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Mayor de Blasio Launches New Business and Leadership Program for Low Income and Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs

May 17, 2016

“WE Master Leadership” workshops provide women entrepreneurs with critical leadership skills for growing their businesses

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio today announced the launch of “WE Master Leadership,” a public educational workshop series that will provide low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs with the necessary skills and tools to launch, grow and sustain a business. The program is expected to serve an additional 500 women annually, while the overall WE NYC initiative is on track to serve over 5,000 women by 2019.
“Our economy thrives when everyone – regardless of race, gender and ethnicity – thrives,” said Mayor de Blasio. “WE NYC and the ‘WE Master Leadership’ program are delivering desperately needed services and resources to low-income and immigrant women business owners so that they can establish and sustain their business. Once established, these women entrepreneurs will have the potential to uplift communities across the five boroughs. I look forward to the other programs WE NYC has in store to further address the needs of the City’s women entrepreneurs.”

"As staunch supporters of our city’s small businesses, the New York City Council is excited about the learning opportunities the ‘WE Master Leadership’ program will provide to our immigrant women entrepreneurs that will help their business thrive in this competitive market,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “By providing these small business owners the right tools and education, their economic success is this city’s gain. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for his continued commitment in helping the New York immigrant business community thrive.”

“Strong leadership skills like negotiation, pitching business ideas, and overcoming common challenges create a strong foundation for successful businesses,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services. “I want to thank our partners at Next Street for crafting ‘WE Master Leadership’ – a critical resource that will further strengthen the City’s women entrepreneurs.”

The workshop is the second of three tailored business education offerings developed as part of the City’s WE NYC commitment to empowering women business owners to reach their full economic potential, with a special focus on supporting underserved women and communities.
The workshop will empower underserved women to reach their full economic potential through a series of business classes covering topics such as leadership, negotiation, communication techniques, crafting a formal business pitch and overcoming common challenges. Building these skills will ultimately help women business owners grow and sustain their business.

Research released by SBS and Citi Community Development shows that nearly 75 percent of women entrepreneurs cited lack of confidence as a challenge, and less than one-third rate themselves as proficient in areas critical for running a business. These issues are most pronounced within demographic groups with fewer resources, such as women with low incomes, women that live in the outer boroughs, and women business owners with less than $10,000 in revenue, making them important targets for this new WE NYC program. WE NYC believes the workshop will increase confidence and provide the insight necessary for women to grow and sustain their business.

The “WE Master Leadership” curriculum was designed in partnership by WE NYC and Next Street, an economic development and business advisory firm. The interactive workshops will draw on the experiences of participating women entrepreneurs, offer opportunities to learn business skills, create partnerships with other business owners and build networks. The leadership course will be offered to over 500 women each year.

“Next Street is proud to partner with WE NYC to develop the WE NYC Master Leadership workshop,” said Marina Linhart, Partner at Next Street. “Having served thousands of business owners across New York City, we fully understand the critical role women entrepreneurs play in the sustainable development of their communities. We look forward to the opportunity to help equip them with the knowledge and tools for success.”

“WE Master Leadership” courses are currently being offered in English at the NYC Business Solutions Center in Jamaica, Queens. In partnership with the Ecuadorian Consulate in Queens, Spanish courses will become available in June. Starting in July, service will also be offered in all five boroughs in various languages. Courses will be offered at no cost to participants. For more information on registration, participants can sign up here.

“The launch of ‘WE Master Leadership’ for low-income and immigrant women business owners signifies the strong commitment of the de Blasio administration to gender equity and to the creation of meaningful opportunities for those who have been historically marginalized and left behind,” said Azadeh Khalili, Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity. “Supporting low income women to succeed is one of the wisest investments we can make.”

“The vitality of immigrant communities is deeply intertwined with the socioeconomic prospects of immigrant women,” said Assistant Commissioner Kavita Pawria-Sanchez of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “WE NYC and the ‘WE Master Leadership’ programs will be of vital importance to immigrant women entrepreneurs. Today’s announcement marks an important investment that will bolster the success of women entrepreneurs in communities across New York City.”

“Initiatives like this one are a win-win – closing gender gaps in entrepreneurship while we lay the foundation for a stronger, more inclusive economy across the entire city,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

State Senator Diane J. Savino said, "I want to commend Mayor de Blasio for recognizing the need for these services in New York City. With the launch of ‘WE Master Leadership,’ low-income and immigrant women business owners will now have the opportunity to acquire skills and obtain resourceful information that will not only empower them as owners but help sustain their businesses as well."

