For over twenty years, WEV has been a leading provider of microenterprise development services to women along California’s Central Coast. In 1991, Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) joined a handful of organizations across the U.S. to pilot a self-employment program for women based on the Grameen Bank’s peer lending program. Within the first year of operation, we realized that the model did not meet either the credit or training needs of local women.
In 1994, WEV developed a 14-week Self Employment Training (SET) course and created the Small Business Loan Fund to provide larger loans. WEV has grown from one office and one employee in Santa Barbara, to a staff of 11 serving three counties — Santa Barbara, Ventura and southern Kern — with an annual budget of $1.1 million. WEV has served over 13,000 clients through our programs, including more than 4,000 through the SET program. WEV’s loan fund has provided over $2.5 million in loans to local, pre-bankable businesses. More than 2,000 businesses have started or grown with WEV’s help, creating or retaining an estimated 3,500 jobs.
WEV’s impact has grown beyond our local communities. WEV has licensed our curriculum, trained trainers, mentored young leaders and provided consulting services to build the capacity of emerging organizations. WEV staff members are frequent presenters at state and national conferences, have provided entrepreneurial training for women in Hungary, mentored emerging women leaders from California and Nepal and have provided consulting in organizational sustainability to organizations in California, Texas and Amman, Jordan.
WEV has shown strong leadership in the Microenterprise Development (MED) field through its participation on boards and committees of local, state and national microenterprise advocacy organizations such as the California Association for Enterprise Opportunity (CAMEO) and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO).
WEV has twice been honored by Soroptimists International as the organization that has done the most to improve the status of women. WEV received the Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Community Service Award in 2000 and, in 2004, the prestigious South Coast Business and Technology Excellence in Service Award. In 2005, WEV was named the Small Business Advocate of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Pacific Coast Business Times. In 2006, WEV received the Fifth District Service Award from the Santa Barbara County Commission for Women as well as the Service Award from El Concilio of Ventura County. In 2008, WEV was one of only three programs selected by California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver, to partner with her WE Invest initiative to provide business development programming to low-income women.