As the executive director of an organization working to increase entrepreneurship in inner-city communities, Oye Waddell sees many obstacles – as well as assets – for hungry entrepreneurs.
One issue is childcare.
“One of the issues we’ve seen in the past is that many women would like to come to the training and want to develop, but they don’t have access to childcare,” said Waddell, who runs Hustle PHX, which works in areas with high-unemployment rates and minority communities. “If their kids are out of school, they’re usually at home. The husbands are working or if they are single, sometimes they don’t have that support to be able to come and develop and learn and grow.”
So the organization applied for grant funding through Arizona State University to offer childcare at one of its sites. Hustle PHX currently has five sites, with about 20 people entrepreneurs at each site learning about the ideation phase of their business venture.
Hustle PHX hopes to expand the childcare program to more sites in the fall. About 12 women are currently utilizing the childcare option currently.
“There are a lot of women that want to engage in business and they have great ideas, but a lot of times, sometimes with entrepreneurship … you don’t see as many women as you see men, essentially,” he said. “So, I think in order to encourage that, we need to open up opportunities for women through giving access to childcare. I think that access to childcare will just eliminate a huge barrier with women who want to learn and grow in entrepreneurship.”
The Kauffman Foundation funded Arizona State University: E + I program as part of the Kauffman Inclusion Challenge, according to Chris Harris, senior program officer at the foundation.
“We have heard from a number of entrepreneurs that childcare is one of several important factors they must consider when starting a business,” Harris said. “They have said that it is often difficult to balance the intense demands of starting and growing a venture while raising children.”
By offering child-care services, Harris said, some support programs would make it easier for entrepreneurs to use their space and resources to work on their venture. A similar program is being funded in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “That program found that not only have women entrepreneurs responded very favorable, but they are also better able to support family businesses of all types.”
Childcare is not the only obstacle that women entrepreneurs face. They also must overcome other barriers as well, which can include access to capital, bias, access to mentors and networks and the need for supportive startup and corporate cultures, Harris said.
“It’s important that people understand how critical this work is to future entrepreneurial and economic growth in this country,” he said. “We can’t afford to continue supporting a select group of individuals at the expense of others. Rather, we need to recognize that it is a fundamental right that all people are able to pursue entrepreneurship without artificial barriers.”