"The 3rd" plans to connect the community of Columbia and women of color entrepreneurs

The 3rd hopes to open the doors of its revolutionary non-profit later this year in Downtown Columbia. The one of its kind concept will combine a café, retail outlet, coworking space, and business incubator - all designed to bring community together and provide entrepreneurial women of color resources, tools, and space to help grow their businesses and sell their products.


The mission of The 3rd is to build a space that fosters dreams, creates community, and provides mentorship, which enables women of color to turn their ideas into economic power and freedom.


The idea for the revolutionary space will be to provide a place for the entire community to chill, work, eat, and shop all while supporting WOC entrepreneurs. There will be a café, juice bar, coffee bar and retail outlets where the public can purchase locally made products. It's a place for a lunch meeting or to bring your computer to get in some work during downtime. Or simply to pursue the retail offerings in search of a perfect gift, grab a bite for a picnic, or a coffee.


For women of color entrepreneurs, The 3rd will showcase their business offerings while providing access to skill building, professional networks, mentorship, collaboration and resources. The space will include a commercial kitchen, podcast studios, A/V capacities and conference rooms - all of which would be made available for collaborating entrepreneurs. Permanent space could also be rented by tenants who desire to locate their headquarter at The 3rd. Alternatively, business owners could partner as a vendor to sell their products in the retail store.


The 3rd is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded by Laura Bacon. The former educator is passionate about entrepreneurship and community building and has a talent for putting all the right people in a space to make something special. "May the entities we build be strong, as profitable as we'd like them to be, and above all may they have a lasting impact on our communities," Bacon is quoted in her website bio.


The website describes the vision of The 3rd as follows:

The 3rd is opening a revolutionary space in a revolutionary town. Columbia, MD, the nation's first planned community, was built upon James Rouse's vision for inclusion and equality. He saw a community, positioned between two powerful American cities, Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC. that brought the tenants of diversity and inclusion to a city-like suburb. His vision was big. His execution was bigger. Our work aligns with this legacy. The 3rd is bringing a mixed-use community hub that provides a gathering place for the entire community while showcasing and incubating WOC owned businesses. Nothing but big vision and big execution over here.

The café menu will feature soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts, courtesy of Chef Jamila. The stores will sell a variety of items, such as food products (think teas, spices, and sauces), home goods, and gifts. Examples of vendors that we may see selling their products at The 3rd include Althea's Almost Famous, the longtime vendor at the Oakland Mills farmers market well known for delicious jerk sauces, and Henna Sooq of Elkridge, which specializes in premium hair and skin care products. By providing retail space for locally owned WOC businesses, the community can physically see and purchase an item that they had previously only seen while scrolling Instagram. And with reduced capital and energy risks, entrepreneurs can experiment and be more creative with their product offerings.


The name, The 3rd, is derived from the concept of a third place - a space away from home and work that fosters community building and collaboration that encourages people to converse and linger. And indeed, there will be plenty of reasons not to leave. Check out these descriptions of what the space will contain:

The Lil' Café -The smell of fresh coffee draws you in but you decide on a bottle of fresh-pressed juice. Take a look at the little market featuring food based products made by a variety of WOC owned businesses before heading in to the main space. Before you go further, perhaps you pick up a special sauce from a local WOC owned business to try later. The Big Café- The sound of spirited brainstorming and laughter draw you in. Come in to a free-seating café where you might meet a friend to catch up or schedule a quick meeting with a colleague. Chef Jamila has got you riiiiiight with soups, salads, and sandwiches that make you think back to Bun Penny (if you know, you know 😉). You might want to grab a dessert for later, Chef Jamila is a pastry chef by trade. You can stay and eat or grab a bento box to go. Some days you can hear some live music coming from the small stage and find yourself surrounded by murals and art by WOC artists. The Rentals- Return again and again and a large, fully equipped conference rooms or one of four semi private work areas. Head towards the back to check out our marketing studio. In here we have the capability for video, photos, and podcasting. We've got a commercial kitchen that's big enough for two and we'd love to share. You can rent that too. Our business is your business. Your success IS our business. The Store- On your way out be sure to stop by the store. We feature products made by some familiar WOC owned brands you might have seen while scrolling Instagram and expose you to some new ones.

The 3rd exemplifies the spirit of Columbia that community is at the heart of everything and that the residents of this city help to enable the success of their fellow citizens. The 3rd has already established some impressive local business partnerships and is seeking additional support. This, in turn, will help them to develop and deliver programming, organize and connect women and businesses, and amplify the work and service of WOC owned businesses. Win, win, win! Business or organizations interested in partnering with the 3rd should check out the partnership page on their website.


The 3rd plans to open to the public during daytime business hours and be available to rent and for special events in the evening.


Note: This article has been updated from a previous version to remove references to the location that The 3rd may lease.

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