Working with small business owners is a familiar situation for Andria Martinez Cohen having grown up with an entrepreneurial mother.
“My mom was a teacher but she started seasonal businesses so she could work a couple months out of the year and make extra money when she wasn’t teaching,” said Andria. “She had a flower arranging business and taught swimming lessons during the summer.”
All through high school and college Andria spent her summers teaching swimming lessons at her mom’s swim school, Expert Strokes Swimming, but she also took on a business advisor role in the business.
“When I first started she did a lot of things on paper and the business wasn’t really formally set up. I started creating Excel spread sheets, invoicing and doing some marketing. I was always telling her she needed to have better records and that she wasn’t charging enough.”
Certainly this experience came in handy when some serendipitous situations led Andria to her first official post-college job working for WEV. Having grown up in Long Beach, Andria ended up moving to Santa Barbara after her college roommates rented a house there and invited her to join them.
“After graduating from UCLA in 2003, I traveled a bit and when I got home I wasn’t sure where to go so figured I’d join my friends in Santa Barbara and see if I could make it work. One of my roommates applied for the Spanish Program Coordinator job at WEV but she didn’t speak Spanish so she told me about it and I ended up getting it.”
During her nearly 4 years with WEV Andria wore many hats moving from the Spanish SET Coordinator position to a loan fund coordinator/underwriter and directing the opening of the first office in Ventura. “I was kind of the go to person. I’d just say whatever you guys need me to do I can do it!”
In 2009 Andria left WEV to join the National Development Council (NDC) as a loan officer for their CDFI affiliate, the Grow America Fund where she still works today. Her responsibilities include underwriting and business development for GAF’s SBA 7(a) guaranteed loan program, directly funding small business expansion loans in under-served communities of the greater Los Angeles metro area. Her passion is to help entrepreneurs succeed through education, opportunity and financial empowerment.
Andria reconnected with WEV in 2015 as a member of the Community Advisory Council, and she joined the League in 2017. “I was a co-captain at last year’s EIP with my friend Jenny Schatzle. She was already a League member but the breakfast was the first time I’d heard about it. I just thought it was cool and that I really wanted to be a part of it. Who doesn’t want to be an Extraordinary Woman?”
Andria, her husband and their 2-year-old daughter consider themselves big water people. “We take our daughter kayaking and love to go swimming in the ocean. I do Nite Moves and Reef and Run ocean events in the summer. We love the water. I also love Santa Barbara, and I love WEV, I’m a big fan of both.”