Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Unitas Microfinance Basics Video

This two-year-old video from Unitus is an excellent introduction to the idea of international microfinance. To see what microenterprise training and finance looks like in the Bay Area, check out Women's Initiative's videos here.

Watch this 14-minute video to learn how Unitus works to alleviate global poverty through microfinance.  
Microfinance products such as savings accounts, microcredit loans (usually $50 to $150), and health insurance empower the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. Through microfinance, they can secure better nutrition, education, healthcare and housing for their families. Microfinance has helped millions in developing countries raise their standards of living and protect themselves from economic setbacks.
Unitus is a global microfinance accelerator that acts as a social venture capital investor for the microfinance industry. Unitus identifies the highest-potential microfinance institutions (MFIs) in developing countries and helps accelerate their growth through capital investments and capacity-building consulting, thus empowering them to help exponentially more poor people worldwide. In doing so, Unitus aims to demonstrate that MFIs can be run as profitable, large-scale, poverty-focused businesses with links to local capital markets. As of October 2005, Unitus had seven MFI partners worldwide serving more than 504,000 poor clients.
Note: Nothing in this video should be considered an offer to sell, or the solicitation of an offer to purchase, any security. Unitus and its affiliates do not have any securities or investment opportunities available to the public.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Linkblogging: Women Entrepreneurs

Many business owners, online especially, are showing that the definition of a truly successful business owner is one that is creating wealth, but not at the expense of his/her conscious, values, interests, belief system, etc.
An impressive list of government agencies and international companies use Forensic Pathways' techniques to uncover serious risk, crime and threats. Her company is spearheading advanced forensic analytics, which is increasing in importance in a global climate of concern over identity, terrorism, money laundering, fraud and national/international security at all levels. Deborah is a key supporter of cross border data sharing and knowledge flow between international government and private organisations.
a resource site for all busy mums- it is home to Ireland’s first podcast show for Mums and also to the Daily Planner for Mums on the Go. We recently held our first day-long workshop for Mums, with our second workshop to run in early December!
1. Stay connected to your desire and have a clear picture in mind of exactly what you want to create.
2. Especially if you're a home-based woman entrepreneur, GET ON THE OTHER SIDE OF YOUR DOOR!
3. Always nurture your femininity and continually bring out the Queen in you.
4. Receive support spiritually and psychologically
5. Stay connected to friends and colleagues overseas.
6. Get active
7. Be your own best friend.
There are great resources sprinkled throughout the post, so go check it out!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wednesday Linkblogging: International Microcredit

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wednesday Linkblogging

[The report] found minorities own 20 percent of the nation’s franchises and women 25 percent. ... Because of their established business models, franchises tend to be less risky than starting a company from scratch. Despite what can be six-figure startup costs, funding usually is easier to find for franchises than for startups because banks view them as a safer bet.

In addition to an upfront fee, franchise owners pay subsequent fees for advertising and other support. They usually pocket 1 percent to 10 percent of a store’s profits.

But the extra costs are often worth it because franchises offer a proven system. Survival-rate statistics vary widely and are often distorted, but the general consensus among business experts is that franchises have a better chance of making it than do independent startups.
Also, check out this Franchise Business Opportunities blog.
It is no longer just a rumor that women have become major players in the U.S. workforce and in the global business environment. More and more women are traveling overseas to conduct business for their corporations or for their own business ventures.

Despite these significant advances of women in International business we still find commercial guidebooks that suggest that women should not be in International business. Most books in this genre were written by men and either do not address womens particular issues in international business or, worse, they suggest that women should not even be sent on foreign business assignments due to role differences which these men perceive to be unconquerable obstacles. In contrast, my own research (1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998) indicates that women can and are successful in international business, despite the variety of viewpoints they encounter around the world. Specifically, my research has demonstrated that establishing credibility during the initial stages of business is one area that businesswomen find critical to their success.
Get your camera! Make your business a star. Tell us what stocking stuffer you want. Upload your video on YouTube(TM) where Santas everywhere can see it. But make it nice please and not naughty.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Contractor/Vendor Relations: 101

By:  Tracy Watson, Publisher, Our World Books (WI grad '06)

Tracy_2 If Experience is the best teacher, it is also the most impartial. It doesn't care if the tools are a friend, a foe or completely foreign to you, Experience will find a way to show you what you need to know.

Lady Experience doesn't really want to see you suffer, although it may feel like it, and if she could assume the warm fuzzy voice of your High School nurse, she would probably say to you, "Alright now, this might hurt a little bit! But it's for your own good."

The Friend-or

They say "Never do business with friends." and after my experience, I wondered if they were right. But the truth is the lessons I've learned from doing business with a friend were more than worth the burn.

My Mistakes, er, Life-Lessons:
  • There was no contract - I placed an order for 50 units on the phone, sent my specs by email and confirmed the deadline, without once asking for a contract.
  • I paid for the entire order up front - I wanted to put my friend at ease, and assumed that meant paying for the entire order before a single product was produced.
  • I didn't ask what their refund policy was! - I didn't think I'd be returning anything, this was my dear friend, and of course everything always goes off without a hitch when it's a friend!!!
  • I didn't check the order before I took possession of it, so it wasn't until I got home that I found out that 3 out of 4 of the units were damaged - YIKES! Which meant .
  • I had a very unnecessary battle to remedy the problem.
Without a clear contract or a refund policy, I had no leg to stand on, and friend or not my friend did not opt to refund me for the damaged product. Turns out "damaged" is a very subjective term that can often be confused with "artistic". After several discussions, in which solutions were proffered and then retracted, he offered to refund part of the cost and replace the rest. But to say that our friendship was strained for the month leading up to this, would be putting it mildly.

