over 150 Women for Business Certification

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IT WAS A full house at the first MBE-WBE Certification Workshop at The Stage Small Business Incubator and Coworking Space. (Photos provided by The Stage Small Business Incubator and Coworking Space)

By Giavonni Nickson

The Indiana Department of Administration (IDOA) in partnership with The Stage Small Business Incubator coordinated a Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) celebration initiative in Gary to position women for entrepreneurial success. Founded in 2014 WED is a time to focus on the work and development of women entrepreneurs with celebrations held across the globe every November.

THE STAGE SMALL Business Incubator and Coworking Space members accept the Community Diversity and Inclusion Award from the Northwest Indiana Urban League. Pictured l-r: Taghi Arshami, Jessica Renslow, Zully Alvarado (seated), Gretchen Sipp, Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud, Carly Perez, and Angie Nelson Deuitch.

IDOA’s Division of Supplier Diversity facilitated the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) workshop in Gary IN. The workshop, normally held in Indianapolis, made its way to Gary for the first time. With state commitment, Northwest Indiana (NWI) will see this initiative more often. Through state support in coordination with The Stage Small Business Incubator and Coworking Space, over 50 women initiated steps for WBE and MBE certification.

Community advocates fought for years to bring opportunities to NWI ushered by state support.

“Getting Indianapolis to send needed opportunities to NWI is a priority for advocates working to infuse our economy. It took two years to bring this workshop here,” said community advocate Jessica Renslow. “We were persistent because we knew that it was so vital for the success of our local businesses. We must stand up and demand adequate services as a region on the state level to ensure that our needs are met. Collaborating and creating partnerships is one of the best ways to do this.”

Entrepreneurs armed with MBE and WBE certification can level the playing field and gain access to contract opportunities with Federal Government agencies, private corporations, and small business organizations that prefer or are mandated to do business with certified MBE and WBE businesses.

“When we released the workshop 242 people registered. Not everyone can make afternoon seminars, but the interest was there. That is why we have committed to having an online forum,” said Renslow.

Over 150 women participated in the workshop via onsite and virtual channels which surpassed previous statewide results.

“Our onsite turnout established critical mass,” said Renslow.

“The workshop facilitator had never had more than 40 people attend anywhere else in the state. I am so thankful that my home church, Marquette Park UMC, they opened their hearts, their minds, and their doors to allow for our community to have a space to help entrepreneurs and freelancers have a space to learn, grow, and build their own stage for success.”

After the success of the workshop in Gary, IDOA’s Division of Supplier Diversity committed to partner with the Stage Small Business Incubator and Coworking Space in 2020 to launch its first cohort.

Established and budding entrepreneurs are encouraged to contact Gretchen Sipp at (219) 885-9813 or email TheStageGary@gmail.com to sign up as spaces are limited.

Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.

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