Shelly Bell Introduces Us To Two Great Efforts Helping Women Entrepreneurs In Washington DC
We got a chance to meet a dynamic young woman at the WEDC house who is firmly committed to growing women entrepreneurship in Washington DC. Shelly Bell was at the WEDC house to talk with people about The Beacon DC, a community-led campaign to make Washington DC the most influential and supportive city for women entrepreneurs in the United States. She is also the founder of Black Girl Vision, an effort to connect women of color who are entrepreneurs and small business owners, find access to capital.
Both efforts, startups themselves, are part of the framework in Washington DC that is opening up a whole new world to entrepreneurs, through the lens of collaboration and access. They, along with two other great startups we met, in3DC and Walker’s Legacy, are a testament to the grass roots grit and grind that still exists in the nation’s capital. Outside of the federal government (where most employees live in Maryland and Virginia), there’s an entire city of entrepreneurs and startups that are clawing their way to the forefront, efforts that manifest themselves at the WEDC house.
Truth be told, in our 7 years of covering South By Southwest our experience has been that most “houses” set up in the surrounding streets of the Austin Convention Center, are mostly drinking networking events, the energy at the WEDC house was “let me tell you now why we are in DC and how great it is”. While the verdict is still out on Trump making America great again, folks like Aaron Saunders, KellyAnn Kirkpatrick, Natalie Madeira, Rachel Hampton, and Shelly Bell and the other great entrepreneurs at the WEDC house will make DC great again, or die trying.
While The Beacon DC is for all women and Black Girl Vision is focused on women of color, Bell embraces both identities as a woman of color and a woman herself, to preach and teach the entrepreneurial gospel.
The Beacon DC starts off with a directory of the women owned businesses in Washington DC. They also hold a variety of events. In fact one look at their calendar and there’s an event furthering women entrepreneurship in or near DC practically every day.
Black Girl Vision focuses on access to capital. Bell identifies three main hurdles to women of color entrepreneurs, that she readily admits are hurdles for all women entrepreneurs as well. Those are “lack of access to capital, lack of influential network and lack of the ability to hire employees” she told us in an interview. Out of those three the access to capital and lack of influential network are the most pressing which is why she is a big part of both organizations.