Women’s Economic Ventures: Bailey tells GMSP of success stories

April 06, 2011
Santa Paula News

Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) is in the business of creating business, those attending the March Good Morning Santa Paula learned.

The monthly Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, hosted by Limoneira Company, was held at Logsdon’s at the Santa Paula Airport.

Marsha Bailey, founder of WEV, told the crowd how the organization serves men and women interested in starting their own or expanding their existing business. It works: “In the past five years WEV has created more than 2,471 jobs” and, noted Bailey, generated more than $7 million in state and local tax revenue.

A Michigan native, Bailey moved to California in the 1970s - a time of economic downturn - and realized that in spite of her college education and professional experience, “it was hard for me to make a living.... I thought there is something wrong with this picture,” showing the lack of economic opportunities for women and the feminization of poverty that had women making only 65 cents to the dollar paid to men.

“One of the unchartered areas for women” was being a business owner, and Bailey said she was inspired to explore creation of entrepreneurial opportunities. WEV’s mission is creating an equitable and just society through the economic empowerment of women, although Bailey said about 15 percent of the nonprofit’s clients are men.

In 1991 WEV launched a self-employment program based on a peer-lending model providing small loans of up to $1,500 but “very little training.” There are four barriers that women must overcome: access to capital, affordable childcare, educational opportunities, and  “stereotyping that women are not business owners... and we learned that clients wanted more training” and required more capital to start their own business.

Training was expanded in 1994, and the next year the limit was raised on available capital. Self-employment training is a 14-week program geared to those in the pre-start up of a business or those now conducting their business as a hobby.

WEV offers other programs, including an extensive six-week program for those already in business or who have the “capacity to hit the ground running... and we can help those clients get to the capital part faster” after they prepare a detailed business plan. A WEV goal is to invest more funds into those companies that have employees to help create more job opportunities. About 10 percent of WEV funding comes from the Small Business Administration, and programs similar to WEV are nationwide.

Bailey said one of her favorite quotes came from a client: “WEV is like a cross between a boot camp and an all you can eat buffet.” WEV graduates, though, are not cut loose once they complete the program: “We have to show outcomes 18 months out to show how our clients are doing, and in 2010 we took a random sample of those served in 2008 to see what happened to them in 2009... 53 percent who were pre-business started a business.”

And 90 percent of WEV clients who were already in business when they entered the WEV program were still in business, and sales increased 123 percent while income increased 64 percent. Bailey said 71 percent of the clients who were considered poverty level moved up and out of the classification.

WEV, which serves more than 1,200 clients each year - including Spanish speakers - in Ventura, Santa Barbara and some areas of Kern counties, has helped more than 2,000 businesses start up or expand. And the organization has loaned more than $2.5 million to business owners who often would not qualify for conventional loans.

Bailey told several WEV success stories, but said the comment of one client is unforgettable: a physically disabled woman who wanted to work called and asked about a $1,500 loan to purchase a computer to work from home and support her family. “I told her all about the WEV program,” how startup funds was just one facet of the training. “There was silence on the other end,” until, Bailey said, the woman told her, “You’re the first person who has given us any help.”

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.