The New Vendor
That Hadda' Hurt!:
  • Keeping my mouth shut - When I saw that my deadline for a project I had contracted out was approaching and the project seemed to be nowhere near completion, I thought, "I'm sure it will be done in time. I don't want to insult them by asking about it."
  • I didn't get the deadline in writing - I told the principal of the firm my deadline for the project, that contracting them was contingent upon their ability to meet this deadline, to which he agreed, and I thought that was sufficient. Wrong! When the deadline passed and they were still working on the job, I brought it to the project manager's attention and asked if they could rush it. They replied, "Is the deadline in writing anywhere?" They denied all knowledge of the deadline and promptly dropped the job mid-stream! Oh, bloody hell!
The Offshore Contractor
Wake Me When It's Over:
  • I didn't ask what forms of payment they would accept - doesn't everyone accept Paypal?!? Apparently not. It wasn't until we had been working out the details of the job for two excruciating months, that this oh-so-déclassé point came up! Oh, bloody hell!
  • The prep work alone had taken about two months of blood, sweat and tears on all sides, but for me, a huge hunk of money + wire transfer + new/offshore vendor = a seriously risky proposition! Eventually we reached a concession and they agreed to setup a Paypal account, but ...
  • Just because a company or an individual has a Paypal account doesn't mean they can transfer funds from it to their bank. If they try to receive money from you via Paypal and it doesn't go through (as in this case, where their bank didn't accept Paypal transfers), you could end up paying a fee for a transaction that was never completed, which is what happened in this case.
What I Learned and Live:
  1. Assume nothing.
  2. Get all the details of any order or contract in writing and make sure your important clauses and stipulations are included, like the project deadline, what penalties they will pay if they do not complete the job on time, at all, or as you specified, etc. If they have a template, and you decide to use it, don't hesitate to scratch things out and pencil things in - make it work for both of you!
  3. Never pay the entire contract amount before the order is done and checked for quality. The most any contractor should ask for is a 50% retainer or deposit. Only agree to payment terms that sound right to you.
  4. Ask what the refund policy is up front and don't do business with people if their policies aren't in writing and/or if they don't suit you.
  5. Don't take possession of your product from a contractor without checking the quality and never let anyone strong arm you into to accepting something that isn't what you agreed to or paying for something that isn't right.
  6. Speak up. If you have a concern, it's your job to make that concern known. Doing business with people isn't a popularity contest - it's a transaction and you are the best person to make sure that it goes according to your plan.
  7. Don't do business like a charity, putting your money out there and hoping it'll come back to you! In business, everyone's equal, the same standards for contractors/vendors apply to strangers and friends alike.
  8. Be clear how your vendor/contractor expects to be paid before you invest precious time and energy on a project.
  9. Know your non-negotiables and if a contractor or vendor can't accept your terms, don't hesitate to walk away, there are plenty of folks out there who want your business and can work with your terms! Better to spend a little extra time up front finding the right person than a whole lotta time doing damage control with the wrong one.
The moral of my story: whether it's a friend or a perfect stranger, follow these golden rules of good business and everyone will be happier in the end! I hope this cautionary tale will make you laugh, make you think, but most of all, I hope you'll stop laughing at me and take notes - this stuff is priceless!

Much continued success to you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday Linkblogging: Microfinance

New artists and veteran rockers join forces on a new benefit album SERVE2 to support WHY, a leader in the fight against hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. ... WHY was founded over thirty years ago by singer-songwriter Harry Chapin. According to the website:
WHY is convinced that solutions to hunger and poverty can be found at the grassroots level. WHY advances long-term solutions to hunger and poverty by supporting community-based organizations that empower individuals and build self-reliance, i.e., offering job training, education and after school programs; increasing access to housing and healthcare; providing microcredit and entrepreneurial opportunities; teaching people to grow their own food; and assisting small farmers. WHY connects these organizations to funders, media and legislators.
The album contains tracks from such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, KT Tunstall, Joss Stone, and Brandi Carlile. Click on through for more information.
Microenterprises not only provide a path to economic self-reliance for owner-entrepreneurs and benefit their local communities, but they are also important for the economy as a whole.
Bernanke stated that a promising avenue for the future of microfinance is the cultivation of partnerships with commercial banks. Mainstream banks typically dont offer the array of supportive services found at microlenders. But by partnering with a microlender that incubates very small businesses, mainstream institutions can gain new customers when the borrowers graduate from the microfinance program and seek larger loans, Bernanke said.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Linkblogging

During the Cuomo administration, the state issued a report that found, among other things, that companies owned by black women obtained less than 1 percent of state contracts, one of the lowest percentages of any group. As a result, in 1994 a group of black entrepreneurs established Black Women Enterprises in Hempstead, a technical-support group for black women in businesses.

But 13 years later, the problem of unequal access still exists, Black Women Enterprises president Gina Slater-Parker said in an interview.

"The resources are not really out there to promote access," she said. "And we have seen them dwindle over the years." She said she puts the blame on the larger prime contractors who obtain the state work and then fail to give equal treatment to women and minority subcontractors.

"They can do a study every year, and there will not be any new results," she said. "The bottom line is that you have to put teeth in contract enforcement."
  • If you're a woman business owner in Jacksonville, you might want to check this out:
The Jacksonville AthenaPowerLink program is accepting applications through the end of the month from female entrepreneurs who want to be in the program. The program, which was started in Pittsburgh in 1992, connects women business owners with a panel of unpaid advisers who work with the owner for a year to meet business goals.
The business must be at least two years old and past startup problems, have at least two employees and have annual revenue of at least $250,000 for retail or manufacturing businesses or $100,000 for service businesses. Applications are available at the Jacksonville Women's Business Center.
  • WaPo reports that online check and credit card fraud has become a huge problem for small biz owners, especially since they must rely so heavily on internet sales. 25% of survey respondent reported that they had been victims of fraud. The most interesting item of the survey was reported without comment:
Of the 500 southeastern small business owners surveyed, men were significantly more likely than women to report that their business has been the victim of fraud.
  • And finally, for November's Women in Business Month, Women at Light Speed will be podcasting interviews with women business leaders.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Give Thanks and Buy Local!

