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Polk County organizations helping underrepresented entrepreneurs sustain their business

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Posted at 7:14 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 19:14:05-05

LAKELAND, Fla. — In just a matter of days, Dr. Sallie Stone’s business resource center, The Well, will have its grand opening.

“We have four private offices that we are able to rent out,” said Dr. Sallie Stone, founder and CEO of The Well.

Located in one of Lakeland's most underserved communities, The Well will help entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses, with an emphasis on businesses owned by underrepresented groups.

“Whether they are women, whether they are veterans, individuals with a disability,” Stone said.

As a Black woman, Stone is part of the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the country. The number of businesses owned by Black women grew 50% from 2014 to 2019.

“It’s moving, it’s empowering. It helps us understand our own strength and that we shouldn’t be limited in anything that we do,” said Lisa Watkins with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Polk County Chapter.

Despite the boom in Black businesses, there are still inequities in access to resources that sustain a business.

“The hurdles and the barriers are often time so overwhelming that it may cause someone to say, it’s not worth it,” Stone said.

Monday the Polk County chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women hosted a panel of entrepreneurs who offered insights on establishing and sustaining a business.

“One of my favorite quotes is Shirley Chisholm who said, ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring your own chair,” Stone said.