When Madam C.J. Walker launched her beauty company in the early 1900s, she likely had no idea the number of women who would follow in her footsteps. Today, Black women are the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs. And Walker’s Legacy, a global platform for professional and entrepreneurial multicultural women, is making sure that number continues to grow. Their latest announcements for their Women Who Enterprise cohorts are a reflection of their dedication to empowering these boss business owners as they advance their entrepreneurial pursuits.
Founded in 2009, the organization started with a simple need—mentorship. “Our founder started the LLC when she was entering into entrepreneurship and couldn't find a mentor,” says Ayris Scales, the Managing Director of Walker’s Legacy and the CEO of Walker’s Legacy Foundation. “She couldn't find one central place that she could go to as a woman of color to get advice and guidance on resources and opportunity, as she was starting her entrepreneurial journey. So she founded one.”
Seven years later, in 2016, Walkers Legacy decided it was time to have a social impact arm that was able to give back to women who were pursuing their side hustle with entrepreneurship and women who were in the early stage of emerging in their entrepreneurial journey. The Foundation was established, giving way for the organization to work with women at a localized high touchpoint. Today that work continues with Women Who Enterprise, a 3-month accelerated business training program that, according to Walker’s Legacy, utilizes a structured curriculum, an in-person cohort model, and expert lecturers to aid aspiring and existing businesswomen of color in their pursuit of advancing their business operations and access to funding.
Women Who Enterprise kicked off earlier this month in Washington, D.C., Rochester, New York, and Birmingham, Alabama on the heels of bringing on its new CEO. “It's been a phenomenal opportunity now to come on seven months ago as the CEO of the foundation,” Scales tells EBONY. Scales joined the team as the organization was readying to conduct, and later release, its COVID-19 Impact Report in partnership with the Gates Foundation.
“The report breaks down what Black women actually need in real-time,” describes a press release shared with EBONY. “It's the only COVID report of minority businesswomen, led by minorities who are all entrepreneurs around the country.” This new report is guiding the curriculum for the newest Women Who Enterprise cohort, underscoring the need for a focus on health and wellness for Black women entrepreneurs and financial preparedness.
Scales says Walker’s Legacy Foundation is committed to ensuring that 10,000 Black woman entrepreneurs are getting ready to be bankable by 2025. “We’re making sure that women understand there are resources that are available, that are abundant, and that are aligned with where they are based on the size and scale of their business,” says Scales.
While the fall cohort is already in motion, the foundation is running a spring cohort with applications opening in January. The curriculum will again require a commitment of three hours a week over the course of 12 weeks and focus on finalizing and advancing a business plan. “We want to make sure that every single woman is legally registered by the end of the course,” says Scales, “because that's part of being capital ready.”