Friday, December 17, 2010

Department of Labor Encourages Local Workforce Investment in Entrepreneurs


Sunday, October 10, 2010

How Women's Initiative is a Key Player in the Fight against the Widening Income Disparity Gap in America


NPR reported last week about the growing income gap in America : “While almost everyone in America thinks of themselves as middle class, income disparities are wide and getting wider. While wages stagnated for almost everybody in the middle or even went down, the rich got richer these past 30 years. Venezuela and Nicaragua now have more equitable pay than the United States. Over time, the effect of these disparities and the narrowing of the social ladder can corrode faith that life is fair and that the rules make sense.” (You can listen to the full story here.)

Women’s Initiative is working to pull up low-income earners through our unique microenterprise training program, where our graduates learn to start and maintain their own businesses. This not only results in employment for them, but contributes to the building of an important personal asset – the business itself.

Business equity ranks second to homeownership as a share of overall household wealth in this country – so building the asset of their business is an important step toward vaulting past this gap. And business ownership is an asset which can be a bridge to home ownership.

Women’s Initiative focuses exclusively on training for low income women. For these women, particularly those with barriers to traditional wage employment, home ownership is often an unattainable dream. Yet through our program, where over 70% of our training graduates have been in business for over 5 years, building business equity – as a primary asset which can be leveraged to purchase a home – will help us in closing the wealth gap once and for all.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Women’s Initiative Offers to Help Los Angeles Spend Stimulus Funds


Dear Los Angeles Public Works and Transportation Departments,
I was sorry to read in David Zahniser’s article in the Los Angeles Times (09/17/2010) that you have been struggling to spend the $111 million in stimulus funds you have been awarded and that you have so far only managed to create 55 jobs.
It must be very slow indeed to secure government approval of contracts. I understand that you plan to eventually create or retain 264 jobs when you get around to spending the funds.
I am very impressed to hear that you have decided to begin looking for ways to streamline the contracting process and that you hope to start seeing changes in six months.
Women’s Initiative for Self Employment has been struggling too. We have waiting lists of low-income women, most without employment, wanting to take our business plan training course so they can create jobs for themselves and others by starting a business, but we just don’t have enough funding to add more courses this year.
So, like your agency, we have just had to do the best we could. We don’t have nearly the budget that you do but we have managed to provide business training to more women than ever in this past year. In 2009, 1,195 women graduated from our business plan training course. Our data to date indicates that these women will likely create and retain 1,123 jobs for themselves and others by the end of this year at an average cost of just over $4K per job.
I know this is nothing compared to the really expensive jobs that you are beginning to figure out how to create, but it’s a start.
If you find that you don’t really have the time – or if it’s just too much of a struggle – to begin looking for ways to spend the federal stimulus funding you have been awarded to create jobs, just let us know. We would be more than happy to help.
The low-income women who are waiting to get into our courses and these women’s families would really appreciate it as well.
Yours sincerely,
Elizabeth de Renzy

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Women’s Initiative Bringing Job Creation to the Table at the Fourth Annual San Francisco Women’s Policy Summit

On Wednesday, September 15, 2010 Women’s Initiative has been invited to participate in the Fourth Annual SF Women’s Policy Summit: “Empowerment and Access”.

For the past three years, the SF Women's Policy Summit has convened an exciting group of leaders to build networks, outline policy issues, and encourage elected officials and candidates for office to support the future of women and families in San Francisco. This year, Women’s Initiative has been asked to participate on two expert panels on job creation and small business.

Brandi Chalker, Women’s Initiative graduate and Owner of Urban Bazaar, will be joined by Nicole Levine, Executive Director of the North Bay, in a break out session to explore the reality of being a woman business owner in San Francisco and identify policy priorities for business success that leads to job creation and economic development.

Elizabeth de Renzy, Researcher and Data Analyst, will join policy experts, Tom Radulovich (Livable City, BART), Fei Tsen (SPUR, Greenbelt Alliance, Chinatown Community Development Corporation), Peter Albert (SFMTA), and Christina Olague (Planning Commission) on a panel to discuss how the development of women owned businesses can enable San Francisco to continue to grow while creating local jobs and strong neighborhoods in which women and families can thrive.

