The Chatter

Two Local Business Owners Help Moms Gain Start-Up Experience

“Moms As Entrepreneurs” academy comes to Open Works.

Four years ago, Tammira Lucas, a business consultant and founder of co-working space The Cube, and Scrub Nail Boutique owner Jasmine Simms were total strangers on very similar paths. Both were mothers of young daughters trying to run successful businesses. After realizing their common interest, they began brainstorming ways to help other moms thrive. 

“Originally, I thought that we should do something for all women,” Simms said. “But Tammira really stressed the point that there’s nothing really out there specific to moms.” 

Moms As Entrepreneurs (MAE, pronounced mah) initially began as a podcast and vlog about the particular struggles of being a mom and business owner. The pair would share tools and resources to guide other moms to unlocking their entrepreneurial itch.

Even with their best intentions, the podcast had a minimal following and didn’t reach the number of people they intended. It wasn’t until after speaking at a Women’s Conference at Morgan State University in 2014 about their experiences that other moms were ready to listen to what they had to say. 

“We had so many moms approaching us like, ‘What’s next?’” Lucas recalled. “We scratched the surface at that conference and people wanted to dive deeper into learning how to be successful while still being a great mom, because being a mom in this industry is a totally different experience.”

After two years of planning and hearing “no that won’t work” numerous times, in the spring of 2016, MAE was able to give the people what they wanted by creating an 8-week long academy that offered the blueprint to balancing life, a business, and being a mom. For $149, participants are provided on-site childcare, mentorship, and guidance from local professionals that assist with building business models. Each biannual session accepts 10 women, and since the first academy, MAE has been able to set 36 women on the path to owning a business. The next session begins on April 2 with a fully booked cohort.

“We know that each person who comes isn’t going to build a million-dollar business,” Lucas said. “But what they’ve been able to do is add to their financial situation and are now able to sustain that.”

In addition to the original academy at The Cube, MAE has partnered with the makerspace Open Works, the Kauffman Foundation, and Keisha Ransome of Baltimore Etsy Sellers, to expand their programming to include a 16-week long Moms Maker’s Academy that began on March 5. The new workshop is free and specifically for women who want to manufacture a product for sale. 

“This new partnership will help us to help more women,” Simms said. “We are able to connect to them on the same level to say, ‘This is how you do it, it’s not easy but it’s possible.’”

While Lucas and Simms teach the business side of things, Open Works is training the women to use the machinery to create their products, and the reps from Etsy will teach the moms the art of selling. Topics include business models, customer identification, patent insurance, accounting and finance, marketing, and social media.

“We take them from the planning stages to actually launching their business,” Simms said. “We make sure we provide them with all the resources they will need to be successful.”

At the end of each program, participants will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas and/or products to a panel of local makers and investors in a Shark Tank-style expo at Open Works. Two moms from each group will be awarded seed funding to launch their business.

MAE’s humble beginnings have not stopped its founders from pushing to help increase opportunities for mothers in Baltimore. Lucas recently took a trip to Washington D.C. with the Kauffman Foundation to lobby for more funding for entrepreneurship in Baltimore. Next fall, she and Simms plan to add an online version of the workshop due to the increased interest in the program.

“There were a lot of times Jasmine and I didn’t ask for any money—just support,” Lucas said. “And we want to be able to provide that kind of support system to other women.”