WEL alumnae at our inaugural Summit in D.C (April 2022). Photographed by Clay Williams.

Applications are now closed for the 2022 and 2023 WEL Cohorts.

Get updates on the program, application deadlines, and related events by signing up for our Industry Support Newsletter.

A maximum of 20 applicants will be selected for each cohort. A committee consisting of industry leaders, WEL alumnae, and James Beard Foundation staff will review all applications. All applicants will be notified by end of July.

2022 Fall Cohort  

The program will be held virtually every Monday from 2 to 4 P.M. ET starting on September 12, 2022 and concluding on December 5, 2022. Live classes will not take place on October 10, November 21, and November 28. 

2023 Winter Cohort  
The program will be held virtually every Monday from 2 to 4 P.M. ET starting on January 23, 2023 and concluding on April 3, 2023. Live classes will not take place on February 20. 


The Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) flagship program is an advanced educational, training, and networking program for business owners in all areas of the hospitality industry. Each cohort is comprised of 20 participants. WEL alumnae form a strong and broad community, with regular opportunities to connect with each other and the Foundation. 

The ten-week program, created in conjunction with Cornell University, includes sessions on leadership, negotiating, strategy, business and financial models, funding your businesses, measuring success, and more. View a sample curriculum here. In addition to live virtual sessions led by Cornell faculty from across the university, industry professionals, and other subject matter experts, WEL participants are able to select an elective from Cornell’s External Education program.   

Cornell University, one of the original members the Ivy League, is recognized as one of the world’s leading academic institutions. Through our partnership, the WEL program taps into the broad network of Cornell University faculty across the schools including the Hotel School, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell Tech, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Industrial Labor Relations, Engineering and Computer Science. 

The program is targeted to women owners of one or more restaurants or food businesses looking to expand and grow. The curriculum will address advanced business and finance concepts while also providing gender-specific training and leadership development.  


To qualify for WEL, you must be: 
  • 21 years of age or older 

  • A woman or nonbinary individual 

  • A current owner or co-owner of one or more food, beverage, or related businesses in the United States, with a strong desire to learn, network, and grow your business 

  • Interested in an intensive entrepreneurial management program that also provides training and leadership development 

  • Committed to attending each virtual session 

  • Committed to filling out follow-up surveys immediately upon completion of the program, then 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years post-program, as well as yearly check-ins  

Learn more about the alumnae of WEL through our directory of alumnae.  


For more information about the Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, please email womensleadership@jamesbeard.org.  
For those interested in learning more about WEL and the application, as well as other James Beard Foundation Women Leadership Programs sign up for our Industry Newsletter



Success of WEL

  • 47% of WEL alumnae pursued new funding after completing the program and 71% reported success in raising funding for their businesses [raising a total of $10.5M].
  • 86% of WEL alumnae have increased staff pay, with 70% adding new benefits including health care and training.
  • 65% of alumnae reported that through WEL they gained experience and skills to articulate goals and values and 60% reported gaining the skills to create long term business plans. 
“The tools and network we created at WEL gave me an incredible push to pivot and overcome so many obstacles we faced during the COVID-19 pandemic closures.” 
“WEL boosted my confidence and opened my eyes to the struggles and management strategies we were all facing! [I] felt it gave me the tools to become a better leader in my community and in my industry. It also reminded me of my value and purpose.”   
“The connections with our group were some of the biggest assets. The education was fantastic, but the ongoing support of our group is incredible."  
This program was initiated by JBF supporter, Jodie W. McLean, CEO of EDENS, one of the nation’s leading private retail real estate companies.