Bank of America Names WEV as Neighborhood Champion

Program Provides $50,000 in Grant Funding and Virtual Leadership Training

Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, CA – Programs that help close wealth gaps by supporting women and minority-led businesses will be able to scale, helping even more underrepresented entrepreneurs along the central coast through a multi-year grant from Bank of America. Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) has been named as the 2021 Bank of America Neighborhood Champion for its work in Ventura and Santa Barbara increasing access to business capital.

As part of the program, WEV will receive a $50,000 grant and virtual leadership training delivered by experts in the nonprofit sector on topics like human capital management, increasing financial sustainability and storytelling.

Women in the workplace were disproportionality affected by the COVID pandemic, with 400,000 more women than men having left the workforce since its onset. Unemployment rates for women of color also increased, with Hispanic women facing an unemployment rate of 6.5%, more than double that of Hispanic men. WEV supports moderate- and low-income women and minority entrepreneurs by providing low or no-cost training, consulting, and microlending to more than 1,000 local entrepreneurs annually, in English and Spanish. They will use the grant to advance a micro-grant and entrepreneurial training pilot in partnership with Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), evolve training and consulting programs to provide specialized, modular, and racially inclusive programs and services, and develop funding programs that address systemic barriers to help close racial and gender equity gaps.

“As communities continue to recover and navigate a changing landscape, nonprofits are still experiencing significant demands and are in need of resources to help provide minority business owners the skills and knowledge they need to strengthen their businesses,” said Midge Campbell-Thomas, president, Bank of America Ventura and Santa Barbara. “Women’s Economic Ventures helps bridge important gaps for individuals and families to help them chart a path toward economic opportunity and success. Programs like Neighborhood Champions helps these organizations grow sustainably and strategically for greater positive impact in the community.”

“For 30 years WEV has focused on creating a just and equitable society through the economic empowerment of women. The pandemic highlighted the urgency of our work — especially in expanding access to business capital and coaching for local women and minority entrepreneurs,” said Kathy Odell, CEO, WEV. “We’re grateful for Bank of America’s commitment and partnership with WEV in supporting small business owners in our community who have been historically underserved.”

WEV is the only non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and SBA microlender in the region with a focus on the development of low-income, women and minority entrepreneurs.

The Neighborhood Champions program is invitation-only for nonprofits who are poised to take their work to the next level. Leading members of the community participated in a collaborative selection process to identify this year’s awardee. The program is now offered across the U.S. and is an extension of the bank’s signature philanthropic initiative, Neighborhood Builders®, the largest corporate philanthropic investment in nonprofit leadership in the country. Since the program’s inception in 2019, Bank of America has invested $6.3 million into 126 nonprofits located in 42 communities through the Neighborhood Champions program.

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About Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV)
Women’s Economic Ventures is dedicated to creating an equitable and just society through the economic empowerment of women. WEV is a business resource network for anyone looking to start a business, grow a local business, or improve their business skills. WEV provides small business support – including classes, consulting, and funding – as well as financial literacy programs in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. While WEV’s focus is on women, it welcomes people of all gender identities into the WEV community. Business courses, programs and loans are provided in both English and Spanish.

Since 1991, WEV has provided business training and small business advisory services to more than 28,000 people throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. WEV has made more than $6.9 million in small business loans and helped nearly 5,300 local businesses start or expand, generating an estimated $873 million in annual sales and creating over 12,400 local jobs. WEV is a U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Center and Microlender, as well as a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).