When Betsy Blancett Nacrelli wove the words, “When women support each other, incredible things can happen,” into her business plan for Collections by Joya in 2016, little did she know that they would be the cornerstone not only for her successful small business, but also for the lauded women’s collaborative workspace, MPWR, and its soon-to-be sister space, MPWR Catalyst.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a small business owner who gave back to women’s causes,” says Blancett Nacrelli. “So Joya has always donated proceeds to women’s charities around the world and has also worked with women artisans. But did I see that I would have a collaborative workspace in my future? Absolutely not… but I love that it has turned into that. It’s definitely been a silver lining of the last couple of years.”
It all started with a stunning space.
“We had this amazing space next door to our Joya headquarters on Locust in the Midtown neighborhood, and I would have friends of mine in business, women that we were collaborating with on different initiatives, and they would come through the space and say, ‘Oh, wow, this is beautiful — I wish I could operate my business out of a place like this, but I don’t need that much space,’” recalls Blancett Nacrelli. “The more I thought about it and the more times that I heard that need, I thought, ‘Maybe we’re sitting on a potential collaborative workspace.’”
So in May 2021, Blancett Nacrelli launched MPWR, and it entirely exceeded her expectations.
“MPWR took on so much meaning and became more of a resource than I had even initially imagined,” says Blancett Nacrelli. “In addition to having the space itself to come to — which is a very warm, cozy, artistic, creative environment — we offer resources to our members to really help them springboard their business to the next level.”
Blancett Nacrelli leaned on her experience in launching Joya to come up with the resources that would be most helpful for other women looking to grow their businesses.
“I took a look at all the challenging things that I couldn’t afford, things that I needed support with,” says Blancett Nacrelli. “Things like photography, mentoring and consulting on everything from legal to accounting matters. So we offer those resources for business owners, as well, so that we’re really creating an atmosphere of sharing and learning and really building each other up.”
For MPWR member Krescant Sims-Wooten, who founded her activewear brand Krescant Marie in June 2020, that atmosphere has been a powerful influence.
“I really credit what Betsy has created as helping me take the business to another level even quicker than I really imagined I would have been able to on my own,” says Sims-Wooten. “I’m just super grateful because it was this room full of really inspiring, welcoming women, and I just felt so comfortable.
“There was something about being in this space knowing that these women, including Betsy, have been in my same situation before. They have been where I am and have gone where I’m trying to go, so they already know what I’m going through and what I’m experiencing. Having a community and having that network has made a world of difference with my brand and with my business on a daily basis.”
“When we decided to launch MPWR, we were still in the middle of a pandemic and part of me was like, ‘Am I crazy for doing this?’” says Blancett Nacrelli. “And I just hope women understand what we’re trying to accomplish here. It has blown my mind how needed this is, and what an itch it is that we’re scratching.
“It’s our members who have taken it to the next level for me, beyond what we originally even set out to do. And when I started seeing the reaction and the opportunities, it was just so fulfilling and exciting that I was like, ‘We’ve got to chase this because there’s a major hole in St. Louis that we’re filling.’ I was thinking we would have maybe five or six office members. It’s been incredible.”
She believes that a supportive community is a key component to a woman’s success.
“I think it’s really important because as women in business, the odds are really stacked against us,” says Blancett Nacrelli. “There’s a statistic that’s always stuck in my mind: ‘Only 4 percent of women-owned businesses reached the million dollar annual revenue mark.’ And that is just not acceptable. We need to have more women in positions of owning and growing and scaling these businesses.”
The most glaring challenge, though, to Blancett Nacrelli is the statistic released by Bloomberg that only 2 percent of venture capital in the United States went toward women-owned businesses in 2021.
“It’s pretty obvious to me that there’s a direct correlation between those numbers, meaning that women aren’t capable of scaling their business because they don’t have access to the capital to do so,” says Blancett Nacrelli. “So we’re really trying to address that need on, first, a local level and then a national level.”
This is exactly where MPWR Catalyst will come in when it launches later in 2022.
“Catalyst is specifically for the brands and the businesses who want to scale their business and we believe can scale their business,” says Blancett Nacrelli. “So in most cases it will be direct to consumer brands because we’ll be offering production space, fulfillment space, shipping space.”
Blanchett Nacrelli also plans to link MPWR Catalyst to the MPWR Fund.
“The MPWR Fund, which is going to be the first of its kind in St. Louis, potentially the country, where we’re targeting all female investors, investing in all female-owned brands,” says Blancett Nacrelli. “We’re going to be launching the fund to really address those things and to invest in some of the women-owned brands that we’ve identified who have the potential to scale at a rapid pace if they just had a little bit of capital at their disposal.”
For Blancett Nacrelli, this brings her right back to the beginning of her original business plan for Joya.
“I just believe that the more we can support one another, and the more that we can learn from each other, the more success we’re going to have as a whole,” says Blancett Nacrelli. “I feel a responsibility to the women that we give back to at Joya, but also to the women here in St. Louis.
“St. Louis is an amazing town with amazing, incredible talent. And when we opened the doors to MPWR I thought I was pretty embedded in the small business community here in St. Louis through Joya, but I met so many incredible women-owned businesses who are doing amazing work here and amazing artists and so we really need to showcase that. We are sitting on a gold mine here, and we need to make our own way and make it happen.”