Laura Bacon is the founder of The 3rd (transitioning from The Well), a nonprofit organization based in Columbia, MD. The name, "The 3rd," comes from sociologist Roy Oldenburg's theory that in order to thrive, people need three spaces: home, work, and some sort of third space. This third space exists as a community for sharing ideas and building relationships.
The 3rd was founded with women-of-color (WOC) entrepreneurs in mind, and caters to their needs. During the age of COVID-19, this has taken on the form of WellMeetUps: virtual talkbacks with local woman entrepreneurs who share their expertise and advice. Since March, The 3rd has hosted 30 of these meetings and served over 300 women, and over 50 businesses.
One of these WellMeetUps focused on Laura's mother, Shirley Harden. Harden has enjoyed a long career as an elementary school principal, and according to her daughter, she has always led "with clarity and kindness." When asked how her mother has impacted her journey toward entrepreneurship, Laura shared, "My mom-- and I think this is true of all women of color, especially of a certain age-- has this entrepreneurial spirit that was necessary for breaking down so many barriers. You had to be willing to stand up and say, 'Yeah, I'll do it!' because there was no space for you yet."
Laura and The 3rd are here to solve that problem. The 3rd will soon have a home here in Columbia, and will be a mixed use community hub, serving the community at large, while showcasing and growing WOC owned businesses. This space will include a dining area perfect for grabbing lunch with a colleague to talk shop, food and goods made and sold by local WOC owned businesses, a small stage for live music or poetry, and podcasting studios and conference rooms available for rent. Sign up for the newsletter at thewellwork.org to stay in the know about updates!
Laura has worn many hats on her path to becoming an entrepreneur, but she has always maintained firm roots in the Howard County community. Laura grew up in Columbia, taught at Reservoir High School and Wilde Lake High School, worked as a resource teacher and mentor teacher for the Howard County Public School System, and is now using her skills to make a positive impact in her community in a different way. Her creation of The 3rd was inspired in part by a desire to bring focus to Columbia's core values: diversity, inclusion, and community. "These values are great, and shaped me, but what is missing is agency. I might be welcome at the table, but will you listen when I voice my needs?" Even in her mission to provide a space for less-heard voices, Laura has encountered a number of gatekeepers and has had to constantly advocate for the necessity of The 3rd.
In founding The 3rd, Laura carries over her core values from teaching: relationships, and accessibility. She believes firmly that cost should not be a barrier to opportunity, and that we grow best when we grow together as a community. Stay tuned for The 3rd's grand opening, and be sure to check out their website for more updates!
Want more of The 3rd?
-Visit their website and subscribe to their email list at thewellwork.org
-Follow them on Instagram @the_well_work
-Follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thewellofhowardcounty