Buy_local When shopping for your Thanksgiving dinner this week, why not buy local? As Justina commented during Eat Local Week, it's healthier, greener, and better for the local economy.
Here's some help:
And we at Women's Initiative wish you and your families the warmest and best for Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gavin Newsom Visits Women's Initiative!

Gavin_and_alma_2San Francisco's photogenic mayor proved his camera-readiness with our--admittedly attractive--Women's Initiative staffers last Wednesday!

Gavin Newsom visited Women's Initiative's San Francisco headquarters to hold a focus group on the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development's program: Enterprise Zone Tax Credits for SF Businesses.

San Francisco businesses are eligible for substantial tax benefits through two enterprise zone programs.

The state Enterprise Zone program enables businesses in targeted locations to reduce their state income tax liability. These areas include; Hunters Point, Bayview, Chinatown, Financial District, SOMA, North Beach, Embarcadero, Mission, Potrero Hill, Tenderloin, Civic Center etc. The size of the business doesn’t matter, it can be a large company or a small restaurant.
Tax benefits include:
  • Up to 35,100 in state income tax credits for each qualified employee hired over 5 years.
  • Sales and use tax credits on purchases of qualified machinery an parts, including computers, data processing and telecommunications equipment.
  • Up-front expensing of certain depreciable property.
  • Application of unused tax credits to future tax credits.
  • Up to 100% Net Operating Loss carry forward.
  • Net interest deduction for Zone business lenders, etc.
The Mayor said that this is a great program, but few business are taking advantage of it. He came to the community for feedback. Forty stakeholders, among them Organizations like MEDA, La Cocina, Women’s Initiative, and the SF Chamber of Commerce gave him input on how to promote it and reach especially small business owners. They said that the information needs to be simple, accessible and translated into every language.

For more info about the program you can check the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development website.

(Photo of Gavin Newsom with Alma Elizondo, Women's Initiative's SuccessLink/Avance Associate.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

WI in Oakland Magazine!

Dana_2 Oakland Magazine features Women's Initiative's October Business Conference, "Taking It to the Streets," in their "snapshots" section. The webpage has ten slideshows of photos from the conference, so check in to see if you were captured!

(The photo here, of Women's Initiative Advisor Dana Whitaker, was taken by Kali Kraum.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Graduate at the WI Business Conference

By: Tracy Watson, Publisher, Our World Books (WI grad '06)

Getting ready for the trade show, I worked straight through the night. 

But my mom and I arrived chipper and ready to bring home the bacon at 6:15a.m. on the dot.  It was dark outside still.  Mom and I worked like garbage men, unloading our boxes into the Marriott lobby.  Susan, our fearless tradeshow coordinator, looked like I feel--tired, but preternaturally determined.  She flitted up to me, took me to our designated spot and moved quickly on to the next task. 

The table taunted me.  It was stark and expectant.  Well?  Show me what you've got! its blank black cloth said.  I stepped back and looked at it.  I'm not afraid of you, I thought.  Then I got to work.   Somehow, the cloth and the boxes, the stationary and the books, the t-shirts and so on, all came together.  By 7:28, we were done and ready for action.

I was signed up for the breakout session on Quickbooks, but mom was so tired that I had to send her home for a nap.  Maybe this wasn't a bad thing after all because I had a steady stream of traffic and even if she had been there, it might've been a strain for her to be there alone.  I met so many awesome individuals and it was wonderful to get instant feedback about what people thought of our products and company.

By lunchtime, mom still hadn't made it back and I was STARVING!  Luckily, WI posted ambassadors down the corridor so that we could leave our booths! That was a brilliant idea, because I paid for mom to go to the whole thing so even if she had been there, I would've wanted to have lunch with her, not in shifts. 

I made a fatal error at lunch: I did not fill out the bingo questionnaire!  Always, ALWAYS, fill out stuff at WI functions.  As a result of not filling out this form, I didn't get to enter to win a ton of cool prizes. Arrrgh!

Anywho, all in all the day was a tremendous success.  The contacts I made were tremendous and we didn't do too bad on the sales side!  But the crucial thing was getting to put my face to my company and my website - that's key. I've tracked the hits to my site since then and there was a definite spike in the days following the show. 

Before the end of the show, I strolled around and talked with some of my fellow exhibitors.   I was so impressed with the elegance, the style and the charisma of their presentation and their products.  I am honored to know these women, to be a part of their community.  They are amazing. 

Ladies, let's keep this circle of inspiration going, let's meet and share our experiences and our insights.  Until next time, much continued success to each and every one of you.

(Photo of Tracy at the Conference by Kali Kraum at Oakland Magazine.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Businesswomen Worldwide!

Women entrepreneurs are a worldwide trend! This year-old BBC story on women in biz in the UK talks a little about why women choose to run their own businesses and what hardships they face.
Also check out this news story from Canada.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Whittle On Charity and Microcredit

By: Julia Brown, Women's Initiative Research and Policy Assistant


GlobalGiving Chief Executive Dennis Whittle said: "There is no silver bullet in development and poverty reduction. Some things can be funded through microcredit and others need grants." To be successful, Whittle said, people need such basics as health care, clean water, education and transportation. The Web site lets you pick a project and see the results of your donation.
Then he blogs a clarification in the Huffington Post.
They are right about the appropriateness of charging market rates of interest for micro-credit in developing countries. But they are wrong to conflate that with charity or grants. In fact, subsidizing micro-credit via lower interest rates is usually a bad idea.
... There can be a healthy role for outside finance in micro-credit. Modern banks borrow through national and international bond markets all the time. There can even be a role for grants when micro-credit organizations are initially setting up operations, which can be very costly. Grants can also help bring excluded, vulnerable or traumatized populations into the micro-credit system. ... But overall, market-based financing works best for micro-credit.
I agree with Whittle up to a point. Microcredit programs that are market-driven are forced to streamline operations more than non-profit organizations that run on grants, and this of course makes them more sustainable.

