A high tide raises all ships, and one Tyler organization is looking to create a sea of change for women in business.
Embark Women Co-Founder Crystal Bryce said the organization is looking to crowd-source support and information for women in the professional and entrepreneur world of East Texas.
Bryce said when she moved to Tyler she quickly found that if she were to succeed, she was going to need to make connections. She said the reality for women in business is that being skilled isn’t enough. You need to establish relationships in the community. For towns the size of Tyler, those relationships are even more important.
As Bryce navigated this new environment, she said she was lucky to find a mentor.
“It started for kind of selfish reasons. I had a mentor and she helped me so much,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Why am I the only woman who has access to this?’”
There were other organizations for women in the area, each with their own niche, but Bryce wanted to create a network specifically for mentoring and growth.
In 2017, Bryce, Sreenidhi Narayanan and Ruthie Blair created Embark Women as a nonprofit dedicated to breaking down barriers and building community among professional and entrepreneurial women.
Because women face unique challenges in the workplace, they need mentors who have lived those experiences. Embark is providing that for women in high school, college and the professional world.
UT Tyler student Nichole Gaston is a mentee now, but she wants to take the lessons she’s learning from the women in the group and apply them to a career helping small businesses grow.
“It’s been a very eye opening experience,” Gaston said. “I’m hoping to get more involved and help it grow.”
Gaston said the most impactful lesson she learned from the group is that each has faced challenges, but kept moving forward. If she could offer other women advice, it would be to learn through immersion.
“Basically throw yourself in, it’s kind of like learning a new language, the immersion is the best way to learn,” she said. “Just keep going. Even when you get inside your head and are pushing yourself down.”
The organization is working to connect women of all ages and help them grow.
In February, All Saints Episcopal student Aydan Erkin was filming a promo for an upcoming fireside chat with local entrepreneur Lara Eastburn.
A few weeks later, more than a dozen women from all walks of life sat down to chat with Eastburn at WorkHub in Tyler.
They discussed everything from crazy workplace stories to ways to better market their businesses. They also got frank about some of the low points of being a woman in professional settings.
“We love to have a conversation and keep it organic,” Bryce said of the fireside chats. “We look for speakers who are gritty and willing to talk about the real life of women in business.”
In less than two years, the group’s presence has grown exponentially. More than 600 women are involved in a group on Facebook, and Bryce hopes to bring organizational membership up to 300 over the next year.
Narayanan recently launched the organization’s first satellite group in St. Louis, where she has since moved for work.
Bryce said they hope to use Tyler, and then St. Louis, as a model to grow chapters of Embark in mid-size cities.
“I can look back and see a good amount of change,” she said. “It only takes critical mass, you just have to reach the tipping point.”