WE Build: Building more than just financial capital for women in business
(TULSA, Okla.) “You get to have someone listen to you and help you work through your problems, and help put a mirror up in front of your face that says no you’re not an imposter, you’re a founder and you’re doing just fine.”
When Ashli Sims signed on to the Build In Tulsa team two years ago, the concept of WE Build did not exist.
“I knew that we were developing an organization that would really be trying to live up to the legacy of Black Wall Street,” Sims said. “I knew that we were going to be working with Black founders. I knew that we were going to try to tap into the spirit of entrepreneurism that runs through our community.”
It was that community that made it possible to start building into the unknown.
Now managing director, Sims and Build In Tulsa Director of Programming Desiree Frieson brought in a focus group of Black women and asked them what they needed the most.
“One thing that kept coming up, coming back up was again this idea of imposter syndrome,” Sims said. “The idea that entrepreneurship is so hard and so lonely and that it weighs on a person and that that decreases their productivity and decreases their business success. And so we’re like how could we solve for that? And we’re like well, we could provide you with a therapist.”
The Women Entrepreneurs (WE) Build program, focusing not only on Black and Latinx women-owned businesses but also (and maybe perhaps more importantly) on the women themselves, began to evolve.
And Build In Tulsa didn’t stop at counseling.
The new WE Build program includes a $25,000 non-dilutive grant, three months of business training, networking and mentorship opportunities, free legal and accounting services, coworking desks and conference room access, laptop devices and connectivity, financial education, and cost of living stipends to help provide housing, childcare, and health care.
“We are hoping that we are building a model for other programs around the country,” Sims said. “That we can show you that if you pour into the founders and pour into the business, if you give them the business education as well as the financial literacy training, if you give them a good laptop and the money to connect to Zoom so their Zooms don’t drop, that makes all the difference in the world.”
It’s a concept that can make a big difference for women in Oklahoma. In 2022, the state ranked last place in a study that measured women’s economic and social well-being and women’s health care and safety across the US.
The first WE Build cohort kicks off on April 26 with ten entrepreneurs, half from the Tulsa area and the rest from all over the country.
Sims told VNN she hopes it will be the first of many.
“We can unlock the potential of this huge segment of the population, women who just don’t get the time, attention and resources that they deserve and we know that they have talent,” Sims said. “They have brilliant ideas, they just need a little help getting there.”
WE Build is made possible by Goldman Sachs, Google, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Schusterman Family Foundation. Learn more here.
This story was published as part of VNN’s 2023 FATE Learning Series: Trauma Informed Business Development. To register for free tickets to the 2023 FATE in-person event or take part in the series online, visit the FATE webpage.
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