However, the focus on profitability has led banks away from microcredit’s original focus on lending to the poor. Studies done in Bolivia showed that, as more microcredit banks established themselves in the same areas and began to compete with each other, the banks began to move away from serving the poor to serving people who were low-income but who were not the poorest of the poor.
Reaching the poorest of the poor, especially in rural areas, requires a great deal of overhead in terms of physically reaching the borrowers who may be widely scattered and maintaining the contact necessary to reduce default rates.

When microcredit banks begin to compete with each other, they tend to cut costs by dropping these very poor people from their portfolios. Without grants and subsidies, it becomes impossible to continue serving these populations. But the media tends to highlight only the fact that such agencies continue serving “the poor” without closely examining who these poor people are.

I of course agree with Whittle that grants are needed to provide the basic services (water, health care, etc.) before people can begin to take advantage of financial products. But I also think that there is a role for grants in generating the funds necessary to continue helping the poorest borrowers and savers take baby steps towards establishing themselves as legitimate financial services consumers.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Gender Issues Aren't Just About Women

By: Elizabeth de Renzy, Women's Initiative Researcher and Data Analyst

I found this post by Kathy Marshack on American Chronicle from our linkblog last month a little ... fluffy?
Marshack dicusses why "Women Business Owners Are Not Always Taken Seriously."
Women are not always taken seriously when it comes to running a business. I don't think that people are discriminating because of gender necessarily. It's probably more because they don't know how to relate to women business owners. Women have different values and these values are showing up in how women design their businesses.
I found the post a little hard to respond to because it had no focus in respect to issues and prescriptions. In addition, I felt a little annoyed by the lack of anything more substantial than anecdotal evidence.
It did make me wonder in a (disappointed) way, however, why the mainstream dialog on gender issues continues to focus on women. I don’t see how we can expect any real social change until we realize that gender inequality isn’t just women’s problem.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wednesday Linkblogging

RC: Also, I’ve found that landlords will listen politely and then lease their space to a man with a track record. I had a long track record at the time I started Pearl Oyster Bar—twenty years as a chef, but not as a business owner. And that was the kind of track record they were looking for. I was lucky to find the guy that I found.
Up to three-quarters of China's estimated 650,000 people living with HIV/AIDS are rural poor, concentrated in Yunnan, Guangxi, Henan and Xinjiang. Microfinance can be an impressive tool for the social and economic empowerment of thousands of women, men and children living with HIV/AIDS, and their families. Measures must also be taken to counter discrimination against such people in microcredit programmes generally.
In its recently released Doing Business 2008 report, the World Bank says countries ranked highest on its “ease of doing business” scale “are associated with higher percentages of women among entrepreneurs and employees.” The bank ranked 178 countries in such policy areas as paying taxes and entrepreneurs’ ease in obtaining licenses, registering property and getting credit. It also ranked countries’ investor protections, contract enforcement and cross-border trade laws.
The top reformers are Egypt, Croatia, Ghana, Macedonia, Georgia, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, China and Bulgaria.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Prop 209 Impact on Minority Businesses

By: Justina Cross, Women's Initiative Marketing Communications Manager

I went to a great symposium in Los Angeles on Friday looking at the impact of Prop 209 on government contracts with disadvantaged entrepreneurs (women and minority owned businesses) and the impact on higher education. You can get more information about this event at Impact209.org

When Prop 209 passed I had just moved to CA and was focused on how it affected affirmative action and outreach programs for minorities in higher education, so it was great to get a perspective on how it changed government contracting.

One of the stand-out papers presented was how there are ways to work around Prop 209 to still have race-conscious programs with government contracting. Tim Lohrentz (of Insight Center formerly NEDLC) presented about how businesses that benefited from the affirmative action programs adjusted their business plans and for the most part have been able to thrive despite Prop 209.

Where it might be hurting is for businesses trying to get into the contract game (some Women's Initiative graduates might be ready for this!) Bernida Reagan, Port of Oakland, presented at one of the sessions and mentioned Women's Initiative for Self Employment several times as an example of how the Port partners to have a program that worked with minority and women business owners. The Port has a Local Business Owner program which is how they get around the language of Prop 209 so that it isn’t creating goals around race or gender.

We know from outside reports that women and minority businesses are growing at staggering rates. In the South Bay we know Latino-owned businesses are really taking off. However, across the board we are dramatically underutilizing WBEs and MBEs and the symposium had quantitative and anecdotal information to illustrate this point. The symposium brought up for me what more we can do for our clients to let them know about government contracting beyond the seminars that we offer. Is there something more we can do with the Port of Oakland to get our clients on a trajectory to be vendors at the Oakland Airport? For some of our clients it is a matter of opportunity recognition about knowing what is possible for their business.

Another interesting talk was about how Prop 209 has negatively impacted the workforce where minorities are disproportionately employed in the public sector, especially education and public defense. The presenter argued that Prop 209 also created a diminished appreciation for diversity in the workplace as we moved to a “color-blind” model of hiring.  This is all great information to keep in our minds as we recruit and hire new employees.

