ASSETS' Chelsea Christmas on Equitable Business Solutions for Entrepreneurs
Owner of At Her Core Fitness, and winner of the 2021 Great Social Enterprise Pitch, Chelsea Christmas is no stranger to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lancaster County. Chelsea launched her business with a mission to empower women of color and has built a network of allies in the process. As a participant in ASSETS’ programming, she learned how to refine her business model and own her business concept. Chelsea is now inspiring our community to reimagine a diverse and equitable business ecosystem in her new role as Community Engagement Coordinator with ASSETS.
Lancaster City Alliance recently sat down with Chelsea to discuss her new role at ASSETS and learn how she is providing equitable business solutions for entrepreneurs.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Could you describe your new role at ASSETS?
A: In my role, I meet with entrepreneurs and small business owners to identify their business needs and connect them to available resources. Because the business landscape is ever evolving, I’ve found that entrepreneurs need help accessing resources and finding community. I’ve found that some rely on Google searches to find information. My role is to serve as their first point of contact and to help streamline the available information and processes. I also help clients navigate the local business services ecosystem. This work is special to me because of my grandma’s experience as a business owner. She started a restaurant called Nelly’s Place; a Puerto Rican owned business located on W. Vine Street in Lancaster. Nelly’s Place was only open for a year, but her experience instilled a sense of entrepreneurial spirit in my family.
Q: What has been your favorite part of your job so far?
A: My one-on-one discovery meetings with potential clients. I’m really excited to see these meetings pop up on my calendar. I enjoy learning about new business ideas, which are often very creative. Meeting in-person allows opportunities for more questions and openness. Creating a welcoming environment is important to me.
Q: What is the greatest challenge facing the entrepreneurs that you’ve worked with?
A: A lack of access to resources and funding, specifically for BIPOC and women entrepreneurs. I feel like there has been an increase in BIPOC entrepreneurs, but what can we do to ensure that their businesses thrive? I believe we need to create equitable solutions that are accessible for everyone.
I also see a need for funding availability for established business owners, who are looking to take their businesses the next level. ASSETS has several loan products, one of which does not require a credit score. We also provide additional guidance on how to build credit, such as offering financial workshops.
Q: Share with me some ways that you think Lancaster cultivates entrepreneurs.
A: Lancaster has many opportunities to cultivate entrepreneurs. I can share my first-hand experience on this. In 2021, I participated in The Great Social Enterprise Pitch. Not only did this experience provide my business with great exposure, working with ASSETS also provided me with valuable guidance on how to grow my business idea. I started my business as a passion. ASSETS provided a framework to turn this into a full business plan. Through this process, I was able to focus my business plan, and most importantly I gained the confidence to own my business mission to serve women of color.
Q: What goals do you have for your role in 2023?
A: I want to continue taking root in my new role. Since starting in November, I have gained a lot of valuable knowledge from meeting with resource providers and applying their information to this position. As I continue to develop in this role, I look forward to meeting with new entrepreneurs. Likewise, they are excited to know that I am now their main point of contact at ASSETS. I want to continue creating opportunities and the feeling of belonging for the BIPOC business community. Seeing women of color in these roles is paramount because representation matters.