YBI launches entrepreneurship program for women

The Youngstown Business Incubator wants to be a part of the growth of female-owned businesses in the Youngstown area

The Youngstown Business Incubator launched WE Launch -- its entrepreneurship program for women.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Starting a new business can be a challenging venture, but a new program that started Wednesday night in downtown Youngstown is hoping to assist with that process, with an emphasis on helping women.

As of 2012, of non-farm and private-held businesses, just 36.3 percent are women-owned, according to the National Women’s Business Council Analysis of a 2012 Survey of Business Owners.

That number is increasing, however. From 2007 to 2012, women-owned businesses in the U.S. increased 26.8 percent.

The Youngstown Business Incubator wants to be a part of that growth here locally.

The YBI’s kick-off event for WE Launch was held Wednesday in Youngstown. Fourteen women will be a part of it, and they are all finalists for a $5,000 small business grant.

The diverse group of women will take nine weeks of classes covering how to make a business plan, get insurance and build a storefront. The classes begin next Wednesday at Youngstown State University.

Melissa D’Apolito, a female entrepreneur, is hoping to expand her online business and traveling boutique, Lola Bean’s Boutique. The boutique includes vintage fashions, and D’Apolito hopes to begin in-home trunk shows this year.

She said the best part of the program is assistance from other female mentors.

“The other component is to have women mentors that are already in the business, and other women, to talk to us about their issues that they’re dealing with and their struggles in the business. I think that’s a really good thing,” she said.

Other finalists include:

  • Carmella Williams – Carmella Maria (a natural hair and beauty company)
  • Crystal J. Wells – Crystal J. Wells Company (an inspirational clothing line and invitations and greeting cards)
  • Danica Hobbs – Youngstown Sophisticate Magazine (a magazine focusing on the accomplishments and culture of the Youngstown area)
  • Donna Cadwallader – Medical Coding Consultant (consulting other medical entities on a new coding system instituted by the government)
  • Donna Thomas – Little Ancestors Children’s Theatre and Cultural Club (live theater pairing children and elders to share life stories)
  • Helen Muga – PNG First Engineering and Environmental Services, LLC (engineering company that provides wastewater treatment and design, waste management, environmental assessment, remediation and sustainability)
  • Kathy Serenko – Your Selling Point (helps companies identify their expertise and develops a targeted strategy to deliver content)
  • Kim Zeidenstein – (providing occupational therapy to aging community using home modifications)
  • LaKita Williams – La Merstoph LTD (manufacturing cost-effective women’s shape apparel)
  • Marissa Devantier – The Shop on Liberty Street (retail space for makers, offering affordable handmade goods, in the Youngstown/Warren region)
  • Mary Protheroe – Culturehouse Coffee Roasters Thirdwave and Specialty Coffee (working with farmers to get quality coffee to the community)
  • Stephanie Kelly – Hire the Right Talent (recruiting and hiring strategy services company)
  • Tracey Winbush – Tracey and Friends (talk radio broadcast media company, merging tradition and Internet mediums)

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