PINE BLUFF, Ark. – This year the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas welcomed its grantees for its initiative Women’s Economic Mobility Hub.
It provides black female business owners with support services and thousands of dollars in funding. The organization is aiming to diversify the state’s economy and workforce with minority women.
Anna Beth Gorman, CEO of the WFA said in a statement that the group works to meet the needs of women and girl.
“Our longevity showcases that we are excellent at what we do – creating research-based programs and initiatives to meet the real needs of women and girls,” Gorman said. “Our WEM Hub program is one of the many incredible ways we work to secure better economic security for women and girls in Arkansas.”
The initiative which started in 2018 is a six-month program where 10 grantees who are black women-owned businesses from across the state are provided technical assistance and additional resources, including $5,000 in unrestricted grant funds.
Program and communications specialist, Kristen Phantazia Smith said after this year’s program is complete, the WFA will have invested $200,000 into 40 Black women entrepreneurs in Arkansas, giving them access to vital support services, training and funding.
“Going back to the research and knowing black women so many of them have business but they don’t have the resources to thrive,” Smith said.
One of this year’s grantees, 23-year-old Crystal Barnes, says after she was laid off from her job in 2021, she started backing full time starting Blue’s Busy Bakery in Pine Bluff. Barnes said she named the business after her son.
“I know many people are thinking who makes a business in the middle of covid but that is why I had to do it,” Banes said.
Barnes said that going into entrepreneurship was harder than she expected.
“The joke was on me. Prices from inflation to learning how to budget for the price of my business and price of my items,” Barnes said.
Barnes said that she is grateful for the program because it has helped her become a better business owner.
“Not even just giving us a check, but also teaching us how to use the money and find different resources,” Barnes said.
Barnes said that the grant has also helped her stay up top of demand and purchase extra equipment.
She says she hopes to one day own a shop but until then she will continue to do pop up shops around the state since she travels to do events and gatherings.
“I say through my baked goods, I’m busy baking life sweeter, life can be tart at times and I just like to sweet it up a little bit with a brownie, cookie, or a cupcake. What’s life without a cupcake,” Barnes stated.
The foundation says this initiative was made possible through the help of funding from the Walton Family Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and many more donors.