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

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 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,, 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