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'The 3rd' creates growing community for women of color entrepreneurs

Posted at 7:13 AM, Jul 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-26 07:13:57-04

COLUMBIA — Renowned sociologist, Ray Oldenburg, has stood by a theory going back to the 1980's.

It's an idea that as people we need three spaces in life.

As a long-time educator, Laura Bacon became a student of this theory. She's got it down to a science.

"Home, work and then a third place where you spend time with like-minded people, there are low barriers to entry, like a barbershop or a knitting circle," Bacon said.

Bacon believes most of us spend majority of our time at home and work, but leave little room for that third space; especially for women of color trying to navigate the world of entrepreneurship.

She would dedicate the next four years to a passion project where she could create that place and now "The 3rd" Community Co-Working and Cafe is up and running at the Columbia waterfront. Bacon believes being a woman in business for herself has helped her connect with other like-minded women.

"What’s beautiful about me being an entrepreneur as well is that we’re all on this journey together, so we all relate to each other and how wild and beautiful and brilliant scary and terrifying this journey is," Bacon said.
 
She knew there was a demand, but like entrepreneurship, getting started had its ups and downs.

"It’s hard to do something new when there’s no playbook," Bacon said.

She always thought there was a need, but when she opened her space, the immediate response from the community confirmed it.

"So we planned for about 25 women the first month and the first month we had 50," she laughed.

In July of 2023, The 3rd was officially home to at least 200 members.

Rashida George, one of the first members, spoke on what motivated her to join.

"It’s just great to have a space where you feel welcome and you know that you have support," George said.

"I’m most proud of the look on people’s faces when they come into this space or when they talk about their membership and how they don’t feel alone anymore," Bacon said.

There's a common word people use to describe the co-working space.

"It’s a vibe," George said with a smile.

"It’s a vibe ya’ll, it really is," Bacon laughed. "I mean you walk in and it’s just it’s like your shoulders drop. You realize you have a home away from home, you have a place to be you have a place to be seen."

The 3rd's Culinary manager, Chef Jamila Wright, agreed with those sentiments and had even more to add when talking about the atmosphere.

"[It's] the community, she said. "We all try really hard to make this an inviting space, for us to just be. It’s a safe space."

Wright has been a key ingredient to the third’s recipe since the beginning. When Laura asked her to come onboard in the early days, she didn’t hesitate. She knew what The 3rd had the potential to be.

"Hope and growth," Wright said when asked what the space means to her. "There’s not a lot of spaces for us to go and exist and be and this is the place for that."

As the space has grown more popular in Howard County, The 3rd has become a draw for events, not just for women of color, but for many more.

"While we use our membership exclusively for women of color entrepreneurs, the space is intentionally open to the entire community, because we cannot make this beautiful forward movement around economic growth for women of color entrepreneurs without the involvement of the entire community."

However, to serve more people in the community, the nonprofit needs more support.

"We’re letting other stakeholders in the county know, now is the time we need to be making sure that everyone in this community is served," Bacon said.

For more on how to donate or become a member of The 3rd click HERE.