Center for Independent Living launches free business incubator for women of color

The Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (CIL) has introduced EmpowerYou, a free business incubator program focused on women of color.


Although CIL's programming usually focuses on people with disabilities, the new program is open to women of color with or without disabilities. Funded by a grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, EmpowerYou is designed to help asset-limited and income-constrained women who have entrepreneurial aspirations.


"Starting a small business can really work well around women’s life constraints and other work obligations," says William Purves, CIL’s director of planning and program development.

"For the women we work with, it can be a reasonable way of increasing potential income on their own terms."


The center’s offering is fairly unique from many other business programs for women.


"There are a variety of basics related to starting a business that are often presented, or exist, in one form or another in various places," Purves says. "But through EmpowerYou, (CIL) is really putting all those basic elements and pieces together in a new way."


The first step for women interested in the program involves attending an orientation session that gives a general overview of what it takes to start a business. If participants choose to move forward, they must attend monthly workshops over an eight- to 10-month period.


CIL will also provide ongoing support afterward. The nonprofit is remodeling part of its building so that program participants will have a place to meet with easy access to technology and CIL staff support.


"By the end of their involvement the women will have talked with others in their cohort and worked with mentors and other supportive partners to understand everything they might need to turn their business dream into reality," Purves says.


For more information contact CIL’s business consultant and employment specialist, Cheranissa Roach, at (734) 971-0277 ext. 19 or


Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at


Photos courtesy of CIL.