Another presenter shared startling facts: 10 years ago CA had the largest number of black-owned businesses and now we are ranked third. Black families are moving from CA. Also in the 1980s Santa Clara had more black execs than any county in the nation, but today that isn’t true. Doesn’t this hit home to why our work with minority women business owners is so critical?

Globally things are happening around affirmative action, often called “positive action.”  I heard presentations about work that is happening in Brazil and France around creating race-conscious programs. I have a stack of papers (many academic, looking at different aspects of Prop 209’s impact) from the conference that I probably won’t be able to slog through.  If you are interested in seeing the material or hearing more, just email me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Linkblogging: Business Tips

  • This may be the last thing on your mind, but a recent WaPo article on Women business owners selling their businesses suggests you should be thinking about it now. A Center for Women's Business Research study found differences in how women and men business owners deal with selling their businesses and recommends:
    • Run a business every day as if it is for sale.
    • Be aware of your goals and parameters by knowing what is acceptable for you in a sale.
    • Don't publicize prematurely to employees and others that could be affected that you're considering a sale. When you're ready to sell, be decisive.
    • Get buyers' promises in writing and find a buyer who shares your vision. Include conditions of the business and the sale in the sales documents.
    • Develop your own investment and insurance portfolio separate from the business.
  • The Orange County Register has an article on sexual harrassment in small businesses. The article makes the point that a small business can't absorb the costs of a sexual harrassment suit like a corporation can, and that just because you haven't heard any complaints, that doesn't mean that harrassment isn't happening right under your nose. Their advice:
    • Have a clearly stated policy against sexual harassment
    • Widely publicize it and rigorously implement it
    • Promptly follow up on all complaints

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday Linkblogging

  • Also, check out the new Boston-based e-business website for--brace yourself--menstruation-positive products, called Kalily.com.
kalily wants to help young girls reach their individual potential. By recognizing a girls first period experience as a positive and empowering tradition, we can positivey impact a girls self image, who in turn, can positively affect her circle of friends, her community, society and then the world.
Menstruation has historically and to present day been viewed as a negative and taboo topic, one that has caused generations of young girls and women to feel shame towards themselves and their bodies. kalily believes that by changing this current ideology and opening the commnication channels, we can change the course of girls lives that can have positive outcomes throughout their lives.
Our mission is to empower young girls in order to set a positive footprint in their identies.To this end, we offer products and services that are positive and empowering. We will also grow a community of women, moms, mother figures, dads, father figures and girls - who can come together to share ideas, and learn from each other.
  • The wonderful working women's website, workerette.com, has a profile of Lisa Barthuly, a home-based entrepreneur whose business satisfied her green living standards, and involves her home-schooled kids.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Women in Progress magazine

Mieasha A Women's Initiative graduate, Mieasha Harris, is publishing her own online magazine called Women in Progress, to help women find the resources they need to start their own businesses. She also regularly highlights up and coming business women in the Bay Area. Plus, one of her writers, Chiefo Chukwudebe, is also a graduate.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

$50K Contest for Women in Biz!

UPDATE: Actually, it turns out that women in California, Maine, Tennessee, Utah, and Puerto Rico aren't eligible. Sorry!

A commenter was kind enough to turn us on to this Mirassou Winery contest "Make Your Dreams Come True with Mirassou."
Mirassou has been a longtime supporter of women-owned businesses over the past three years. Since obtaining capital is the No. 1 obstacle women face in starting their own businesses, Mirassou has created the "Make Your Dreams Come True with Mirassou" contest which provides $50,000 in seed money to help start a "Dream" business.
... The "Make Your Dreams Come True with Mirassou" contest is open to women who aspire to open a new business. To enter, applicants must submit a personal essay of 500 words or less describing themselves and why they think they would make a successful entrepreneur. A preliminary business plan will also be required and should include: 1) a description of the new business, 2) the consumer appeal to the new business, and 3) a plan to implement the new business.
Deadline is December 15, 2007!

Internet Securities' Small Biz Conference Next Week!

Some of you might be interested in attending this conference offered by Internet Securities. Please see the flyer below for more information. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wednesday Linkblogging

  • This New York Times article about Latino microbusiness in the States offers some interesting statistics from a new study from the Census Bureau:
From 1997 to 2002, there was a 31 percent increase in the number of businesses in the 50 states and the District of Columbia owned by people of Hispanic origin. That was triple the 10 percent gain in the number of all businesses in the country during that period, the most recent for which the Census Bureau has issued such data. In 2002, nearly 200,000 of the 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses had at least one paid worker other than the owner.
Hispanic-owned businesses accounted for 7 percent of the 23 million businesses in the country in 2002 — a percentage likely to have risen since then, given population shifts. The Census Bureau has estimated that as of last year, the Hispanic population was 44.3 million, or 15 percent of the nation’s total, making it the country’s largest ethnic or racial minority.
New York led the states in growth of Hispanic-owned businesses in the 1997-2002 period, with a 57 percent increase. It had a total of 164,000 such businesses in 2002 — not as high as California, with 428,000; Texas, with 319,000; and Florida, with 267,000, the Census Bureau reported.
for her contributions in developing and training women over the past decade through seminars, programmes, articles, organisations and humanitarian work. She was also the recipient of the International Women's Day Award (2007) in recognition of her work as a business owner, author, speaker and coach.
I don't think that people are discriminating because of gender necessarily. It's probably more because they don't know how to relate to women business owners. Women have different values and these values are showing up in how women design their businesses.
... This blending of family and work roles is commonly seen in couple-owned and family-owned enterprises. Yet women who attempt to blend both roles must fight invisibility. ... Sometimes women reinforce this invisibility themselves. In an effort to maintain her role as wife and her role as business owner a woman may feel she has to take a "backseat" to her husband.
Women spend $.85 of every dollar in the marketplace, which is a lot of spending power. The goal is for every woman to convert $1,000 of their regular spending to green spending...buying environmentally friendly products and services. A million women can shift $1 billion dollars and make a huge impact on how big and small businesses view and respond to their own environmental impact.
What does this mean for you as a business owner? Well, you're a consumer too, right?
  • Loho 10002 has a sharp opinion about the SBA delaying implementing 2000 regulations awarding 5% of federal contracts to women. (scroll all the way down)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Microbusinesses as Assets