“The WE NYC and ‘WE Master Leadership’ program is a much needed program that will not only enhance and expand economic opportunities for women, but will also help close the economic and income equality gap that low-income and immigrant communities are facing," said Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, Chair of the Subcommittee on the Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises. "As a woman, as a daughter of immigrants, and as an elected official whose district is largely immigrant and low-income, I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bishop on this initiative, which will help transform communities. There is an adage that if you educate a woman, you educate a generation. The knowledge that the participants will gain while in the WE Master Leadership program has the potential to alter the income trajectory for these women, and their families."

“These public educational workshops will allow our great city to assist our small business community and provide many female entrepreneurs with the skills they need to start and run a successful business,” said Assembly Member Catherine Nolan. “Our district has many businesses that can benefit by this initiative.”

“In the Bronx, women are the majority that helps to make our borough the best in all of New York City. Local mom-and-pop businesses run by low-income and immigrant women fuel our economy and our diverse neighborhoods,” said Assembly Member Latoya Joyner. “Having additional workshops through WE NYC can limit the gender and socioeconomic gap that so many small business owners face. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in our strong Bronx women, and offering assistance through Mayor de Blasio’s ‘WE Master Leadership’ program to women entrepreneurs can help to expand our local economy even further.”

“I am personally committed to the idea that we need to invest more in immigrant women in order to ensure that they are equipped with the tools and support to lead our communities. I am fully supportive of this and similar City programs that seek to lift low-income and immigrant women to help maximize on the potential of our immigrant communities,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration.

“Women represent the largest demographic of minimum wage earners and single heads of household. Despite its many opportunities and benefits, women are less likely to pursue entrepreneurship as a means for economic independence and self-sustainability. Through WE NYC and the ‘WE Master Leadership’ workshops, women entrepreneurs will be equipped with the knowledge and ongoing mentorship that will enable them to reach their full potential. I want to thank the de Blasio administration for our city’s increased efforts to inspire and empower today’s and tomorrow’s generation of women entrepreneurs,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, Chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues and co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus.

"It is our mission to cultivate small businesses owned by woman entrepreneurs who are yearning to improve, organize, and expand their business. WE NYC and the ‘WE Master Leadership’ program are needed resources in our city to help them grow and create more jobs in our city. The workshops and seminars that teach woman entrepreneurs critical skills that advance business development skills and increase their access to funding will afford participants the opportunity to better strategize the growth of their businesses," said Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the Committee on Small Business.

"The NYIC applauds Mayor Bill de Blasio for creating this program to support immigrant women entrepreneurs and business owners to fully envision their dreams and achieve success," said Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "By addressing the realities of the gender divide, as well as strategically empowering immigrant women, this is a good first step for New York City to help strengthen businesses, lift families out of poverty, and aid the overall integration of immigrant communities in this city."

"Immigrant women are the backbone of New York City's economy and a forward-thinking program like ‘WE Master Leadership’ will provide these essential workers and entrepreneurs with the tools necessary to launch and sustain their businesses," said Angela Fernandez, Esq. Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

“The Dominican Women’s Development Center applauds Mayor de Blasio’s launching of ‘WE Master Leadership,’ a public educational workshop series to provide low-income and immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and tools to launch, grow and sustain their business. Immigrant women encounter many obstacles that have to do with their legal status, lack of knowledge of the English language, coming from impoverished areas in their countries and the remnants of sexism, discrimination and gender inequality in their countries and here in the U.S. This new initiative will provide immigrant women with the needed level of confidence, self-esteem, skills and resources to help them succeed in their businesses to advance socially and economically in society,” said Executive Director of the Dominican Women’s Development Center Rosita M. Romero.

“Hispanic Federation applauds Mayor de Blasio on the launch of ‘WE Master Leadership’ program,” said Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation. “This exciting program will ensure that thousands of low-income and immigrant women business owners have the tools they need to operate and maintain a successful business. It's a smart and much-needed investment in women, working families and communities that will pay dividends for many years to come."

"‘WE Master Leadership’ is a game changer in bringing immigrant business owners the tools and the support they will need to thrive as entrepreneurs. I am excited to see this program launch and for the many woman and families it will impact,” said Cynthia Carrion, Deputy Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

“I think the ‘WE Master Leadership Program’ would be great especially for new residents leaders with non-profit organization, such as the Resident Association. As new leaders, this would be the perfect way to help them understand how to draw residents to meeting and garner more participation from the residents,” said Lenora Keith, President of Tompkins Resident Association.

“My parents came straight from Sicily, Italy in the early 70’s and their sacrifices have motivated me to pursuing more in business and out of life. I believe with the ‘WE Master Leadership’ program, women will have a chance to advance in leadership positions that they may never have been exposed to before. We are only governed by the limitations we give ourselves, when all of us are capable of accomplishing much more then we can think or imagine. I thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for helping us to take the limits off of ourselves with the ‘WE Master Leadership’ Program,” said Elisabetta DiStefano, President of Risa Associates, Inc. and co-Founder of TENT Ministries.

