During Hispanic Heritage Month, Regions Bank is celebrating Hispanic entrepreneurs, as well as Regions’ community partners – such as Inner City Capital Connections. ICCC creates more inclusive prosperity by helping entrepreneurs grow their companies and build long-term success. Through this story, meet a nonprofit founder and ICCC alum who’s shattering gender stereotypes and giving back to the Latino community.
“I don’t think this is the right place for you.”
Hearing her professor’s candid words startled Consuelo Lockhart. But not in the way you might think.
Deep inside, Lockhart knew it. She felt it. Square peg, round hole – or, in this case, welder, rather than woodworker.
“Wood required math – I didn’t like math,” she said. “Metal was more forgiving. Even if I did cut it too short, I could weld it.”
Born in Guatemala and adopted by a Michigan couple, Lockhart had explored various art mediums long before enrolling in the Kendall College of Art and Design in 2007.
“I was always drawing and painting. I dabbled in jewelry, pottery and photography,” she recalled. “For me, art was a way to express myself, especially when I didn’t know any English. That’s all I wanted to do was be an artist.”
Initially studying industrial design, Lockhart realized it wasn’t a fit. Then there were the professor’s words, which resulted in Lockhart pivoting to a new medium.
“I ended up going back to school,” Lockhart said. “There were community college secondary programs that offered opportunities for me to learn in the welding space.”
Welding felt more freeing, but it, too, posed challenges.
I was the only woman in the class. But then I realized, I’m not doing it for them, I’m doing it for me. The easy thing would be to quit, but I just ended up sticking with it.
“Making the jump was definitely difficult. I had a lot of imposter syndrome in the beginning,” she said. “I was the only woman in the class. But then I realized, I’m not doing it for them, I’m doing it for me. The easy thing would be to quit, but I just ended up sticking with it.”
That same stick-to-itiveness – and a desire to show women welding careers are, indeed, a rewarding option – took Lockhart back to Guatemala to reconnect with family and teach classes. This, in turn, inspired her to establish Latinas Welding Guild (LWG) after she moved to Indianapolis. The nonprofit focuses on equal access – empowering women personally, creatively and economically – given 96% of welders are male.
Kate Livingstone, a Community Development manager for Regions Bank, has seen LWG’s impact first-hand.
“Latinas Welding Guild goes beyond employment. For many people, it’s helping break a cycle of poverty,” said Livingstone. “I love Consuelo’s enthusiasm for helping women thrive in a male-dominated industry. This is truly what creating more inclusive prosperity is all about.”
Lockhart’s continued drive to learn new things also motivated her to apply for the Inner City Capital Connections program when Regions brought it to Indianapolis in 2022.
Founded by Harvard professor Dr. Michael Porter to provide business training and one-on-one coaching for entrepreneurs in under-resourced areas, ICCC helps small businesses tackle strategy and marketing, talent retention, access to capital, and more.
Regions takes the program to different cities each year, including the first Nashville session occurring this month.
The ICCC Indy workshop was where Lockhart immediately felt she belonged.
“I liked the aspect of it being inclusive for Black and Brown entrepreneurs,” she said.
Lockhart also appreciated the specific, timely insights she gained.
“There was a presentation about how to negotiate your lease that was especially relevant for us,” she explained. “The financial strategy session also encouraged me to begin thinking about how to scale.”
And scale she has.
This year, Lockhart moved into a larger space offering LWG the ability to provide more programs. She’s offering two-week co-ed welding bootcamps, a 10-week certification program, and even the opportunity for students to shadow her for a longer period.
“We now have the capacity to have larger class sizes, and we can run more classes more frequently,” she said. “The opportunities are completely endless.”
Those opportunities include introducing more youth to the trade by running welding clubs and camps, as well launching a welding department with Indianapolis Public Schools, set to open in 2024.
Those enrolled will learn far more than cutting and beveling metals.
“Some people might say, ‘Eh, it’s just welding,’ but each program is a little bit different and is building confidence, the understanding of fair pay and encouraging students to advocate for themselves,” she said. “If they aren’t, that’s where we’ll be an additional support and resource for them. This is about women in leadership.”
Lockhart believes instilling that self-worth message among the younger generation is especially important.
“We can help empower young girls, and boys also, to see women can be – and are – leaders,” she explained. “I had a girl tell me, ‘When I saw you during that tour, I was really inspired. I decided I wanted to be an engineer because I saw you.’ This is a space where youth can showcase not just the product they’re making but also themselves.”
Today, Lockhart is clearly in the right place running Latinas Welding Guild, and she’s doing her part to ensure everyone who ‘creates’ there – feels the same way.
“Ultimately, this was the right path for me,” she said. “It’s weird because how is it that I fell into welding, and now we’re coming up on six years? I don’t know how I ended up here, but it’s been an interesting journey.”
And a rewarding one, too.