Aspiring and veteran women entrepreneurs of color seeking to take their businesses to the next level gathered at I/O Spaces in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Aug. 25 for the Embracing YOU conference, organized by the Minority Christian Women Entrepreneurs Network (MCWEN).
Andrena Sawyer, MCWEN founder and the event’s keynote speaker, opened with prayer and discussed how Christian women can work to overcome their fears and concerns about owning a business.
“Fear causes detours to your purpose,” said Sawyer, who started MCWEN because she was discouraged by the lack of resources and opportunities for women of color that seemed to be readily available to Whites.
As a small-business consultant, she found that most of her clients had similar complaints about not getting funded and being intimidated by systems and networks where there were always a small number of people of color in the room.
With faith being a huge part of Sawyer’s business, she met Christian women and added the racial, ethnic and faith elements together for MCWEN.
Most of the attendees at the conference were from African-American, Caribbean and African backgrounds and either Catholic, Protestant or non-denominational.
Workshop topics included leadership, marketing and branding, identifying your purpose, conflict and relationship management and overcoming past obstacles and fear of failure.
The “Who Am I” workshop, facilitated by Philecia M. McCain, president of PM3 Enterprises, explained how creating goal-achieving tools such as vision boards are externally driven instead of internally. One of the assignments she gave the group was to list up to five words describing who they are and how those words sync with their calling.
At workshop titled, “Your Message is Meant for Malta,” facilitated by author and speaker Elona Washington, participants shared their testimonies how professional and personal obstacles made them decide to become entrepreneurs.
Though some of the women at the conference expressed fear of stepping out as entrepreneurs and into the life of not have a 9-to-5 job with a steady paycheck, one audience member said being fired from her job was God’s way of pushing her to become a businesswoman.
The women referenced scriptures from the Bible for guidance and mentioned that their work is a calling through which they realize that they can help others and be prosperous.
During the second half of the conference, there was a panel discussion about the importance of maintaining a work/life balance and networking.
Author W. Nikki Pearson promoted her book, “Your Breakthrough is Up to You,” to help women to get unstuck from the problems of their past. A conference based on the book will be held in September for women in prison in Jessup, Maryland.
Kristin Kimble, a minister, speaker and blogger, attended the conference as a vendor to promote her relationship coaching business and her book titled Would I Marry Me, a seven-day devotional workbook for single women to do a self-evaluation of themselves to find our if they are ready for marriage.
MCWEN also connects women through the local meetups that happen in Baltimore; D.C.; Prince George’s County, Md.; Houston; Atlanta; Orlando, Fla., and New York City.
“The value of MCWEN is that it provides opportunities, connections and resources for entrepreneurs while giving them a chance to increase their visibility and be a part of a strong network,” said Pamela Andrews, coordinator for the New York meetup.