Theia Washington Smith: She's Empowering Female Entrepreneurs

March 23 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: If at First You Don’t Succeed…

On my neighborhood community web forum, one mother recently posted that her kids were set up outside at their doughnut-and-coffee stand. The father replied awhile later, saying, “There has only been one customer in an hour and a half. Our little entrepreneurs are learning that not all businesses succeed.”

What I love about this story is: 1.) These kiddos really stepped up their game by thinking outside the box. I mean, who doesn’t love doughnuts? 2.) The parents helped facilitate and promote their kids’ enterprise. And 3.) The post got dozens of supportive “likes” from neighbors. Even though their first stint proved dismal, here’s to the girls who don’t stop believing in themselves!


Sometimes girls have to try harder to make a well-earned buck because they’re simply getting stiffed. According to a new U.K. study of 2,000 kids, girls are given 20 percent less in allowance than boys. That gap grows 10 more percent when girls reach the ages of 11 through 16. Sure, 20 percent taken from a girl’s $5- or $10-a-week salary isn’t much, but the sentiment just plain stinks, and obviously sets girls up to accept less than their male counterparts in adulthood.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Theia Washington Smith, Executive Director of the City of Atlanta’s Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative

For those of us who were raised with such terrible expectations, it takes a while to unlearn these gender disparities. That’s why collective groups of like-minded women can be crucial to fighting “You can’t do it!” thoughts.

Theia Washington Smith is today’s cool and collected Woman to Watch, and she’s one of the leaders that is turning the city of Atlanta into a hot spot for women’s entrepreneurship. Several years ago, Atlanta launched a program called the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Theia’s background in mergers and acquisitions made her the perfect fit as the founding executive director.

Designed to equip local women business owners with the tools needed to support their business aspirations while minimizing some of the challenges and roadblocks unique to them as women, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative provides a variety of resources to its community of emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Here’s how the process works: Women business owners apply and 15 are chosen. During the course of 15 months, these entrepreneurs have access to practical business education, mentorship engagement, financial-literacy assistance and business support services. They’re even given office space rent-free! Oh yeah, and one of the initiative’s sponsors, Microsoft, provides all their tech needs. The goal is, at the culmination of the 15-month period, for the businesses to transition back into Atlanta fully prepared for sustainable success, growth and job creation.

It’s a pretty remarkable initiative, one that developed from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who heard from businesswomen that they didn’t want to commit to leasing an office but also didn’t want people to traipse through their homes while building their businesses. But Theia says it’s developed into something much more: an initiative that finds value in immersing these budding entrepreneurs in a supportive, engaged community of likeminded counterparts.

Another neat aspect of this program is how racially and socio-economically diverse the participants are. The sentiment is that it doesn’t matter whether they’re 20 or 60, white or African-American. As long as applicants have the determination, Theia and her team believe they deserve the chance to grow their businesses.

When Theia isn’t building up other women entrepreneurs or giving the mayor advice, she spends time as a board member for Startup Runway, which focuses on showcasing the top women- and minority-informed startups in the Southeast region and connecting them with investors. Theia advises women entrepreneurs to discover their ultimate goal, whether that’s to have a few employees and a brick-and-mortar shop or to defiantly scale their way to the top.


Are you still second-guessing your entrepreneurial prowess? Remember those kids with the doughnut-and-coffee stand and take CEO Katia Beauchamp’s advice:

“Whatever it is that you think you want to do, and whatever it is that you think stands between you and that, stop making excuses. You can do anything.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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