YW Enterprise Program Helps Women Out of Poverty by Giving Them the Power

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Arlene Young stands in front of the crowd. She’s wearing a navy blazer and black trousers. A bright peacock broach rests on her lapel. Cameras flash around her, and a bright light shines on her perfectly coiffed hair. She begins explaining her company, Total Image Beauty Services, which she started 25 years ago when her husband, who works in the health industry, came home and told her the patients he sees needed some uplifting. A hairstylist, Young decided to take her services to them. She found that the simple pleasure of freshly cut hair makes a world of difference to people who couldn’t get out of bed. “It makes them feel like they’re part of making a decision to feel better,” she says.

“I don’t have a degree. I just have a passion,” says Arlene Young.

Young, a seasoned business-owner, recently finished the YW Women’s Enterprise program. As part of the program, she and three other women were invited to address a crowd made up of Communities Foundation of Texas’ president and CEO Brent Christopher, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ senior vice president Alfreda Norma, Dallas Morning News business writer Cheryl Hall, and many other board members and friends of the YW. The women went through their business plans, and talked about their short- and long-term goals. For Young, her short-term goal is to create a brand that hospitals and rehab operations are comfortable with so they’ll recommend her services. Her long-term goal is two-fold: 1. create a manual so others can provide similar mobile services; and 2. expand her brand nationwide.

At the end of her four-minute speech, Young asks the crowd: “Who do you know that’s in the hospital or homebound? Instead of sending them flowers or candy, send them a Total Image Beauty treatment. You will be their hero. And our services will bring them a lasting impression.”

“What I really like about it is you’re taking someone who’s really struggling day to day, and you’re figuring out how to change her life,” Jennifer Ware, CEO of the YW, says.

The person at the front of the room cheering along Young and the other business owners is Jennifer Ware, CEO of the YW. For Ware, the YW Women’s Enterprise Center’s showcase had been a long time coming. She was at an event at the Federal Reserve Bank a couple years ago, and the discussion was about how micro-businesses can raise women out of poverty. But, the presenter said, the tools—the knowledge for how to start a business—have to be delivered by an organization that the women trust and that understands their issues. Several of the people at the table turned to Ware. She knew what her next program was.

In February of 2015, the program launched. It requires an application, and if selected, the women then go through a 10-week course about entrepreneurship that requires a total of 60 hours. During the course, the women are taught how to develop a business model. Then they’re coached on how to pitch their ideas. They meet biweekly with peers to talk through these ideas. They’re given expert legal and marketing support. And they have access to capital. The program just wrapped its sixth cohort.

“What I really like about it is you’re taking someone who’s really struggling day to day, and you’re figuring out how to change her life,” Ware says. “Take her life, and fulfill her dreams. It’s also successful because they can’t find this anyplace else. It’s not being duplicated. I think this program really fits a niche.”

Arlene Young pitches her business, Total Image Beauty Services. Photo by Jason Janick.

Arlene Young pitches her business, Total Image Beauty Services. Photo by Jason Janick.

For Young, the program has made all the difference. Though she’s been operating a salon for more than 20 years, she didn’t have a business plan for her mobile idea. “I don’t have a degree,” she says. “I just have a passion. I needed someone to give me some structure; show me how to set those goals and how to start achieving the short-term and long-term goals. I really feel that the Women’s Enterprise Center has given me the structure that I need to move forward.”


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