“Most immigrants become entrepreneurs by chance. As tenacious immigrants are, the little money they accrue as profit feeds the family. This initiative is an empowering tool to help immigrant entrepreneurs face challenges. Improve their managing skills to expand and sustain their businesses. While they become competitive in their world of trade. Hopefully, we will eradicate poverty,” said Ramatu Ahmed, African Life Center.

“Succeeding in business is difficult for anyone, and being a woman does increase the difficulty of the challenge. I am encouraged to see that WE NYC is actively equipping women entrepreneurs, and I am confident their program will produce a great deal of success and joy for many people,” said Neslihan Hidirligil, President of N & F Global Corporation.

“‘WE Master Leadership’ is a laudable initiative by the de Blasio administration to ensure a more diverse and equitable learning experience for entrepreneurial women in New York City,” said Aisha Al Adawiya, Women in Islam, Inc.

“I wholeheartedly support the ‘WE Master Leadership’ initiative. This series of workshops will aid our community by giving us the tools to create businesses and thus create jobs in our area. It will also allow the potential entrepreneurs to get a realistic view as to what is required to create a business and to keep it going. As an attorney and business owner in the area, I have personal knowledge of the difficulties in obtaining financing as well as the lack of practical information for future business owners. I commend the Mayor for recognizing these deficiencies and taking positive actions to remedy this situation,” said Joan E. Flowers, Esq., Chair Education Committee of Community Board 12.

"Here in Chinatown, Little Italy, and LES, where we have so many small businesses with many of them women owned, it is very encouraging to get additional support and training in these challenging times to assist these entrepreneurs to improve and unleash their full potentials to help the community," said Wellington Z. Chen, Executive Director of the Chinatown Partnership.

“New York City is a city of women entrepreneurs. Women-owned businesses are growing at a very rapid rate, creating jobs, especially in minority and immigrant communities. Yet our women entrepreneurs continue to face many challenges. Mastering the self-confidence to effectively communicate and negotiate better business deals can be difficult,” said Quenia Abreu, President of New York Women's Chamber of Commerce. “I am pleased that WE NYC is going to help them overcome some of those challenges through its ‘We Master Leadership’ Program. The New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce looks forward to working with WE NYC to ensure that women entrepreneurs participate and take advantage of this much needed program.”

“A leadership workshop can offer women entrepreneurs with the community and tools they need to take their businesses to the next level,” said Heather Jassy, Senior Vice President of Values-Aligned Business at Etsy, an e-commerce platform for small businesses. “This is an important initiative and can benefit thousands of small and micro business owners in New York City."

“Women have just as strong an entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen as men, and through WE NYC and the ‘WE Master Leadership’ program, low-income and immigrant women will be further empowered to start or grow a successful business,” said Carlo A. Scissura, Esq., President and CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “These programs will not only change the lives of the thousands of women who participate – along with the countless others they employ – but they will also strengthen our economy, improve our communities and make New York City a better place for everyone. Congratulations to Mayor Bill de Blasio, and I look forward to continuing to work with his administration to assist women entrepreneurs.”
“The ‘WE Master Leadership’ program will help New York City harness the incredible potential of women entrepreneurs,” said Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of Center for an Urban Future. “By arming low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs with key businesses skills, the program will help boost the number of women entrepreneurs in New York City and help more of the city’s existing women-owned businesses grow to the next level.”

“The launch of this program will help  women entrepreneurs of all classes to build and scale their businesses,” said Assembly Member Diana Richardson. “This is critical to the women of New York City and important to the vitality of our economy. I am proud to live in a city that understands the value women bring to the economy.”

“As a recipient of a loan and business support that was exclusive for women, I can't emphasize enough on the importance of these programs. It has made a positive impact on my business, family, community and personal development,” said Azra Khalfan, CEO of Plaques by Azra.

About WE NYC:
WE NYC is designed to connect women entrepreneurs with the resources, education, and connections they need to thrive. The full set of initiatives include networking eventsmentorship services and free business courses on topics like credit building, funding and leadership, as well as a digital portal for participants to access resources to grow their businesses. WE NYC has also convened an Advisory Council consisting of a diverse set of public, private and philanthropic partners that meet regularly to inform the initiative’s efforts.

To stay updated on WE NYC opportunities and programming, women entrepreneurs can visit, sign up for the WE NYC Newsletter, participate in the WE NYC digital community through the WE NYC Facebook Group, or join the conversation online using #WENYC.

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