By: Karuna Jaggar, Women's Initiative Director of Public Policy and Research


CFED's Assets and Opportunity Scorecard for California gives us a C overall, although we get an A for business development opportunities.
California's citizens face mixed prospects when it comes to their opportunities to build and preserve assets. On one hand, the state's households have the 11th highest average net worth in the country. On the other, the state ranks 36th in asset poverty — the proportion of households without sufficient assets to subsist above the poverty level for three months if income were to be interrupted.
Long-term financial independence requires assets as well as adequate income. Families must be able to both cover their basic needs, and have enough in reserve to keep them from slipping into poverty when circumstances change unexpectedly.

Furthermore, assets are critical in obtaining adequate income to begin with. For instance: education and even car ownership are strongly linked to earnings. Anecdotal stories from Women’s Initiative’s clients indicate that owning assets often leads to additional asset acquisition: home-equity loans pay for children’s college, stocks provide down payments on homes or capital for business growth, and so on. It's this combination of sufficient income and assets that allows families to be truly self-sufficient in the long term.

Businesses are a unique and powerful type of asset. They increase income, in the way that education does, and they also increase in value over time like real estate. Microenterprises typically have very low start-up costs, making them a relatively accessible asset for low income individuals, particularly compared to buying a home.

For asset-poor individuals with no credit or poor credit, starting a business is a uniquely accessible way to build on work experience, ingenuity and vision to grow an asset.  This can then be leveraged to acquire additional assets. Starting one’s own business can be a critical strategy for low income individuals to build powerful assets that are transferable across generations, helping to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

While asset poverty is a grave problem for all California families, current research has shown that women and people of color own disproportionately fewer assets than men and whites. Strikingly, the median net worth of a white-headed household in California is nearly $151,000 while that of a minority-headed household is just over $16,500. There is a need for additional research on the linkages between microenterprise and assets, with particular focus on inequalities linked to race and gender.

Data analysis of the most recent Women's Initiative client outcome data shows an overall trend of increasing wealth, with asset growth outpacing liabilities resulting overall gains in net worth. Average wealth at program entry is $9,288. Survey respondents report that their wealth increases a remarkable four-fold to $38,626 within twelve months.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Linking Domestic Violence and Economic Independence

By: Karuna Jaggar, Women's Initiative Director of Public Policy and Research


WStop_domestic_violence This Microcapital article about a microfinance project in South Africa underlines the links between poverty, domestic violence, and AIDS:
IMAGE provides women with short term business loans of up to USD 1300 operating on the presumption that an increase in earning power will encourage women to be more vocal at home, confronting unfaithful husbands about issues such as condom usage.
Domestic violence and Aids infection have long plagued the eight villages outside of Burgersfort, Limpopo Province, South Africa where IMAGE currently operates. According to Dr. Pronyk, “Of the approximately 400 women receiving loans, between 36 and 71 percent reported having been in a violent relationship.” Not unrelated is the HIV/ Aids infection rate, which identifies one out of every three adults in the region as HIV positive. Image findings report that most women in the region accept their husband’s extra- marital affairs as common practice. IMAGE claims most wives avoid confronting their spouses about such behavior, leaving their health at risk, as the male is typically the only wage earner and thus perceived as the unique authority in the household.
IMAGE believes the solution is to increase women’s authority at home by increasing their earning power outside of the home via a microfinance programme.
Although here in the US AIDS and reproductive control are not firmly linked to women's economic independence, the link between poverty, poor health, and risk of violence for women and children is well established. The Kaiser Foundation 2004 report shows that low-income women are twice as likely to report being in fair or poor health as higher income women. The American Cancer Society estimates that cancer survival rate of poor individuals is 10 to 15 percent lower that those of other Americans. And the US Department of Health and Human Services links poverty and issues related to violence as significant factors in women’s health.

At Women’s Initiative we see that self-employment is a powerful component of any multi-pronged strategy in the prevention of and recovery from domestic violence. Self-employment can increase a woman’s economic independence through increased earnings and greater economic control. In addition, owning a business and being one’s own boss allows domestic violence survivors -- many of whom have been controlled in virtually every area of their lives during the abuse -- to be in control of several important areas of their lives.

Nearly one-third of American women (31%) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their adult lives. In addition to physical and sexual assault, many survivors face economic and other forms of abuse. Examples of economic abuse include controlling or even stealing money; fostering dependency; and making financial decisions without asking or telling the partner.
Many women taking our classes have told us of the impact of their lack of access to even small amounts of money: taking the bus to class was enormously problematic, let alone coming up with the $25 registration fee or finding childcare. The impacts of this epidemic are far-reaching, affecting each area of the survivors’ life and in turn that of her family and community

Based on these interviews, we believe that our program can help interrupt domestic violence through:
  1. the supportive group environment and training we give focuses on reducing isolation during and after the program: a common barrier for many of our ALAS clients, who are immigrants with limited or no English-language skills and little knowledge of resources available to them;

  2. financial literacy training, which is critical for women who have faced economic abuse which has limited their access to or knowledge of household finances;

