Montecito Journal, Guest column by Nicki Parr, Building Resilient Communities: The Power of Philanthropic Giving in Supporting Local Businesses

In the heart of every thriving community lies a network of local businesses that can serve not only as its economic backbone but also as its social one. Yet, in the face of challenges such as economic downturns and natural disasters, these businesses often bear the brunt of adversity.

This was clearly evidenced in Montecito and Santa Barbara during the 2018 Thomas Fire, the subsequent recovery from the Debris Flow and the recent Covid-19 pandemic. A community’s ability to recover from such challenges – its resilience – can be directly correlated to how connected that community is, and we have been very fortunate in our community to have demonstrated that we are unquestionably “805 Strong”.

But many local businesses face challenges on an ongoing basis through systemic barriers which are often unseen and unspoken about. Access to affordable capital for business growth can be significantly harder to obtain if you are from a minority population, and yet these are often the people that are starting and running businesses at a higher rate than any other group.

Philanthropic giving emerges as a powerful tool not only to support these local enterprises but also to cultivate resilience within the community at large. Whether through grants, loans, or providing mentoring, philanthropic organizations can offer lifelines to small businesses facing economic challenges, either directly or through working with a partner organization.

A local example of this type of meaningful collaboration is a partnership between Wurwand Foundation (started by Dermalogica co-founder, Jane Wurwand) and Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), a local non-profit organization focused on supporting women entrepreneurs.

Having piloted a highly successful entrepreneurial initiative in Los Angeles called FOUND/LA, which boldly intends to support 25,000 small businesses by 2025, Wurwand, who lives in Montecito, turned her attention to the local community. Recognizing the challenges faced by women, immigrant and BIPOC business owners in obtaining working capital, Wurwand Foundation granted funds to WEV to be deployed as revolving loan capital to small business owners.

One recipient of this funding was Bossie’s Kitchen, a popular women-owned restaurant located near the Santa Barbara Bowl, which featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in 2023. Opening in 2019, just before the start of the pandemic, meant that Bossie’s had been playing financial catch-up for the past five years. The expansion loan provided by WEV/Wurwand Foundation gave the business owners, Lauren Herman and Christina Olufson, a chance to level set and invest further in the growth of their business when traditional bank funding wasn’t an option.

For both WEV and the Wurwand Foundation, Bossie’s was a perfect example of the power of partnership in action to support the local community: a women-owned business, creating financial economic empowerment for the owners and the employees, which created jobs and prioritized farm-to-table sustainability while supporting other local businesses in its supply chain.


Jane Wurwand is passionate and clear about her desire to support her local community through philanthropic giving:


“Not only do small businesses strengthen our economy and make our communities vibrant, they account for nearly half of all jobs in the United States. More than that, they make up the character and soul of our neighborhoods. If they vanish, our sense of place and belonging will vanish with them. By investing in our neighborhoods – making sure our local entrepreneurs have access to capital, education, and community – we’re not just fostering economic growth; we’re nurturing the very soul of our communities.

Philanthropy isn’t just about giving back – it’s about building a legacy of resilience and prosperity right in our own backyards.”

The collaborative relationship between philanthropic giving, non-profits focused on economic equity, and local businesses extends beyond mere financial support. By fostering inclusive entrepreneurship and innovation, philanthropy can help diversify the local economy, making it more vibrant, more creative, more unique and more resilient.

WEV’s Director of Funding, Marni Brook, states, “The importance of this kind of support from the philanthropic community cannot be overstated.  Jane Wurwand’s commitment to lifting local entrepreneurs by providing access to much needed capital and other resources adds significantly to the resiliency, diversity and vibrancy of our communities.  WEV’s clients have benefited greatly from the support of Wurwand Foundation as a result of their ability to access capital for growth and through the additional resources the Foundation offers to these businesses.”

Through supporting initiatives that promote financial literacy, entrepreneurial training, and access to capital, philanthropists can equip business owners with the tools they need to succeed in the modern economy, fostering a culture of resilience where everyone has a chance to prosper and thrive.

Give Local!

Nicki Parr is the Chief Operating Officer, of Women’s Economic Ventures, a 501c3 focused on supporting entrepreneurship in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.