For Prosper for Purpose founder and CEO Lorraine Schuchart, a quiet Sunday morning spent scrolling social media and sipping coffee turned into a whole new purpose.
“It was divine intervention that I pulled out my phone,” says Schuchart of that morning back in 2017. “I was reading posts in a private Facebook group for PR [public relations] practitioners, and someone shared a blog post she’d written about running a Women’s Entrepreneurship Day event in Madison, Wisconsin. Having a business focused on social impact, the post really resonated with me.”
The post resonated so much, in fact, that Schuchart reached out to Laura Gallagher, the post’s author, to learn more about Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, known as WED.
What Schuchart learned was that WED is a global movement focused on eradicating poverty and empowering female entrepreneurs—spearheaded by Chagrin Falls native Wendy Diamond. Each November, 144 countries and 110 universities around the world celebrate WED by hosting related events.
Gallagher introduced Schuchart to someone on Diamond's team, who invited Schuchart to attend the international WED event at the United Nations. The goal? To see if Schuchart might want to join their ranks and produce a similar event in Cleveland.
Schuchart enlisted CLE-based independent PR professional Lisa Sands (now publisher of Edible Cleveland) to join her at the 2017 WED event in New York City. “We came away with two realizations: one, this is an amazing event, and two, an event in Cleveland would have to be different,” says Schuchart. “At the New York event, there were stars, athletes, and people from all over the world. To launch this in Cleveland, it would have to feel like Cleveland.”
Schuchart and Sands accomplished just that with the first WED event, held in November 2018 at the Linsalata Alumni Center of Case Western Reserve University. Following a “world café” format, the event featured small group discussions on six topics around gender parity, along with panels featuring Clevelanders like Saucisson’s Melissa Khoury and Banyan Tree Boutique’s Christie Murdoch.
One year later, they’re set to do it all over again.
WED Cleveland 2019 will take place Tuesday, Nov. 19, at smARTspace at 78th Street Studios. Themed “The Art of Entrepreneurship,” the event will feature a keynote speech from Guide Studio founder Rachel Downey; mini-keynotes from five local entrepreneurs, including Paula Hershman of Storehouse Tea, and Angela Flowers of Making a Difference Consulting; Clevelander-led workshops on topics like goal-setting and cultivating community; and more.
WED Cleveland 2018“We think of ourselves as the younger rebel sister to all of the other local women’s leadership conferences, so we wanted an edgy venue to match,” says Schuchart of the move to 78th Street Studios. “We’re hoping to play bigger next year and expand into the venue even more.”
According to Schuchart, the WED Cleveland event is completely volunteer-run by a board of eight Clevelanders, along with Schuchart and her staff at Prosper for Purpose—all of whom do the work pro bono.
The aim of the event dovetails well with Schuchart’s work at Prosper for Purpose, a B-corporation and full-service communications agency that caters to purpose-driven organizations.
“For our pro bono arm [of Prosper for Purpose], we used to consult with nonprofits in a program called '12 Months of Giving,’” shares Schuchart. “Last year, we pivoted and said, ‘Why don’t we focus on the for-profit side and reach women who want to create change within their companies or businesses?’”
Schuchart hopes that WED Cleveland will help its 125-plus attendees accomplish all of that and more.
“When you’re focused on trying to make enough money to make payroll or expand your services, it’s easy to lose sight of wanting to make a difference,” says Schuchart. “We want to empower [attendees] to use their businesses to not only do well and prosper, but elevate and reinvest in their families and the communities around them.”
Women's Entrepreneurship Day Cleveland takes place Tuesday, Nov. 19, at smARTspace at 78th Street Studios. Get more information and buy tickets here.