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EO Baltimore is done being the city’s ‘best-kept secret’ for entrepreneurs

The members of EO Baltimore, a peer-to-peer network for entrepreneurs, gather for a picture. (Courtesy of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization)

Entrepreneurs’ Organization Baltimore, a peer-to-peer network supporting owners of privately owned businesses with annual revenues above $1 million, is Baltimore’s “best-kept secret,” according to incoming president Kwame Kuadey — and he wants to change that. 

As a chapter of an international organization spanning 61 counties, EO Baltimore says it offers a wealth of resources and support to its members, including monthly meetings in small, confidential groups with peer entrepreneurs who aim to support one another through challenges in their businesses and their lives. 

But it’s also a smaller-than-average chapter, with only 32 members, whereas chapters in similar cities have larger memberships. Having been founded in 2014, it’s also one of the youngest EO chapters in the world. 

Kwame Kuadey, the incoming president of EO Baltimore. (Courtesy of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization)

Kuadey, an entrepreneur and an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business, hopes that as EO Baltimore’s president he’ll be able to attract Baltimore’s entrepreneurs to the organization, which he feels stands out among the business organizations in the city. 

“The main difference is that we are about the entrepreneur as a whole, both your personal (life) and your business, because those things cross. There’s no entrepreneur who is not being influenced by what is happening in their personal life, bringing it into the business, and vice versa,” he said. “EO takes that holistic approach.” 

EO Baltimore also stands out from other, similar organizations due to what the organization refers to as “once-in-a-lifetime experiences” that it offers its members. These can be anything from events held in unique locations, like on an aircraft carrier, to events featuring celebrities, like Deepak Chopra and John Legend. 

During his two-year term as president, Kuadey aims to least double the number of members and expand the reach of EO Baltimore’s accelerator program. The program, which he brought to the city two years ago, seeks to help entrepreneurs with businesses that make $250,000 annually scale up to the $1 million mark; it currently has five participants, which he hopes to triple to 15. 

He plans to do so by inviting prospective members to events with current members, saying that the peer-to-peer connections formed in EO Baltimore are the organization’s greatest draw. He also hopes to partner with other organizations in the area, such as those that run accelerators or incubators for smaller companies.

“Most of those people graduate, and then where do they go? Some of them could join EO as a next step,” he said. “We’re trying to find a lot of touch points where we think EO is a good next step for entrepreneurs.” 

Kuadey is eager to increase EO Baltimore’s membership in part because of how valuable the organization, which he has been involved with since it came to Baltimore, has been for him in his own career. 

As a career entrepreneur, having founded, a now-defunct site for buying and selling gift cards that appeared in the first season of ABC’s Shark Tank, and, more recently, Thrive Company, a consulting firm, Kuadey often struggled to discuss his work with his friends and family.  

“They’re not living and breathing what you go through” as an entrepreneur, he said. 

EO Baltimore gave him a group of peers to talk with instead, who he says don’t offer advice but rather share their own experiences and ask the right questions to try to help each other work through problems.  

During one EO conference, for example, he and a friend, a fellow EO Baltimore member, spent most the weekend talking through an important decision Kuadey was trying to make: whether to launch a new venture, aimed at creating media content to empower low-income people to improve their financial well-being.  

This friend helped him work through the important considerations, like what the revenue streams for that business would be and whether it could grow into a multimillion-dollar venture. By the end of the weekend, he recalled, he had worked through these questions and decided to launch Empower Media, his latest project, which grew 300% last year and is slated for similar growth this year, Kuadey said. 

“Over those two days, she just listened and helped me unpack this problem I was having. When we left the conference, I had a solution. Not because she offered me advice. It’s just somebody that gets it, has been there, done that, or at least can relate to where you are and will ask the right questions to flesh out this problem that you’re facing,” he recalled. “Those are kind of the things that we talk about, regarding EO. We’re not just a networking organization. We’re really about life-enhancing connections and experiences.”