YWCA Houston: In business of empowering women of color
Program participant Lorell Wood, owner, Fitness Therapy

YWCA Houston is currently running a game-changing program for women striving to found their own businesses. The ‘Yshe Can Do Business WE360 Entrepreneurship Program’ seeks to equip these up-and-coming entrepreneurs with the information and mentors needed to be successful.

The Defender was able to speak with Terry Broussard Davis, YWCA Houston’s CEO, and Nikki Dupard, the organization’s community enrichment programs manager, about the importance of ‘Yshe Can Do Business’ and how interested individuals can get on board.

DEFENDER: What exactly is the YWCA Houston’s YShe Can do Business program?

Nikki Dupard

NIKKI DUPARD: It’s a program built to offer women entrepreneurs the skills they need to start their entrepreneurship career. Also, it can help with their business advancement if they have already started a business. The program also supports what financial security. The YWCA Houston provides entrepreneurship training to women seeking economic independence and stability. Program participants receive hands-on learning opportunities, detailed reviews of required certifications related to their businesses or vocation. The program curriculum offers lab and lecture hours virtually on the online platform, as well as mentoring, providing students opportunity to improve their skillset under the guidance of industry experienced instructors that are supported by our supporters in the financial community.

DEFENDER: I thought the YMCA and YWCA were places people go to work out. But you’re saying YWCA Houston offers a plethora of programming?

TERRI BROUSSARD DAVIS: YWCA Houston provides social services to the community that we serve. We’re the second largest Meals-on-Wheels program in Houston. We serve over 2,000 seniors a day. We have a housing program where we house 31 young women between the ages of 18 and 24, and their families. And we take care of 100% of their rental expense. We’ll help them move. We’ll help them with deposits. We have resources for furthering their education. If they would like to, they can also participate in the Yshe Can Do Business W360 Entrepreneurship Program. We, also have a youth program. We have STEM, now going to STEAM, that we go into the schools within the communities that we serve. We’re located right off 610 and MLK. So, that area, we go into all of the local schools with the STEAM program for the children, the young women who want to actively get involved with engineering or science or math and things of that nature. Then we have a Girls Leadership On the Rise program helping young ladies figure out exactly where do they want to go once they get out of high school, what is it that they truly, truly want to do, what inspires them? Those are the basic programs that we offer now at the YWCA.

DEFENDER: Ms. Dupard, is it too late to sign up?

DUPARD: We completed a cohort and there is a complete need for this. We’ve done two cohorts so far, and we’re getting ready to start our third one. It is not too late to sign up. Actually, we are now enrolling on a rolling deadline. Because there are so many individuals who are wanting to pursue entrepreneurship, who don’t know where to start, don’t have the resources, do not have the support. Because community is another thing that we offer in this program. We have decided that just having one time to start for several different types of lifestyles is not conducive. So, we decided to allow the enrollment to be open. You can apply, and once you are accepted into the program, you can start from where you are. Even if the cohort brought in, started in the beginning of the month, you can come in at the end and start with the first course. You don’t have to jump in with everyone else. It’s self-paced.

DEFENDER: When did the first cohorts begin, and how long is the program?

Terri Broussard Davis

DAVIS: The first cohort began last year, around this time in March. The second cohort began again in November. The program is about one year long, and that’s with the phase of you having one-on-one coaching support and mentorship. So typically, you can finish the courses in about two to six weeks, honestly. But if you decide, “Hey, I want to stick around. I like the program. I want this mentor or this coach,” then you stick around for part two. And then you have six months with this mentor or coach to develop a relationship, develop your business plan, figure out best practices, how you want to implement your business, whether you want it to be a standalone or partnership with other corporations. You get a financial expert to go through all of that information and figure out those processes with you. We were supposed to, for this first year, have 25 women of color in the program. We have 67 and having to also include another section of this program. Right now, we have another 36, 37 young women waiting for the second opportunity.

DEFENDER: So, who are the folk leading these workshops?

DUPARD: They are from the Houston area, but the majority of them are from all over the U.S. They are executives of financial firms and they are professionals within the business sector.

DAVIS: So, if you need help with putting a business plan together, we have experts for that. We have experts to help you with your marketing strategy. We have experts that will help you with social media. We have all the experts needed to successfully assist you in starting your business. And you have access to these mentors and coaches for up to a year. And this course, this program is free to the women, not only in Houston, but in the surrounding areas.

DEFENDER: Where does a person go to apply?

DAVIS: You can apply online. You can also send me an email at ldupard@ywcahouston.org. You can go to our website. We have it on our front page, where you can sign up. Or you can go to our social media, @YWCAHouston.