Chagrin Falls native Wendy Diamond is used to changing lives. Thanks to her advocacy work as the founder of Animal Fair Media, Diamond has helped to boost pet adoption nationwide—literally saving the lives of shelter dogs and cats. But after a trip to Honduras in 2013, she turned her attention to helping human lives by launching Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, which will make its Cleveland debut on November 12.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) brings together business leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs for a leadership conference that highlights and celebrates how empowering women to start businesses can help communities. But it’s more than just a day—Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is a movement.
“It’s about bringing awareness and educating the world on why we need to look at these issues facing women in business,” explains Diamond.
She would know: Diamond has seen those issues and all the reasons it’s important to promote women business owners firsthand. In Honduras, Diamond volunteered for the Adelante Foundation, which gives out microloans to impoverished women. The women take the loans to start small businesses, using the proceeds to send children to school or to otherwise invest in their families and the community.
“I learned all these statistics about women in business,” Diamond says. “I didn’t realize that when women earn these microloans, they pay them back at a 98 percent rate. I didn’t realize that 90 percent of the money goes to provide for their families. I ended up meeting women who had received these microloans, and I saw the impact they were having on the community.”
Upon her return home to New York, Diamond rallied the governor and mayor to officially proclaim November 19 as Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and recruited her network of friends and associates to help start events to empower women in business. Today, more than 145 countries celebrate WED, with a flagship event taking place this month at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
Helmed by Prosper for Purpose, the upcoming Cleveland event will include speakers from local businesses (like Saucisson's Melissa Khoury and Banyan Tree's Christie Murdoch), networking opportunities, "World Cafe"-style roundtable discussions about women's issues. The event will conclude with the presentation of Pioneer Awards which honor distinguished women who are leaders and innovators. The inaugural Cleveland Pioneer Award recipients are Renée Deluca Dolan, Melanie GiaMaria, and Renee Jones.
Diamond hopes that the event will be as successful as those in other cities—a catalyst to inspire, elevate women, and build communities: “I would only hope more women realize that they can do whatever they want to do, that they can be entrepreneurs, network, and have these opportunities to meet other women...and to find mentors to help grow their businesses.”