Domestic violence victims are tapping into a program designed to connect them to entrepreneurship opportunities.
The Verizon “Pathways to Independence” (PTI) Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Program focuses on enhancing participants’ workforce readiness skills, and providing entrepreneurial training for those women planning to launch their own business.
During a Women’s Power luncheon held at The Enterprise Center, program participants heard an inspiring message by Uneeka Jay, vice president at Cardio Net and founder of Powerful U Media Group.
Jay overcame growing up in poverty, the trauma of being molested as a child, becoming a teenage mother and experiencing an emotionally abusive relationship to become a sought-after businesswoman. She didn’t let the lack of having a college degree deter her from pursuing a corporate career and ultimately launching her own business. Jay encouraged program participants to aggressively pursue their goals.
“There’s nothing holding you back but you. There’s nothing keeping you from being excellent, but you,” Jay told program participants.
“You have to think about what it is you want and you chase that thing down like it stole something.”
The death of Jay’s mother represented a pivotal point in her life. As she closed the lid on her mother’s casket, she realized that her mother had never accomplished what she said she was going to do.
“I made a vow at that moment that I would do everything that I thought I could do when I could do it, without waiting,” said Jay.
She vowed that she would become successful and leave a legacy for her children.
The women in the audience also heard from Michelle Lawrence, senior vice president of community banking, Wells Fargo, who spoke about the importance of saving money and setting financial priorities.
Launched in 2011, PTI is funded by a $100,000 grant from Verizon Wireless and the Verizon Foundation in conjunction with The Enterprise Center and Women Against Abuse (WAA), one of the largest domestic violence programs in Pennsylvania, and the only shelter in Philadelphia that specifically serves victims of domestic violence.
Each program cycle includes a small group of candidates identified by WAA as aspiring entrepreneurs. To date, 14 women have graduated from the program. Topics such as public speaking, professionalism and networking are covered during the eight-week program.
“The goal of the program is to increase confidence among women and get them to a place where the see themselves as someone that deserves to be able open a business, someone who deserves to pursue a full time job — whatever their goal is,” says Aleea Slappy, program manager at The Enterprise Center.
“We want to get them in the mindset that you can use entrepreneurship as a vehicle for anything that you are trying to do.”
Jeanine, a “Pathways to Independence” graduate, used her experience to launch a jewelry line that is currently carried in two local boutiques. Her jewelry serves as a representation of her life’s experiences.
“Out of something that was really negative, something really beautiful came out of it,” she says of her line.
For Monique Williams, participating in the PTI program has bolstered her confidence. She’s one of eight women who will graduate from PTI on August 28. Williams aspires to open a group home in Philadelphia.
Since she joined PTI, Williams has experienced personal growth. She’s taken steps to start saving money and has enrolled in an online medical administrative course.
“It helps women to build their confidence. I was depending on my spouse, so I feel like I’m more independent,” says Williams.
“I’m taking baby steps towards my education, so I can do what I need to do to open up my group home,” she added.
The event served as an opportunity for program participants to gain insight from established business women in the Philadelphia region and network with their peers.
Verizon Wireless has been supporting domestic violence survivors and organizations through its HopeLine program. Through HopeLine, Verizon Wireless collects, refurbishes and recycles old cell phones and accessories and uses the proceeds to provide funding to domestic violence organizations and survivors.