At CWE “We Lift Up the Women Who Lift Up the World,” providing training and technical assistance to aspiring women* entrepreneurs and women business owners to launch and grow their businesses. We meet clients where they are and provide greater access to the resources, tools, and support needed to achieve business success. When we empower women to succeed economically, they are better positioned to support themselves, their families, and their communities, ultimately leading the way in driving sustained economic growth and creating a more equitable world for us all.
*CWE defines a woman as anyone who identifies as such, regardless of assignment at birth. We welcome people of all genders, including non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals, to participate in our programs and services.
To fulfill our mission, CWE runs five Women Business Centers (WBCs) across New England, individual businesses counseling, and group educational experiences. In addition to training and technical assistance, CWE serves as New England’s largest certifier of women-owned businesses. In supporting entrepreneurs to achieve WBENC* certification, CWE gives women-owned businesses the certification and networking opportunities to increase their ability to compete for real-time business opportunities provided by WBENC Corporate Members and government agencies. One of the main benefits of certification is access to a current list of supplier diversity and purchasing professionals at hundreds of major U.S. corporations that accept WBENC certification.
*WBENC stands for the Women's Business Enterprise National Council
While approximately 10% of our clients are men, we are proud to intentionally focus and reach out to low/moderate-income women who live in under-served communities. Our clients are drawn from a wide variety of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, ranging from women living in public housing starting home-based or small retail businesses to established women business owners hoping to grow their enterprises with funding and technical assistance. No one is turned away for lack of financial ability to participate, thanks to our friends and supporters. Of the 4500 individuals who CWE trained and counseled in 2020, approximately 60% were of low and moderate-income, and 30% were women of color. In the next two years CWE will evolve its service outreach to increase the percentage of women of color served from 34% to 50% serving 5,000 women over that time. At that rate, in five years CWE will have served 10,000 women of color. We serve women because we believe in the powerful economic and social impact of women fully realizing their entrepreneurial potential and economic well-being.
For 27 years, CWE has been focused on supporting women entrepreneurs through direct service and practice. This focus has earned CWE trusted relationships with clients and our partners in the field, and a deep understanding of the systemic challenges that women entrepreneurs face, particularly women from low- income communities and women of color. Over the last quarter century, CWE has supported tens of thousands of women to make informed decisions in their entrepreneurial launch and growth as a result of increased access to training, expert technical assistance, and connection to powerful and supportive networks. Yet major systemic barriers continue to thwart higher levels of success. Some of these barriers included (but are not limited to) lack of access to financial investment that is in the client’s best interest, access to childcare, access to health care, and the list goes on. CWE recognized that to create real change for the women we serve, we must create a strategic plan to think about how to effect systemic change in addition to increasing the effectiveness of our direct service.
In 2019, CWE engaged in a six-month strategic planning process co-chaired by Betty Francisco, current CEO of the Boston Impact Initiative, and Lisa Wood, Partner at Foley Hoag and current CWE Board Chair. The result was a three-year plan to strengthen and expand our capacity to deliver on our mission. The Strategic Planning Committee consisted of key stakeholders including board members, CWE clients, funders, partner organizations, policy makers, and staff. In October 2020, the CWE Board of Directors adopted the strategic plan with three overarching goals:
- Be New England’s most trusted and impactful training and technical assistance resource for women who see entrepreneurship as a means to economic empowerment,
- Be a Thought Leader in using data and case studies to increase programmatic impact as well as support the development of public policy to advance women entrepreneurs,
- Utilize organizational best practices to create long term sustainability.