Jewelry, Coffee And Women Empowerment At City Heights Boutique
From handmade bracelets and crochet baby booties to overnight oats and yogurt parfaits, a mix of handmade items and prepared foods are on sale at the Women’s Empowerment Boutique. The store inside the City Heights Center at Fairmount and University avenues is an incubator that houses 10 female entrepreneurs who received training and support to launch their businesses.
Participant Cecilia Mendoza said she feels supported by her fellow businesswomen in the shared space.
"At the end of the day, we work together and we’re helping each other," said Mendoza, who operates Magic Sea Jewelry and is also pursuing a cleaning business.
The program from the nonprofit Project Concern International helps low-income immigrant women activate their inner entrepreneur with training, mentoring and additional support. It connects participants with resources for business-related needs and with each other for encouragement.
Participants complete a 12-week training program to flesh out their business plan then obtain permits and insurance to make it a reality. The boutique provides a temporary space for retail businesses to become established.
Program Manager Sandra Martinez said the women are expected to move on after three months but can remain if they need additional time.
"We work with them to make sure they have what they need to have to be successful on their own," Martinez said.
She said more women will move into the boutique in the next few months, but about two dozen others are taking a path that doesn't require that sort of space, such as launching a baking or cleaning operation, or both, like Mendoza.
Martinez said the incubator came after a successful program that trained Hispanic and Arabic-speaking immigrants to save and invest their money into a business idea. She said women in the group motivated one another to overcome the worry and risk associated with entrepreneurship.
"There’s that fear, but in groups, they are empowered to invest to go into business," Martinez said.
Martinez said the nonprofit doesn't have plans to train new cohorts of women because it has not yet identified a funding source.