• Access & Opportunity Podcast

A Launchpad for Women-Owned Startups

Hosted by Carla Harris With Theia Smith of the Atlanta Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative

Theia Smith leads the Atlanta Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, which she says is the nation’s only city-funded small-business incubator exclusively for women.

“If you want to improve your communities, you improve conditions for women,” says Theia Smith, founding executive director of the City of Atlanta Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative, which provides office space, mentorship, educational resources and access to capital to start-up companies owned by women.

The initiative, begun in May 2016, graduated its first class of entrepreneurs in 2017 and now hosts a new cohort of 15 women. Over 15 months, they will work together in the Flatiron Building in downtown Atlanta, growing their businesses while they learn from one another and outside experts. “Isolation is the enemy of entrepreneurs,” notes Smith, who herself is a recent graduate of Leadership Atlanta, a nine-month executive-level training and development program.

In this episode of Access & Opportunity, Carla Harris talks with Smith about the model that the Atlanta Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative has established for empowering women-owned businesses and how that model could be replicated in other cities. A key element of the Atlanta program is its diversity: the women in the incubator are as racially and socio-economically diverse as the city where they live, and they range in age from their early 20s to late 50s. “We know the talent is equal,” says Smith. “It's the opportunities that are not.”

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