A first-generation college graduate, Chiquita Wright earned a bachelor's degree in communications and a minor in diversity from the University of Washington in 2018. After college, Chiquita found herself working at a digital marketing company as a customer service adviser. However, she dreamed of doing more.
“In that role, I was working with many clients and couldn’t support them in their business marketing needs to my full potential,” she explains. “I wanted to change that. I wanted to give clients transparency and support I couldn’t provide in that role.”
To start something meaningful and impactful, Chiquita wanted to continue her education and grow her project management and entrepreneurial leadership skills. But the right opportunity hadn’t come along to provide her with the training she desired. That all changed when the UW Professional & Continuing Education monthly newsletter appeared in her inbox.
The email announced the
UW Certificate in Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) was open for applications and gave Chiquita the push she needed to take the plunge and continue her education. “When I got the email for the WEL program, it was like a light went off. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do. This is what's been on my mind,’” she says.
Feeling all the stars were aligned, Chiquita applied to the WEL program. “I was always behind the scenes doing things for other entrepreneurs. I felt it was my time to start something I wanted to build on my own.” she says.
Women Empowering Women
Once accepted into the program, Chiquita was eager to collaborate with the diverse group of women in her cohort and learn how to network and pitch her ideas to investors. In fact, she credits several courses from the WEL program for providing the tools and courage that enabled her to launch her business.
“Part of the coursework was identifying what you wanted to do with your life and how you wanted to move forward,” she says. “It was those conversations on leadership and how to navigate your journey and reading case studies that helped me figure out what was next.”
Chiquita adds she appreciated the program’s instructors didn’t teach straight out of a textbook but instead incorporated real-life experiences and brought in other professionals to consult on financing a business, building policy or pitching investors. “Some of the most important things I learned were building a business canvas, articulating what you're trying to accomplish and establishing the mission and values of your company,” she says.
She notes her instructors also worked to keep her cohort connected as they continued their journeys after graduation, so they could reach out to each other if they needed help in a specific area. It was that level of support from her classmates that Chiquita found particularly inspirational.
“To hear their stories about what they were building and support each other was everlasting,” she says. “The knowledge and empowerment from all the women in the group kept me going.”
In Her Own Words
Chiquita Wright talks about how the WEL program helped her define her business idea “Our PR” and gave her the support she needed to get it launched.
Courage to Branch Out on Her Own
After graduating from the WEL program with her certificate, Chiquita was ready to take on the world. “I left feeling like I could do it. You often complete a program and say, ‘Okay, that was that.’” Explains Chiquita. “This program made me feel like I can go apply for my business license.”
In 2020, she got her license and launched her business — Our PR — a public relations and marketing company dedicated to providing employment and internship opportunities for people of color in Western Washington.
“When I was getting my bachelor's degree, I didn't have the time to intern. I had to get a job because I had a family to support,” Chiquita says. “I want to give students coming into their own the option of having an internship that's flexible, supporting them and allowing them to learn simultaneously.”
Currently, she’s in the developing phases of taking clients and finding investors so she can create opportunities for other small to medium-sized businesses. “It feels great to say that I'm my own boss. It feels great to be building something because it's not just for me. As a parent, everything I do and want for life is to be sure that my kids are okay,” says Chiquita.
“I have recommended the WEL program to many of my friends who are launching their own businesses,” she says. “It's one thing to say, ‘I want to start a business and go out on your own. But it's another thing to say, ‘Hey, I want to start this business, but I want a full army behind me as I do it.’”