(May 13, 2019) Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) announced this week that its founder and CEO, Marsha Bailey, will retire next year after 30 years at the helm. Her successor will be Kathy Odell, an accomplished entrepreneur and business leader in the region.
WEV was launched under Bailey’s leadership in 1991, after three years of planning and fundraising. “The idea that women’s economic status could be improved by helping them start their own businesses was both innovative and unproven,” Bailey says, “But twenty-eight years later, WEV has proven not only that business ownership can provide a viable pathway to self-sufficiency, but that it can build family wealth and stability and contribute to the economic well-being of our communities.”
Initially, WEV served South Santa Barbara County with Bailey as its only full-time employee supported by a half-time assistant and dozens of volunteers. Its annual budget was $75,000. Today WEV serves all of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, has more than 30 full and part-time staff members and an annual budget of $2.5 million.
WEV has been nationally recognized for its high-impact, innovative business education programs and its loan fund, which was the first micro-lender and Community Development Financial Institution in the region. WEV’s programs have helped start or expand more than 4,500 businesses on California’s Central Coast.
As WEV’s CEO, Bailey has served on many local, state and national boards and has been a consultant as well as mentor to emerging women leaders and women’s organizations nationally and internationally. She is a former member of the National Women’s Business Council, which provides policy guidance to the White House, Congress and the Small Business Administration on issues related to women’s business ownership. She is the former Chair of the National Association of Women’s Business Centers, the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity (CAMEO), and Union Bank’s Community Advisory Board.
In 2017, Bailey was inducted into the Pacific Coast Business Times’ Business Hall of Fame.
“It’s clear that women have more opportunities today than we did thirty years ago,” Bailey says, “But while many things have changed, we still have a long way to go to achieve equal opportunity and economic parity.”
Kathy Odell, well known Santa Barbara entrepreneur and business leader, has been chosen as Bailey’s successor.
“Over the past 28 years, Marsha’s leadership and steadfast commitment to the mission, has grown WEV into a major economic development engine for both Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties,” says Melissa Livingston, WEV’s Board Chair. “Kathy Odell is an effective leader and visionary who’s been a key supporter and board member since 2010. We couldn’t have found a better person to carry on Marsha’s legacy and guide the organization as we create the next generation of WEV services.”
For her part, Odell believes the opportunity to lead WEV through this important transition is a fitting capstone for her own career. Odell said, “There have been three consistent areas of focus in my career – entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment and community service. Serving as CEO of WEV provides the opportunity to integrate those themes by helping local women entrepreneurs contribute to economic vitality in our communities.”
Odell founded her first company, Medical Concepts, in 1985 and sold it to Karl Storz Endoscopy in 1990. She went on to become the founding CEO of Inogen, which today is a public company with a $2B market cap, and to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of Pacific Capital Bancorp for 14 years. She has invested in and mentored numerous early stage companies in the region and was an early supporter of the Technology Management Program (TMP) at UCSB. In addition to her service on WEV’s board, Odell serves as a board member of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project.
“Women are starting businesses at a higher rate than any time in our history and now run 40% of all small businesses,” said Odell. “Additionally, more women are moving into corporate management. Under Marsha Bailey’s leadership WEV has become a key resource for women in business on the Central Coast. I am excited and proud to carry her legacy forward.”