Just as the Thomas Fire, Montecito Debris Flow and Hill/Woolsey Fires pushed Santa Barbara and Ventura County small businesses to the brink of collapse, the COVID-19 pandemic is significantly affecting the economic vitality these businesses bring to the community. Local non-profit Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV, www.wevonline.org) primarily serves micro-businesses, defined as those with fewer than five employees and less than $1 million in annual revenues, by providing business training, coaching, and loans to more than 300 local business owners each year.
Most small businesses do not have the cash flow, reserves or insurance coverage to withstand a short-term interruption in sales, much less the indefinite impact of a national health crisis. As with the previous natural disasters, WEV’s business resources, guidance, financial training, support and Quick Response Loans are available to help local businesses adapt and survive during these challenging times. Since the virus first began to impact the region, WEV has experienced a significant influx of calls from business owners seeking both advice and emergency funding.
Gabrielle Moes, President of Season’s Catering, Inc. has significantly grown her award-winning local business over the last 10 years. Moes said, “Since the onset of COVID-19 we have seen a 100% rescheduling or cancelling of March and April business, additionally May events have started to cancel in light of the new government announcements around social distancing.” Faced with contracts being cancelled by the hour and concerns about potential employee layoffs, Moes contacted WEV for guidance. “I called WEV and they immediately provided information, resources and introduced me to a local financial coach who I was fortunate enough to meet with that very day. Because of WEV’s quick response, I was able to get financial advice and a loan that helped my efforts to keep my business open.”
Many small businesses will need support now and in the coming months. WEV is assisting business owners through a Response Line (English 805-456-2342, Spanish 805.908.0096) and a Quick Response Loan program. Quick Response Loans offer financial support and assistance to businesses experiencing economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. WEV loans up to $10,000 with no payments for the first three payment cycles will help business owners, like Moes, adapt in unpredictable times. For information on Quick Response Loans visit loans.wevonline.org/qrl.
WEV CEO Kathy Odell says, “Our local small business community will not survive this catastrophe without immediate, locally driven relief efforts. During the recent natural disasters, only a third of SBA Disaster Loan applications were successful, and even those who were approved had to wait weeks to receive their funds. We want small business owners to know they can reach out for help immediately and that WEV, as well as agencies like SCORE and EDC are available to help with the rigorous SBA loan application.”
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).