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Unleashing Potential: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Rural Communities

In 2018 we ran our first Virtual Business incubator. A program designed to meet rural entrepreneurs where THEY are and give them the confidence and courage to make their dream a reality.

We met A LOT of Incredible Female Entrepreneurs. 

Over 75% of the cohort were women, and over 60% of the cohort had children under the age of 12. We’ll be honest; these numbers surprised us! 

They didn’t match the “typical” numbers we’d encountered in the traditional development scene. We were thrilled and intrigued to meet these women and hear their stories.

What we learned is that the way regular programs operate in rural areas doesn’t match their needs. They will usually be on-site, which can be a total deal-breaker for a parent, particularly with a child under 12: 

  • Will this program accommodate my parenting responsibilities?
  • What if the commute is too long?
  • Where will I find a good and affordable babysitter to care for my child while I attend the sessions?

The entrepreneurs we worked with were THRILLED because they finally had a place they could study and learn without disrupting their families and children.

This Is Why Families Loved The Program.

Our programs start anywhere from 6 pm to 8 pm (local time, no matter which timezone) at night using Zoom – a virtual meeting tool.  This means attendees didn’t need to commute anywhere. They could remain safe at home and on-call with their families–right where their children need them to be! 

Parents commonly fear: “What if my kids interrupt the session!”

(A fear which we totally empathize with!)

Not only were “unplanned visits” from young people expected–they were actively encouraged! The more, the merrier! Imagine the IMPACT on a child’s life when they see their parent building a business from home.

These things don’t always make it onto the end-of-year reporting numbers, but we believe these “invisible ripples” will have massive impacts on our communities and encourage everyone to look out for them.

Even parents of young children, who required special attention, like breastfeeding, were put at ease. Need to feed your baby? They turned off their camera, muted their microphone, and continued seamlessly listening to the class while caring for their children.

How freakin’ cool is that?

The BIGGEST Lesson These Women Taught Us About Rural Development. 

These women totally blew us away with their confidence and courage. They were desperate to plug into their local resources but, due to the responsibilities of being a parent, either couldn’t access these resources or thought these resources were for “someone else”– i.e. not parents of toddlers.

To be clear: we think local development organizations are doing a GREAT job. We see the impact of their work every single day. We believe stories like the one we shared are undiscovered opportunities, not missteps or mistakes.

Heck, they definitely surprised us! 

They caused us to ask new questions like:

  • What assumptions are we making about our own services?
  • What is holding people back from working with us?
  • Are we approachable and accessible? 
  • Are we speaking their language? 
  • Are we immersed in their world?

These questions have led us to places we never expected, but those are stories for another time. 

Are You Looking To Connect Yourself (Or Others) With Resources But Aren’t Sure Where To Start?

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re an entrepreneur or someone passionate about their community and your business, just like these women. If you want to help unleash the untapped potential of your community or you have a business idea, here are two ways you can help:

  1. Share this article with one friend. Do you have a partner in crime? Do you know people who have BIG ideas and want to unleash them? Who comes to mind? Do you have a name in your head? This person would love to hear from you. Think of the ripple effect you could start!
  2. If you want to plug into our resources, we would LOVE (seriously: LOVE) to meet you. The easiest way for you to do that is to pick a time in our calendar, and we’ll do the rest! 
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