Stories / Impact

A Look Back at Our First Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Summit

Our WEL alumnae gathered for a weekend of empowerment

Morgan Carter

May 04, 2022


Image of attendees of the 2022 WEL Summit
Attendees of the 2022 Women's Entrepreneurial Summit. Photo: Clay Williams

Since 2017, the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) program at the James Beard Foundation has provided education, training, and networking for women business owners across the hospitality industry. For the first time, our alumnae gathered to attend the inaugural Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Summit (WEL Summit) in Washington D.C.  

Held on April 10 and April 11, the WEL Summit provided executive learning for women to build and scale their businesses, foster a network, and use their power to change the industry. The program included panels aiming to deepen attendees’ knowledge around topics such as mental health in the workplace, structuring benefits for your business, building your brand, and career longevity. Held at Autoshop at Union Market, an EDENS property, over 70 WEL alumnae from across 30 states gathered to learn from one another on how to grow into their power. Here are a few takeaways from the weekend: 

  • On Mental Health: according to Hassel Aviles of Not 9 to 5, 90% of industry workers said yes to experiencing mental health and/or substance use and challenges. “It’s not some of us, it’s most of us,” she said. However, she noted that more industry professionals are more open to talking about their mental health struggles, helping to break the stigma in the workplace. Additionally, investing in workplace mental health can also benefit your bottom line. According to the World Health Organization, “for every $1 invested in mental healthcare, there’s an estimated return of $4 in improved health and productivity.” To further continue the conversation, Aviles recommended owners to invest in workplace mental health safety certifications to properly assist team members in need. 
  • On Entrepreneurship: founder of the Avant-Garde Network, Adeola Adejobi believes female entrepreneurs must learn to quantify their skills that are often overlooked because of their gender—such as relationship building and community work—to succeed when it comes to wealth building. Another hurdle to tackle is the lack of diversity, both in gender and ethnicity in the investor arena. For things to change, the table needs to be expanded to include a variety of voices, said TT Nguyen Duc of Capital One Ventures: “The hope is [that] as we have more representatives—both at the table and as investors. It will change the pattern of funding.” 
  • On Benefits: Sarah Diehl of Empowered Hospitality reminded business owners that benefits go beyond health insurance. FSA and HSAs, Employee Assistance Program, and wellness stipends are just a few considerations to weigh when creating a benefits package for your staff. Just starting out? Diehl recommended that business owners assess their employees' needs, prioritize based on impacts and cost, and continually adjust along the way.  
  • On Innovative Business Models: chefs and industry professionals who were interviewed for our Open for Good: Compensation, Benefits, and Growth Guide discussed the ways they revamped their business models in this new era of the hospitality industry—from diversifying benefits packages to providing education for both staff and customers. Sandra Cordero of Gasolina Café offers educational training for her staff so they can succeed, not only in her restaurant, but beyond. “Not everyone is going to own their own restaurant, so how do I give a future where you can still work?” she said. 

Click here to learn more about our Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) program. Videos from each of the Summit sessions will be available to the public in our Virtual Education Library by June. 

Applications for the 2022 WEL Cohort will open in June. Sign up for our Industry Support Newsletter here to receive updates about application deadlines, events, and other Programs news.