In 2020 downtown’s 1628 Ltd. launched its Women Empowered program, focused on helping women entrepreneurs in all stages of business development. This week, they will celebrate their one-year anniversary with an open house, free online workshops, and free co-working hours.
1628, Ltd. is a downtown co-working space offering a classy, boutique experience for its members. In addition to office and meeting space, the company has concierge services, highly curated amenities, local art displays, and is conveniently located in the central business district.
Women Empowered is an extension of 1628’s normal offerings, catered specifically to women business owners and professionals. While not all the clients are women, owner Tamara Schwarting says women in the business world have distinct needs.
“[Women entrepreneurs] are not taught how to network for the sake of growing our business,” she explains. Women Empowered is helping people develop business relationships and is “creating a community with connection points,” she says.
Schwarting says that, unlike some other local business “incubators” and startup programs, Women Empowered is a program designed for leaders of established businesses. Her goal is to help women make connections that put them in a strategic place to contribute to our local economy.
Many women-owned businesses, she explains, are created out of necessity. They aren’t traditionally opportunistic, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be profitable.
“How do you take a good idea and make sure it’s generating the amount of revenue it has potential for?” she asks. The answer, she says, lies in making connections, gaining access to capital (and help maximizing it), and resources such as affordable office and meeting space while growing a business.
1628 Ltd. offers all these things and more for local professionals — many of them women. Women Empowered offers intentional focused programming for her clients.
Schwarting says 2020 a difficult year for a new public program. With many corporate offices closed and workers at home due to the COVID pandemic, downtown businesses like 1628 have had to adapt to different needs and desires.
Women Empowered adapted, as well.
Colleen O’Connor, the program director, explains that Women Empowered is essentially a “peer group of support and mentorship.” So, when the needs of the women changed due to pandemic shut-downs and economic (and emotional) stress, the program offerings shifted.
“We had to pivot because businesses didn’t need to know the same things,” O’Connor explains. “We had to ask, ‘What support do they need right now?’”
The program was supposed to offer three in-person workshops or events per month. Instead, it went primarily online, with local, seasoned entrepreneurs teaching virtually. In addition to the hard skills they always intended to offer — things like marketing, strategy, and finance — they had workshops on things like mindfulness, staying on brand, and how to work with limited resources.
Schwarting says between 5–25 women participated in each session and, though it’s a drop-in program with no formal commitment, many were return participants.
In addition to the Women Empowered programming, 1628 has remained open for its usual members and has unique virtual gallery openings. It also offers day passes to combat pandemic homebound fatigue and a variety of meeting spaces for safe, collaborative work. While enacting new COVID protocol, they’ve kept their doors open for those who need a place to meet or a place to get away.
“We have a lot of space for social distancing,” Schwarting explains, “and people are craving face-to-face interaction.”
“We’re being realistic about what people need,” O’Connor adds. “Productivity is still essential”