She Is...Business: Baton Rouge Trio Empowers Female Entrepreneurs to Succeed and Collaborate

June 16, 2023
Amanda McElfresh, The Advocate
Amanda McElfresh, The Advocate
Hancock Whitney
Hancock Whitney

A Baton Rouge business center is helping female entrepreneurs learn how to grow their businesses, earn federal and state certifications, and collaborate with other companies.

The Reimagine Women’s Center Business Resource and Innovation Hub opened about a year and a half ago at 7600 Airline Highway. The location serves as a one-stop shop for business owners to learn more about financing options, legal services, contracts and procurement, disaster preparedness, marketing, and more.

“Women are go-getters and have a can-do attitude. The challenge is in being prepared and having an equal opportunity in business, especially in fields where women have historically not been very prominent,” said Ada Womack-Bell, a co-founder of the center and an advisor with Hancock Whitney’s Small Business Matters program. “This resource center helps connect them with the capital and tools that they need. Once they have the knowledge and skills, we know these women can thrive.”


The center has already yielded positive results for Louisiana businesswomen. Thanks to connections made with the Small Business Administration and financial resources, one woman has been able to grow her spa services business despite the challenges of the pandemic. Another woman who owns a trucking company was able to bid on a federal contract thanks to the education she received at the center. Although the company didn’t receive the primary contract, its bid was so impressive that it became a subcontractor for the project.

“We see a lot of women with start-ups but also women who are already in business and are looking for the resources to scale up and move to the next level,” said Deanna Williams-Smith, co-founder of the center and its advisor for engagement and contracting initiatives. “It’s been especially great to see the collaborations happening among women. That creates capacity for them to go after some larger contracts that one company may not be able to pursue on their own. It really allows everyone to lift each other up and grow together.”

The creation of the Reimagine Women’s Center has also been an exercise in adaptability. Bridget Bryant, the center’s director of operations, has owned the facility since 2020 and originally envisioned it as a daycare. Those plans didn’t come to fruition, but Bryant met Womack-Bell and Williams-Smith in early 2020. They began discussing a concept for a resource center for women and the possibility of using Bryant’s building. Before long, the project was underway.

“Ever since then, things have gone at a fast pace and I’m loving it,” Bryant said. “It’s still my way of helping the community, which is what is most important to me. Successful small businesses can have a huge impact. When people see companies that are growing, I think it inspires them and makes them want to do better for themselves.”

Reimagine Women's Center

Reimagine Women's Center co-founders Ada Womack Bell, Bridget Bryant and Deanna Smith are creating opportunities for female entrepreneurs in Baton Rouge, providing training resources, meeting space and more. 

Hancock Whitney is committed to helping local entrepreneurs succeed, and its “Small Business Matters” program is a key part of that commitment. To continue that work, Hancock Whitney is a supporter of the Reimagine Women’s Center, providing financial guidance and lending expertise.

“Having Hancock Whitney as a supporter is a huge asset. When people see their name attached to us, it gets their attention and makes them look at us a little closer,” Williams-Smith said.  “They are not only a lending institution, but a place for entrepreneurs to gain financial literacy and education. Any time we ask them for something, they are there. I can’t say enough good things about their support.”

Womack-Bell said she is particularly happy to see how Hancock Whitney fits into the larger entrepreneur ecosystem that is being created by the center and its supporters, one that is driven by a spirit of collaboration rather than competition.

“Everyone involved understands that we can help our communities by helping business owners,” she said. “When you build capital and create jobs, that changes the dynamic in neighborhoods. People gravitate to areas where businesses are thriving. We’re excited to see the progress that has been made so far and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”

The leaders of the Reimagine Women’s Center offered these suggestions for female entrepreneurs:


  • Write down business ideas with understanding that it is a living document that can and will change.
  • Take advantage of all available resources to expand your knowledge and skills. 
  • Build relationships and connections. Attend luncheons, business events, panel discussions and more to find people in your industry or who can provide assistance. 
  • Believe in yourself and be persistent. Don't get discouraged or give up, even when things are challenging. 

For more on the Reimagine Women’s Center, call 225-771-2891 or email

The “She Is” campaign is a partnership between Hancock Whitney and The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, The Advocate and The Acadiana Advocate to curate and share stories about women who are thriving – what motivates them, how they motivate others, and how women can continue to drive impact. Visit for more details on Hancock Whitney’s ongoing work with female leaders and to share your own favorite “She Is” story.