Funds Raised to sustain and support entrepreneurship in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
Ventura and Santa Barbara, CA—Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) hosted its annual Empowerment is Priceless fundraiser at the Museum of Ventura County on Thursday, October 27. The event recognizes outstanding women in business as well as community partners who advocate for economic empowerment in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. WEV is a non-profit that provides a full range of small business support – including classes, consulting, and funding – as well as financial literacy programs in both English and Spanish. Information at www.wevonline.org .
This year’s awardees reflected the strength of community. WEV awarded Client of the Year to Angela Rosales of Very Ventura Gift Shop & Gallery, the Resilience Award to Rachel Sears Casanta of Hypercat Cycleworks, the Trailblazer Award to Heidi Whitcomb Founder of Ventura Rental Party and Events, and Partner of the Year to the Martin V. Smith School of Business and Economics.
Pictured left to right: Angela Rosales, Very Ventura Gift Shop & Gallery, WEV Client of the Year; Rachel Sears Casanta, Hypercat Cycleworks, WEV Resilience Award recipient 2022; Dr. Susan Andrzejewski, CSUCI, Dean at The Martin V. Smith School of Business & Economics, WEV Partner of the Year. (Photo credit: WEV)
To the crowd of over 220 individuals, Rosales credited WEV with providing her a network of resources and funding that has allowed her business on Main Street in Downtown Ventura to survive and thrive. Rosales shared that, “WEV rallied their financial network, educated us on grants and government programs… they were the first ones offering a low interest bridge loan before many of us business owners even had access to the PPP program.” Like many local businesses, Rosales’ shop was directly impacted by the Thomas Fire as well as the pandemic shutdown. “If it weren’t for WEV stepping in just at the right time with access to capital, I’m not sure I’d be here today.”
Bicycle shop owner Casanta echoed a sentiment of gratitude when she shared her personal and professional story of resilience. She described how the bike shop she owns with her husband was the target of multiple burglaries during the height of COVID, and in 2021 she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. “WEV had my back, with messages of encouragement and financial support. I’ll never forget that; find the silver lining, focus on the positive,” said Casanta who proudly shared that she is now cancer free. Hypercat has been recognized with several industry awards and the business has enjoyed their biggest revenue months ever.
WEV’s CEO, Kathy Odell spoke about the common goal of economically empowering individuals. “The power of a strong, supportive community, where people pitch in and help each other practically, emotionally, and socially, supports mental and physical health. And it enables the entire community to better respond, adapt and recover from adverse events,” said Odell.
Proceeds raised at the Empowerment is Priceless event will directly benefit WEV’s business funding and client programs, including financial literacy and education classes, business training courses, individual coaching, and business advisory services – all provided in both English and Spanish.
The event is underwritten by the generosity of sponsors that include: JPMorgan Chase, Montecito Bank & Trust, Bank of America, City National Bank, Cox, Hutton Parker Foundation, Jean Kaplan, La Arcada, Linked In, Pacific Premier Bank, Trusted Legal, Ventura County Credit Union, Emma Bridges, Nancy Crouse, Junemarie Justus, Linda Rossi, Carrie Towbes and John Lewis, Banks Coaching, Boone Graphics, California Statewide CDC, Martin V. Smith School of Business and Economics, Nasif, Hicks, Harris and Co, LLP, Pacific Western Bank, Santa Barbara City College, Tileco, Union Bank, Ventura Rental Party and Events, and the Museum of Ventura County.
About Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), www.wevonline.org
Women’s Economic Ventures is dedicated to 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 a full range of 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).
To support WEV’s work, please visit www.wevonline.org/support.