The Walker Legacy Foundation, named after the first female millionaire, Madam CJ Walker, is looking to create women to follow in her legendary footsteps. CEO, Ayris Scales, joined rolling out to spread the word of the launch of the Women Who Enterprise 3-month business accelerator program for rising Black women professionals and entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us about your first six months, and how that is shaping the rest of the future to come at Walker’s Legacy foundation?
It has been amazing. Our name comes from the Supreme, Madam CJ Walker, America’s first self-made female millionaire. We have been around for 12 years, inspiring and equipping women of color entrepreneurs along that journey so that they can be the next legacy maker, the next Madam CJ Walker. And since day one, I’ve really been focused on making sure that we double down on our public-private partnerships and our collective partnerships, that we go back and further re-evaluate our strategy for how we are serving women of color entrepreneurs.
How starkly different are the two arenas with working in the political realm as opposed to being the CEO of Walker’s legacy?
I think for so many of us who work as elected officials or with elected officials, we want to generate change and do good. Well, I will say, now that I’m on the other side, I’m actually able to move faster. Because you don’t have a lot of the political constraints that come when you have constituents and voters that you have to take into account. So it’s wonderful to be 100% focused on what I’m passionate about: women who are out here hustling and driving our economy, and who look like me, and go through [similar] experiences in life.
What is this three-month business accelerator program — Women Who Enterprise?
Our founder shared that the big thing for her was going into business herself. She was trying to identify additional networking, mentors, and capital to help her business, but some of what exists today weren’t there. So her thing was, let me figure out how to create it because I know that there are other women who need it as well. Particularly for women of color, we are entrepreneurs, because we’ve been impacted by jobs that are either underpaid or we’re not getting. And so we have created a free program. We have amazing sponsors making these investments and women have no excuse to not take advantage.
For our fall cohort, we will have women from Birmingham, Washington DC, and Rochester, and we will have 20 slots. We will take these women through a 12-week program, focusing on business plan development, what it takes to be capital ready to access grants and loans from financial institutions, self-care practices, and mental health and wellness practices to incorporate into their entrepreneurial journey. And we’re going to be making sure that we’re positioning them to expand their confidence to expand their connections and their networks [to] increase their coin.