  3. financial independence through business ownership which allows women to increase their income and gain control over earnings, thus expanding her options, including to escape domestic violence.
Our work clearly illustrates the linkages between a woman’s health and her economic independence. Through our multi-pronged business management program, Women’s Initiative empowers women to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Along the way, women build self-esteem, financial literacy, and strong networks of other supportive women. By providing culturally competent business management and personal empowerment training, Women’s Initiative helps prevent domestic violence before, during, and after abuse has occurred.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wednesday Linkblogging: Women Entrepreneurs

Bhardwaj estimates women entrepreneurs at a tenth of the Indian entrepreneur universe — currently there are 1.3 million SSIs and 9.1 million registered SMEs — in India, with the percentage growing every year.
To describe Abu-Raki'ek's life as a single woman entrepreneur as "untraditional" would be an understatement. "It's been very difficult with my family," she says, acknowledging the pain on all sides. "Even before I went to England, I had to deal with the issue of marriage. My father was very good, in that he funded my studies. But when I came home, he insisted that I marry, and I didn't want to do that. I refused. Since I couldn't do what he wanted, to me that meant I couldn't take money from him, either. I still live with my parents, but right after England I started working to be able to pay for whatever I needed. I did all kinds of work - translating, selling Avon products, working in people's homes. But all the while, the pressure on me to marry was increasing. All I could do was say, 'I'm here. I'm standing on my own. I can't do what you want me to do, but I won't ask you for money, either.'" 
My life made a dramatic shift almost 4 years ago when I made the decision to make “contribution” one of my highest values. I found that when in sales, if I focused on getting the deal, I never did nearly as well as when I focused on serving my clients.
And as we chatted about making ‘giving’ a high priority in business, we both agreed that although it can be a difficult mindset to attain, letting ‘contribution’ lead your business decisions creates the most rewarding and successful companies we had both ever known.
  • A new survey by RSM McGladrey and the National Association of Women Business Owners profiles today's women entrepreneurs. Thanks to entrepreneur.com.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Linkblogging

The youth population, aged 12 to 24, has reached a historical high of 1.5 billion.  Youth are the entrepreneurs, workers, leaders, and parents making an impact today, and they will be responsible for the economic and social development of tomorrow.  Many youth around the globe however continue to lack access to quality employment and education opportunities. Without a background in financial literacy or access to business development resources, youth face constraints made more difficult by their age.  Expanding the entrepreneurial culture and skills of young citizens has the potential to improve economic stability and the overall health of communities.
It is against this backdrop that Making Cents International decided to organize the global Youth Microenterprise Conference. The world's leading experts and practitioners in youth microenterprise, entrepreneurship, and livelihood development will convene in Washington, DC to address the following critical issues:
  • The Role of Youth Microenterprise in the 21st Century: Facing the Challenge of Youth Unemployment and Vulnerability
  • Strategies to Address the Needs of Youth Entrepreneurs
  • How to Build Partnerships and Advance Youth Microenterprise to Support Social and Economic Development.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

SBA Gendered Entrepreneurship Study

By: Karuna Jaggar, Women's Initiative Director of Public Policy and Research


Regarding the new Small Business Administration study, "Are Male and Female Entrepreneurs Really That Different?", several things stand out to me from the report:
  1. Women entrepreneurs have different expectations, reasons for starting a business, and motivations from men;
  2. Women were more likely to start a business to balance work and family life whereas men were more likely to start a business to make money;
  3. Men are more likely to believe that starting a business is more important than spending time with one’s family;
  4. There is no statistically significant difference between men and women regarding motivation to start a business to be innovative and learn;
  5. Male entrepreneurs have consistently higher expectations for their business than female entrepreneurs, both with regard to earnings and number of employees;
  6. Male entrepreneurs had greater confidence that they can attract employees in addition they seek opportunities in different ways and start different kinds of businesses;
  7. Men are more likely to found technologically intensive businesses, biz's that lose their competitive advantage more quickly and businesses that have a less geographically localized customer base. Women are more likely to prefer low-risk/low-return businesses;
  8. Male entrepreneurs more likely to identify business opportunities through research;
  9. Controlling for these factors, gender does not affect new venture performance
The good news is that women-owned businesses are not smaller because the gender of the owner specifically limits business performance. Women are not simply less capable of running a business.
However, it is also clear is that preferences, motivations, and expectations are different for men and women. And the researchers point out that understanding such structural barriers to female entrepreneurship are critical for policy makers.

Experience with our clients confirms that work/family balance is a primary motivating factor for many women entrepreneurs, particularly low-income entrepreneurs, who for example may not be able to afford adequate child care through low-wage work.

While certainly many Women’s Initiative clients cite making more money as a key motivation in starting a business, it is unlikely that many (if any) would agree that starting a business is more important than spending time with family, as men in the study report. This research highlights the role of self-employment and business-ownership for women in balancing financial and non-financial responsibilities to provide for and care for their families.

In contrast to other research, this report finds that women do not lack self-confidence, in comparison with men, in their ability to undertake the firm organizing process and women entrepreneurs do not perceive greater barriers than male entrepreneurs. This finding may be explained by the fact that the study looks at entrepreneurs in the process of starting a business, rather than the likelihood of men and women to choose to start a business. This distinction is important in whether women even consider starting their own business, let alone act on the interest.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday Linkblogging

  • Links Check out this article in the Chicago Tribune about business training programs at home and abroad. It's a slightly unusual article, in that articles about social entrepreneurship and microfinance tend to focus on earned income strategies for nonprofits, and loan funds, respectively. This one also has quotes from Bill Clinton, who is focusing on such things these days.

  • A small item of note for Californians: The California Women Business Owners just elected a new board president.

