Atlanta organization helping women start their own businesses amid pandemic

Millions of Americans lost their jobs in the pandemic, but there’s a silver lining. More people are starting their own businesses. In Atlanta, a city-funded incubator is helping women become entrepreneurs despite the challenges of COVID-19.

“Today’s topic is going to be what supplies do I need to start my CNA school,” said Victoria Randle in a video posted on YouTube to promote her consulting business The Secret Cocktail.

The business helps people start their own CNA (certified nursing assistant) schools.

“I started my own CNA school back in 2015 and it was not an easy experience. So, I thought I would start a business to help other individuals navigate the process because it’s so frustrating and so confusing,” said Randle.

When the pandemic hit the calls came pouring into her business.

“They were calling me left and right asking me can I connect them with CNAs. They needed them. CNAs were getting sick, having to go home and care for their loved ones,” said Randle. She saw a golden opportunity.

“Our firm has helped CNA schools not only become approved to operate the program, but to also transition their program online as well,” said Randle.

She is getting help growing her business through the Women’s Entrepreneurial Initiative or WEI. Randle is one of 15 women going through WEI’s 15-month program that provides educational resources, access to funding help and mentorship.

The current cohort started in March as Georgia went into lockdown.

“It’s been a very interesting challenge I think like for everyone, but we are operating in a virtual manner and it’s been good,” said WEI’s Executive Director Monica Delores Hooks.

Remote meetings aren’t the only challenge. A Federal Reserve Bank of New York study found the number of business owners fell 22% from February to April of 2020 with Black-owned businesses taking the biggest hit, a 41% drop.

But things started looking up for small businesses in the third quarter. According to U.S. Census data, the number of applications with a high-propensity to turn into a business with a payroll rose by 79% in the South.

“I think that this pandemic or the COVID environment just presented an opportunity because a lot of our businesses have been able to pivot,” said Delores Hooks.

She pointed to two start-ups that pivoted. My Panda which started out as a personal assistant next door transitioned to a neighborhood delivery service. The William Pleshette Company which offers swim lessons switched to teaching lessons outside.

With WEI’s help, Randle’s business is growing.

“Since I’ve been in the program, my business has grown threefold so, I have went initially from two employees to now we’re at six and looking to employ two more,” said Randle.

WEI believes the success of these small businesses is good news for Atlanta’s big picture.

“I think that entrepreneurship is the tool for economic mobility and as these businesses and the women that lead them can show that is in fact a reality for the City of Atlanta, I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Delores Hooks.

According to WEI there are 203,000 women-owned businesses in metro Atlanta and that number is growing.

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