ROCHESTER, N.Y. — During this Women's History Month, there are new efforts locally to set women up for success.

Mindfulness is Alexis Russell’s business.

“Understanding your values, and who you are, and what you stand for, and these story cards I’m stocking right now help you do that," said Russell.

She lost her job at the beginning of the pandemic and started Inspiring Experiences to help others find their story through their product line, art and workshops.

“It was honestly never something I wanted to do, but I saw a gap I needed to fill at home and in this mindfulness industry, owning your power, sharing your story," Russell said.

Her gallery features art from local artists like Narionna Nunez, a representation of “self.”

“Giving them another platform to share their art, but also to share a piece of who they are,” said Russell.

However, there are a lot of barriers to starting a business and it wasn’t easy.

“There are so many resources out there and not knowing which ones are right for you, the access to them, not having the background — for me, I’m not a business major," Russell said.

That’s why she’s happy the Urban League has launched the Rochester Women’s Business Center, which aims to provide those resources.

“It will be a site for education, kind of like a computer lab," said Khara Grant, director of the Rochester Women's Business Center. "I like to think of it as, once it’s done, a feminine Starbucks vibe. Where you can walk into Starbucks, meet with other people, network with other people doing work too, but then also prepare for a meeting or get some counseling.”

Grant says the center is about leveraging local connections to be a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs.

“Any woman can come in, whatever you need, the Rochester Business Center will do," Grant said. "If you need help starting your business, if you need a business plan, if you need help getting a grant written or grant funding, what we’ll do is find a local business that actually specializes in grant funding or specializes in website building.”

And despite the name, anyone is welcome.  

“It’s female entrepreneurs we focus on, but, of course, we’re not going to turn down any men," said Grant. "If you’re starting a business, if I can’t help you, then I’m happy to pass you over to my colleagues within the Urban League who would be able to help the men for sure.”

Alexis says she feels like her business has grown more in the last three months than the past two years, all thanks to Khara and the center.

“When I met Khara here at the business center, it was like a lightbulb went off," Russell said. "And I was like this is the support I need, this is what I’ve been looking for. It’s really been a great resource for me.”

She hopes others take advantage of the center — women helping women.  

“Community is key," said Russell. "So being able to network with other women entrepreneurs, even to just learn about the resources not so readily available like we need them to be, having that here right in the center of the city is so valuable and so helpful.”

To learn more abut the Women's Business Center, including how to join, click here.