Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 29, 2021

CWLI launching space for female professionals

Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute is developing the CWLI Legacy Center, a coworking environment that will provide dedicated office space, dedicated workstation space and flexible work space to serve the varied needs of professional women.

“We envision an ecosystem where women can collaborate with one another while accessing the resources they need to elevate their careers and businesses,” says Tangela Johnson, CWLI board chair.

“As a small-business owner with clients all over the nation, I can be in Chattanooga one day and Atlanta the next,” says Emily Elrod, CWLI member. “I’ll now be able to conduct business downtown in a beautiful, inviting, confidential space for my Chattanooga clientele without committing to long-term leases.”

CWLI conducted an interest survey last year to assess the potential for the new space. Out of 60 respondents, 29 identified as CEOs or founders of small businesses, while 34 respondents expressed interest in the space if it were offered.

“The data proves spaces like these are in demand,” says Kim Shumpert, CWLI executive director. “We want the Legacy Center to provide a professional environment that’s safe and welcoming to women who are ready to level up in their professional pursuits. It will be an ideal space to accelerate female-owned startups.”

The CWLI Legacy Center will be located inside the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce building at 811 Broad St.

“Being inside the Chamber space will accommodate intersectionality that might help these women cultivate capital for their business ventures,” Shumpert continues.

Statistically, women struggle to access capital for their business ventures. Many ideas never make it to market because women in this space are underserved, receiving only 2.7% of annual venture capital given, Inc. magazine reports.

“We want to promote a workforce and community where everyone can succeed,” says Christy Gillenwater, Chattanooga Chamber president and CEO. “What CWLI has created here represents another example of harnessing resources to advance entrepreneurs in our own community.”

Atlanta and Nashville rank No. 17 and No. 19, respectively, out of the top 25 metropolitan cities for female founders. Shumpert says she believes Chattanooga can and should be included among the cities with conditions that favor female entrepreneurs.

“The CWLI Legacy Center provides affordable options for women at all career levels,” she adds.

Shumpert also believes COVID-19 is bringing about a shift in flexible work environments.

“The need for a permanent downtown space might be reduced as parents advocate for a more blended approach to work and home,” she says.

“While remote working might become more popular, the need for a space to conduct meetings and serve as a base camp downtown remains. We hope to respond to this cultural shift by offering an agile space that caters to this predominantly female aspect of working.”

Included will be a Chamber-owned conference center where CWLI will be able to conduct more than 40 educational programs a year.

“We want to lean into our mission to serve as a true institute for women, providing evidence-based data, resources and curriculum that elevates women,” Johnson says.

The project is named after the CWLI Legacy Members who made an initial investment in the concept more than a year ago. The organization expects to launch this spring.

Corporate partners that have supported the project include BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, First Horizon Bank and the Trust Company.

Presales will begin soon. Information: cwli.org/elevate-the-7-legacy-center or Kim Shumpert at kim@cwli.org.

Source: Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute