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WEI director on the value of female entrepreneurs in Atlanta

Theia Washngton Smith (Photo Credit: Sistarazzi for Steed Media Service)

Theia Washngton Smith (Photo credit: Sistarazzi for Steed Media Service)

When Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was running for his first term in the city’s highest political office, he revealed during one of his political stump speeches it was his vision to support female entrepreneurs in a major way.

This past May 2016, marked the grand opening of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) at the historic Flatiron Building in downtown Atlanta. WEI is an incubator for women entrepreneurs that will provide resources and support to accelerate business growth.

During the recent public meeting at Georgia Tech facilitated by the National Women’s Business Council, WEI executive director Theia Washington Smith shared, “A part of Mayor Kasim Reed’s largest goal of creating fiscal reform in Atlanta is stimulating the growth of small businesses in the downtown area.

“When Mayor Reed was campaigning for his first term in office, his real vision was to help women entrepreneurs in a very simple way. He wanted to provide a space, a destination for women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in a safe and secure way and that would allow them to just focus on the business,” she said.

WEI will be housed on the 11th floor of the downtown Atlanta’s iconic Flatiron Building — the city’s oldest standing skyscraper. The 40,000-square-foot landmark is undergoing a transformative journey to intersect its historical character with cutting-edge innovation and design. This unique collaborative space will serve as a technologically advanced backdrop to Atlanta’s emerging and existing entrepreneurs, seeking to foster their business growth in a space that is engaging, energetic and supportive of bold ideas. Atlanta is ranked in the top three among the Top 25 Most Popular Metropolitan Areas for its growth in the number of women-owned businesses.

“There is a risk women take when going in to business for yourself. All businesses that start are not successful, and 90 percent do no make it past that two-year mark. WEI is the answer to the mayor’s vision and it is our call-to-action to support women entrepreneurs in this city. WEI provides the space, the access to the quality opportunities and resources that women need to grow and how do we that in a way that ultimately shows the city of Atlanta stands behind and invests in it’s women entrepreneurs,” Smith said.

In a statement to the press, Reed provided additional insight on WEI. “In partnership with Invest Atlanta, the Reed administration secured funding and office space to maximize the success of the WEI’s entry into Atlanta’s growing entrepreneurial community. The WEI is a result of the city’s ongoing efforts to harness the power of women-owned businesses and emerging entrepreneurs for the socioeconomic advancement of Atlanta.Through a competitive selection process, 15 women entrepreneurs were selected to incubate their business at the WEI. Over the course of 15 months, the entrepreneurs will have access to practical business education, financial capital and business support services.”

The WEI incubator lasts for 15 months, and is cyclical. Applications for the next class of entrepreneurs will be available in early 2017.