In 1991 Marsha Bailey founded the nonprofit organization Women’s Economic Ventures hoping to right an issue she had seen come up time and time again in her time working at a rape crisis center: women did not have the ability to get out of difficult situations because they were economically trapped.
She saw that women were stuck because they did not have the hard skills training or financial backing to make a living for themselves and their families. WEV was thus founded seeking to reverse that trend and to be a component of a greater struggle to liberate women economically and socially.
While speaking with Leah Gonzales, program manager at WEV, earlier this month we talked about the ways in which WEV has fought to “provide a pathway for women to take charge of their own future.” In its nearly 27 years of operations, WEV has remained steadfastly determined to provide the best possible service. This has meant continuous engagement in the community and in reevaluating their programs in order to serve the needs of clients. And, the returns of these labors have been high. Their clients have thrived in the Central Coast small business environment where WEV has provided more than $4 Million in loans to over 14,000 women and men.
They are celebrating these accomplishments December 12th from 5:15-7:45 PM at the Fess Parker in Santa Barbara at WEV’s Inaugural Celebration. The public is invited to hear remarks from Marsha Bailey, event sponsor Ventura County Credit Union, and a keynote by Denny Cooper, WEV’s first client to reach $1 Million in annual revenue.
At the WEV Celebration, the community is invited to celebrate the successes of female-identifying entrepreneurs in the Santa Barbara business community. These successes are to be celebrated through a variety of means because WEV recognizes that success is not just defined financially.
WEV teaches the “hard skills” in their courses (more information on their course structure can be found on their webpage) so that the business owners or potential business owners have a solid foundation upon which to build and grow. The hard skills, such as financial literacy and the ability to write a business plan, is what WEV most directly delivers through the popular SET program. But, they realize, as Gonzales notes, “Women are [generally] more about relationships than the dollar for dollar return” as compared to the typical male business owner. For this reason, they strive to deliver on a community, as well as profit.
“Success can be defined in different ways for different people,” Gonzales explains, and “WEV wants people to achieve success on their own terms.” This exploration of success can be found in their Mastermind groups, a networking and community-building small group program that brings WEV members together to talk about their businesses. They have found through the years that these Mastermind groups serve as an opportunity for their socially-conscious business clients to swap ideas on social responsibility in business. And, indeed, a large number of WEV’s clients build businesses that are targeted in some way to promoting a “greater good.”
It is not that WEV requires businesses owners approaching them for a loan, consulting, or business plan-writing help, to have a greater good conscious. Rather, they have found that the demographic naturally tends towards supporting those goals to be something “more than just [being] a business,” Gonzales says as she describes the inspiring work of many of their clients.
Their upcoming event, WEV Celebration, will honor these socially-conscious businesses through a People’s Choice Award. The community voted for one of six finalists on the website, with the winner announced at the event. They will also be hosting a business expo (right on the heels of Small Business Saturday) at which clients in both retail and the service industry will be selling their goods or promoting their business otherwise. It is a great opportunity to shop local this holiday season and to learn more about the amazing businesses that work hard to keep the Central Coast local and thriving.
At this inaugural event, WEV is also thrilled to welcome 12 local businesses to their new Million Dollar Club. These are the businesses which have crossed the Million Dollar in revenue threshold – a feat achieved by less than 2% of women-owned businesses!
Join the WEV community in commemorating their lasting impact on Santa Barbara’s businesses and celebrating the thriving small business community. The event is free to attend and RSVPs are encouraged but not required on this page: http://wevcelebration.pages.ontraport.net/.
Due to the Thomas Fire, this event has been postponed until January. Stay tuned for updates.
The WEV Event has been rescheduled to Monday, February, 5th from 5:00-7:00 pm at the Fess Parker in Santa Barbara. The event is being called 805 Strong: An Evening Honoring Entrepreneurs.
Please come and support local businesses that have been impacted by recent natural disasters.