  • grokdotcom.com pointed me to a new study by the SBA contrasting male and female small entrepreneurs. USA Today's blog summarized the findings. While there's no difference in performance between male and female run businesses:
    • Men had more business experience before opening their business, and higher expectations.
    • Women entrepreneurs had a bigger average household size. (This is a point women have mentioned to me often: They're more likely to shoulder extra responsibility for child care and elder care, which takes away from time spent on their business.)
    • Women were more likely to have positive revenues, but men were more likely to own an employer firm. (My take on this: Businesses with employees are more likely to have higher profits because they can take on more customers.)
    • Male owners were more likely to start a business to make money, had higher expectations for their business, and did more research to identify business opportunities.

  • An interesting interview with Laura Yamanaka, the new head of the Los Angeles chapter of NAWBO, which is gearing up for a big expansion.

  • Interesting article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about a fingerprinting expert who started her own business with help from the Service Corps of Retired Executives, or SCORE. Looks like a good resource, so check it out!

  • Small Business CEO blog is running excerpts from Ron Finkelstein's book 49 Marketing Secrets That Work to Grow Sales.

  • The Microenterprise Journal Blog (fantastic! That's going straight onto our blog roll!) has a podcast about the SBA and Congress looking at women's microenterprise. This is a must listen!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Equitable Time-off

By: Elizabeth de Renzy, Researcher and Data Analyst


The Louisville, KY Courier Journal has an article from Joyce Rosenberg about small businesses offering all employees the same time off they offer parents.

I think equitable time-off policies are a step in the right direction.

Not only are they fair to parents and non-parents alike but they undermine the old-fashioned belief that women are less dependable/dedicated employees than men because of their (assumed) family responsibilities – an argument that still keeps women out of high responsibility (and high paying) positions and supports gender inequality outside of the workplace as well.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Eat Local Week

By: Justina Cross, Women's Initiative Marketing Communications Manager


Justina_2I read a great blurb in the paper today about Eat Local Week which focuses on eating food grown and produced within 250 miles drive of San Francisco.

A very cool idea! I have friends who try and adhere to eating local all year long which is very admirable. We all know that cost and energy used directly relates to distribution of the food we eat…the farther it is from our home, the more energy it takes to get it into our hot little hands.
During Eat Local Week - next week, Sept. 23-29 - more than two dozen restaurants and stores will feature local foods and ingredients.

The week was conceived by Jordanna Thigpen, vice president of the city's Small Business Commission.

"By taking an Eat Local approach to our shopping and dining decisions," Thigpen said, "we can create a sustainable economy where less fuel is used in getting food to your table and the majority of dollars we spend stays in our community."
I visited the Eat Local SF website and discovered that we have three graduates participating in the week: Guisell Osorio of Sabores Del Sur, Andrea Doffing of Mirabai Chocolates, and Maria del Carmen of Estrellita Snacks. They all have such delicious food, and I encourage you to patronize their businesses for Eat Local Week starting Sept. 23.

China's Microcredit Question

By: David Veneziano, Women's Initiative CFO

This article from Forbes looks at the Agricultural Bank of China's microcredit program, funded from Australia, which has been running at a loss for community development purposes. The bank is about to go public, so there's a big discussion around how this will happen. Will they tighten up their operations? Will part of the program remain a "policy bank"? What's best for the loan recipients, for the investors, for China's economy?

The answer is simple: do you want to help disadvantaged people or not? There's a cost to everything and if you want to help people you have to pay for it.

At Women's Initiative, we don't expect to break even because we will make high risk loans, but we will not charge our clients a premium for added risk. We don't do this because it would put a big burden on the clients' ability to use/leverage the money we are lending them. It's a vicious cycle: more risk = more interest = more risk because of more interest payments, etc.

We hope to grow large enough to break even and we can do that by keeping our process streamlined, and keeping losses down by having a relationship with people we lend to. That's good enough.
It's tough to make money even as a regular bank. Why do you want to make money off of disadvantaged people? Isn't the government there to help?

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Self-Made Woman

By: Quela Mikell, Women's Initiative Graduate

A self-made woman is a woman that has to hit the ground running daily.

She has to accept the good with the bad. She has to make split decisions at a moment's notice. A kind of superwoman that goes unnoticed making her way out of no way. Taking care of her family and self and yes, sometimes in that order.

She is a woman with a big heart and with every breath believes her motivation comes from the love and commitment she possesses for the lives she affects. Driven at times, kind at others, peaceful the next, wanting, needing, also scared, even feeling stuck, she manages to keep moving because she is in the making.

There are more and more of us as time and the economic climate pursues, a very necessary infusion into the global world coming. So if you know of one of this special kind of women, or this description fits you, help her, support her, and be kind.

Because as she reaches her goal I promise she will not disappoint. because she is self-made, saying to other women and girls, "Yes you can be your own heart's desire, have what you want, if you are willing to do what it takes.

I'm back!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mary Robinson on Monday!

Mary_robinsonDon't forget, folks, former Irish president and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson will be visiting us in San Francisco on Monday, September 17 at the Palace Hotel, at 2 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105. This is a FREE EVENT! Invitation below.
Women's Initiative for Self Employment warmly invites you to a public speaking forum with the Honorable Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She will speak about her current work with the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum, a program of realizing rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative.
Monday, September 17, 2007 7:00-8:00 pm Public speaking engagement The Palace Hotel
The Honorable Mary Robinson is an advocate for women’s equality and leadership. Please join us for the public forum where she will speak about women’s leadership in the world and ways to link local women leaders with policymakers and global movers-and-shakers. We hope by participating in the evening, you will be inspired to support the work of the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum.
At Women’s Initiative, we know that poverty reduction is tied to women’s empowerment. Women who graduate from the Women’s Initiative program experience improved self-esteem and many become leaders in the Bay Area community. Join us to envision a world where women are major economic actors and can be found in leadership roles at the local, regional and global level. Imagine a world where poverty is nowhere to be found.

Please rsvp to events@womensinitiative.org.