By Nancy Dahlberg
After more than two years of leading WIN Lab Miami to new heights, Michelle Abbs has joined Mana Tech as its Miami director.
Abbs joined Babson WIN Lab Miami, an accelerator program for women entrepreneurs, as its director in January 2018. Cohort 2 was in progress and she launched a call for Cohort 3 applications soon after. Last month, the community celebrated the graduation of Cohort 4 with a full house.
“I feel proud of the work we were able to do and feel really lucky that I could work alongside so many inspiring female founders, learning from them and being part of their journey,” said Abbs. WIN Lab Miami, modeled after Babson’s Boston program, was launched in 2016 with support of the Knight Foundation and other funders.
While Abbs was director, WIN Lab founders’ average revenue grew 5X, more than twice the growth rate before. The 60 founders she led also raised $6 million in investor financing.
“I am really proud of the impact I was able to have with the founders and ultimately what that means for the economy and our community here in Miami,” she said. That impact included helping founders find a community of local WIN Lab mentors, their fellow founders and WIN Lab alumni they could lean on, even in the times we find ourselves in now amid the coronavirus pandemic, she said. “With resources and support, it set them up to navigate even now, because they have people to lean on for support “
In a letter to stakeholders, Babson WIN Lab Miami thanked Abbs for specific “significant accomplishments” and “for the dedication, passion, enthusiasm, and motivation she has given our community.” Babson said Shakenna Williams, director of SWEL Global Initiatives, will be leading the organization from Boston along with Miami WIN Lab Miami’s Program Manager Cristina Urdaneta.
Williams has not yet responded to a request for comment on whether the program will be hiring a new director for WIN Lab Miami. Abbs was the third director since WIN Lab launched its first cohort in fall of 2016 and completed its cohort fourth in February of 2020. No details have been given about the launch of a fifth Miami cohort.
ABB’S NEXT CHAPTER: MANA TECH
In her new role, Abbs will be Miami director for Mana Tech, which is developing a tech hub for the creative class in downtown Miami led by developer Moishe Mana. Mana Tech is now re-purposing Moishe Mana’s downtown properties, which include 30,000 square feet of 100 E Flagler, known as The Block Building. It plans to deliver another 650,000 square feet of creative class space across 155 S Miami Ave, 777 Flagler, and the Flagler Station projects over the next 12 to 24 months.
“Working for a visionary like Moishe is very exciting and to be on a team with people who are truly so entrepreneurial and have a really big vision about what they want to accomplish is very humbling,” Abbs said, “When they tapped me, it was very important for the Mana team to have someone on the ground in Miami who was very connected to the ecosystem, to all of the organizations already operating here, and making sure that the vision and plan for the Flagler district is connected to everything that is already here in Miami.”
More details will be coming out about Mana Tech’s plans, but Mana has done this before, including with Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, a community of studios, galleries, co-working and event spaces and services that is credited with establishing a thriving arts community there, and with his projects in the Meatpacking District in New York City, which brought together spaces and services for creatives in fashion and the arts.
“If we do this right, in upcoming years we will have transformed a neighborhood and a district into a community to support what all of us refer to as an ecosystem. There will be a space where that ecosystem lives, where we all convene, where we collaborate together, where serendipitous collisions will happen,” said Abbs. “If we do this right, Brad Feld’s next thesis will be the Miami Thesis. It’s an ambitious goal, but that is the opportunity here.”
The importance of coming together is only more amplified as the coronavirus pandemic is keeping us physically separated, she said. “Now is a moment when we are realizing how much in-person touch points matter. I am hoping in the next few months as I get all my ducks in the row, when we are able to come together to do our Miami cheek kisses and hugs and be in a physical space together, we will have those places to gather. We are all realizing how much they matter.”
GENDER EQUITY IS HER PERSONAL MISSION
Abbs is a longtime community leader and was part of Class IX of the Miami Foundation’s Miami Fellows. Before taking the helm of WIN Lab Miami, she was part of the management team at Teach for America Miami-Dade, where she set regional strategy and coached over 400 teachers in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She was also Regional Director of Up2Us Sports, where she drove fundraising and recruitment to double the number of female youth sports coaches in the Miami network.
Abbs said she will continue her work in the ecosystem on gender equity. One of her new side projects is the Male Ally Project, which seeks to expand the circle of local men who can take action to help create a more gender equitable landscape for South Florida. The goal is to activate male peers to help close the gender gap locally.
She’s proud of WIN Lab Miami’s role in reducing that gap. “We had incredible founders that we showcased to the community and people have broken down their stereotypes of what a good founder looks like. There were so many stakeholders involved who worked with them one on one and saw their passion and commitment. That means the Miami community is committed to gender equity.”
Photo credit for top photo: Valerie Lopez/Shoot My Travel
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