WREN began in 1994, with an ambitious plan to create an 8-month training and support program to assist 12 very low-income women in achieving their dreams of business ownership. By the spring of 1995, these WREN pioneers were operating their own enterprises. Encouraged by the positive results from this pilot project, we began building what we today refer to as the ‘WREN Community’.
Twenty years later, WREN is a membership-driven organization with nearly 1400 members, men and women living in New England and beyond, who benefit from and support WREN’s many initiatives and resources, including Local Works, our retail store featuring the products of nearly 300 vendors, the Gallery at WREN, the Local Works Farmers Market and Outdoor Marketplace, our WINGS program for girls and boys 8-14, our incubator office program and our public access technology center. Members work on their businesses and projects while learning new, creative skills through workshops, mentorship, networking, events and a peer-learning environment. A non-profit member driven community space in Bethlehem and Berlin for makers, artists, tinkerers, producers, entrepreneurs and DIY’ers to inspire, create, and connect. Over the past 20 years, we have assisted more than 1850 business owners.
Nearly half of our members currently operate their own businesses. WREN inspires possibilities, creates opportunities and builds connections through community. Our work connects people with one another, provides access to resources many couldn’t afford on their own, offers learning opportunities including entrepreneurial business training and technical assistance, creates and supports markets for entrepreneurs, actively engages in Bethlehem’s revitalization, and serves a national model for rural economic and community development.