Women’s Economic Ventures Fundraiser Honors Small Business Owners Lili Muñoz, Elsa Cisneros | Good for Santa Barbara

Women’s Economic Ventures annual fundraising event ‘Empowerment is Priceless’ demonstrated that empowerment is not only invaluable, it is ubiquitous among the smallest businesses and businesses. the most recent from Santa Barbara.

The concept of starting or maintaining a business during a pandemic is intimidating, but WEV has proven that with their support, it is also possible.

“The pandemic has accelerated a generational change of mind for women,” said Kathy Odell, CEO of WEV, as she welcomed nearly 200 guests to the outdoor rally. “This new wave of business owners represents a cultural reset that may well change the American workplace.

“Women are leaving workplaces that demand long hours and do not meet employee needs for child care and family flexibility. They start from the fundamental belief that work should be financially rewarding but also psychologically and emotionally fulfilling, and that work should allow us to take good care of our families and still have time to enjoy our families.

Above all, many women want personal control over their careers, and this desire often trumps career advancement and salary, leading more women to start their own businesses.

The proof is in the numbers. From 2005 to 2019, there were on average around 2.4 million new businesses per year. Yet, according to Odell, the COVID-19 crisis has turned that statistic upside down.

The Census Bureau reported that as of the end of September, 4.1 million new businesses had been created and the country is on track to see 6 million new businesses this year.

“It’s a staggering statistic,” Odell said. “And guess what? Forty-nine percent of these businesses were started by women.

WEV has helped the next generation of business owners turn their ideas into reality. The non-profit organization provides training, business advisory services, financial knowledge and financing, and over the past 30 years has helped start more than 5,500 local businesses.

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Honored Community Champion Lili Muñoz with her award. (Photo of women’s economic enterprises)

Two of these companies were honored in the afternoon deal.

Lili Muñoz, founder of Colibri LA and co-founder of Mujeres Makers Market, received the Community Champion Award, another honor celebrating collaboration and inclusiveness.

Muñoz shared his personal journey as a child of immigrant parents who saw his father wake up at 5 a.m. to work two jobs as a gardener and janitor, while his mother also had two jobs – cleaning a house in the morning. Montecito and looking after his own family. .

“I dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know where to start,” she said. “I didn’t grow up with business owners and I lacked social capital so it was all very intimidating. “

Muñoz enrolled in WEV’s program and credits this experience with giving him the confidence and skills to be successful.

“The WEV program was the catalyst and the reason I’m here today as a proud business owner,” she said. “I am living my dream, working with women artisans around the world, selling their products using fair trade practices.”

Muñoz managed to represent these products in ephemeral markets, until COVID-19 forced them to close. So, she and her partners rolled up their sleeves and created their own market – the Mujeres Makers Market, where they showcase the products of small business owners and women of color in Santa Barbara.

Client of the year honored Elsa Cisneros with her award.
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Client of the year honored Elsa Cisneros with her award. (Photo of women’s economic enterprises)

Elsa Cisneros, owner of Daily Greenz Etc., was honored as WEV’s Customer of the Year for her resilience and adaptability.

Over the past 18 months, Cisneros has opened and closed its healthy restaurant business several times, as the pandemic demanded. Her journey with WEV began 10 years ago, and she said the experience provided invaluable business foundation and inspired confidence.

When COVID-19 hit, Cisneros reached out to WEV to help them redefine their business model.

“With the help of WEV and Better Together funds, we have evolved our business, creating a new website and ordering system that met our changing needs,” she said.

Shortly after signing up for WEV’s digital marketing course, Cisneros saw his website traffic skyrocket, even earning it a spot as Google’s # 1 search option for healthy foods. .

As WEV helped its customers adapt, it was also forced to change its business model.

“Responding to the changing needs of our customers and communities, WEV has broadened and deepened its offerings,” said Nikki Parr, director of programs, services and strategy for WEV.

Women's Economic Ventures CEO Kathy Odell, left, with Trailblazer Award recipient and former State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.
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Women’s Economic Ventures CEO Kathy Odell, left, with Trailblazer Award recipient and former State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. (Photo by Willa Kveta)

“We increased capacity and reach, expanded online training programs, offered specialist business and financial support, provided innovative entrepreneurial finance and organized small business community meetings, all of which were offered in English and Spanish. “

Parr recognized the strength of his team as well as the supporters of WEV Trailblazer, who inspire and support the organization with their passion, commitment and courage.

This year’s Trailblazer Award was presented by Dianne Duva of Arlington Financial Advisors and awarded to former State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.

Ahmad Merza, left, Eastside branch chief librarian, and guests represent the recipient of the Santa Barbara Public Library Partner of the Year award.
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Ahmad Merza, left, chief librarian at the Eastside branch, and guests represent the recipient of the Santa Barbara Public Library Partner of the Year award. (Photo by Willa Kveta)

“When I think of a trailblazer, this year’s recipient couldn’t be more emblematic of that word,” said Duva. “Hannah-Beth has dedicated her life to creating an environment for women to succeed. She has made major legislative achievements, increased the participation of women in C-suites and boardrooms, and established the most ambitious equal pay laws in the state of California.

Jackson was moved by the extent of WEV’s recognition.

“I am blown away by the creativity, determination and confidence that comes from WEV and those represented in this room,” she said. “But it also comes from being a woman.

“The challenges over the past 18 months that were unique to women, leading them to be babysitters, teachers, breadwinners, and partners, were simply overwhelming.”

Jackson praised WEV for empowering women, helping them take control of their personal and professional lives.

Other winners include the Santa Barbara Public Library, recognized as Partner of the Year, with the acceptance of Ahmad Merza, Chief Librarian of the Eastside Branch. Presenters also included Irene Kelly, WEV’s Financial Education and Community Engagement Manager; Michelle Apodaca, director of Deckers Brands and the Santa Barbara Better Together Fund; and Junemarie Justus, WEV board member and founder of The Acorn Project.

The event took place in the Rotunda of the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, and table sponsors included WEV clients who shared their business plans through smart centerpieces.

Almost 40 small businesses were represented, including Sol Seek Yoga, Board & Brush, Amador Matchmaking, Andersen’s Danish Bakery, Mindful Eating Institute, Wine Cult, Lisa Braithwaite Speaking Coach, Apply Well College Consulting, Kind Cup, Hook & Press Donuts, Monarch Institute, Daily Greenz Etc., Coast Design Collective, Réves de Sabine, Santa Barbara Equestrian Academy, La Segunda, Dana Halverson Garden Design, Asher Market, Maison K, Dresden Body & Wellness, Jane Reaction Fitness, (IN) LARKIN, Felicia Lew , OD, Students for Eco-Education & Agriculture, Colibri LA, Kawaii Body Wax, Local Bath Box, JR Bookkeeping, Goleta Coffee Co., Float Luxury Spa, Aliz Ruvalcaba Photography, Stik N Stuk, Tinkle Belle Diaper Service, la Goleta Education Foundation, Paradise Found, New Dawn Consulting, Marley Confections, Got Paella LLC and Sun Pacific Solar Electric Inc.

Sponsors included Cox Communications, LinkedIn, American Riviera Bank, City National Bank, Ventura County, JPMorgan Chase & Co., La Arcada, Pacific Western Bank, Ventura County Credit Union, Jaffurs Wine Cellars and Willa Kveta Photography.

– Ann Pieramici is a contributing writer for Noozhawk.

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