For more information about the summit see the website of the SF Department on the Status of Women.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Women's Initiative featured on



One of our Women’s Initiative Woman Entrepreneur of the Year winners is also a blogger for Check out Janine Popick’s, of VerticalResponse, blog today on winning the award and the importance of recognizing women in business.
If you’d like to do your part in recognizing the contributions of women business owners, be sure to attend one of our Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award ceremonies in October. More info and purchase tickets here!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Call for policies that create jobs through microenterprise development for Latinas

By: Elizabeth de Renzy, Researcher & Data Analyst

Together with leaders from other civil rights, labor, and student organizations, NCLR is leading One Nation Working Together, a national campaign to call for policies to create jobs and invest in a strong economic future. A major feature of the campaign is an historic rally scheduled to take place in Washington, DC on October 2, 2010. Click here to learn more about One Nation Working Together.
Business ownership has historically been one of the most effective ways for low-skilled Hispanic entrepreneurs to increase income and build assets in the US. The self-employment rate of Latinas is rapidly growing, especially in the states along the US-Mexico border. Nevertheless, disparities in business ownership still exist. Latina entrepreneurs face challenges both in starting and growing their businesses. Training, networking, and mentoring opportunities are often limited and there is unequal access to capital resulting from discriminatory treatment in both the public and private sectors.
An investment in microenterprise development targeting the low-income Latinas would create jobs, build assets, and reduce poverty among Hispanic families.
At the height of the recession, nine in ten un- and underemployed women who received microenterprise training through Women’s Initiative entered employment or self-employment within the first year after training. More than one in ten provided jobs for others within the first year.
Small businesses are the foundation of American neighborhoods and small towns. They provide jobs and increase the purchasing power that will stimulate the local economy. Business ownership has played an important role in the upward economic mobility of immigrants. Self-employment rates for Latinas, especially immigrants, are growing at a rapid pace but disparities still exist. Microenterprise development services are an import part of the solution to escalating poverty and unemployment rates among Latinos.
Join Women's Initiative by calling for policies that create jobs through microenterprise development for women, especially Latinas and immigrants.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Are Recovery Act Tax Credits for Businesses Working?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office is looking for feedback from local business owners who have taken advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for businesses.

The WOTC offers tax savings to businesses that hire workers belonging to any of 12 targeted groups, including unemployed veterans and disconnected youth. The other 10 include people ages 18 to 39 living in designated communities in 43 states and the District of Columbia, Hurricane Katrina employees, recipients of various types of public assistance, and certain veterans, summer youth workers and ex-felons.

The Speaker’s staff have asked Women’s Initiative for our help finding business owners who were able to take advantage of the tax credit.

If you have taken advantage the WOTC, please contact Elizabeth de Renzy at (510) 287-3117 or And please forward this message to your network!

Don’t miss this opportunity ensure that your voice is heard by our decision makers in DC!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Big Business of Government Spending

By: Jordan Ferchill, Women's Initiative

The question of whether or not to cut government spending to reign in the federal budget deficit is the political battle raging in Washington these days. Some say that we have to decrease the deficit to get the economy back on track, while others argue that we need to spend our way out of the current recession. In recent testimony given to the congressional commission on fiscal responsibility and reform, WIPP national partner, Tara Olson, explained that 83% of women business owners favor decreasing the deficit. Meanwhile, a June 11-13 USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 60% of Americans are in favor of increasing government spending to stimulate the economy. What accounts for this radical difference in the opinion of women entrepreneurs and the public at large? Does increased government spending eliminate the competitive edge that many women-owned small businesses have by unfairly subsidizing their competitors?

Government spending in and of itself does not necessarily put small, women-owned businesses at a disadvantage. However, the results of a recent study by Tischler & Associates indicate that many chain stores are tacitly and massively subsidized in this country through tax dollars. The study showed that fast food restaurants incurred a tax deficit of $5,168 per 1,000 square feet, with big box retail developments trailing close behind at a loss of $468 per 1,000 square feet, and shopping centers at a loss of $314 per 1,000 square feet. On the other hand, the study showed that in general local businesses create net gains for tax payers. These findings suggest that given the current allocation of tax dollars, increased government spending would in all likelihood benefit big business and make competition more difficult for small businesses like those that are cultivated by Women’s Initiative.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Training for What?

By: Elizabeth de Renzy, Researcher & Data Analyst

A New York Times article on Monday – After Training, Still Scrambling for Employment – confirmed what we at Women's Initiative for Self Employment have long suspected: job training is only useful if there are jobs to be had. On the other hand, microenterprise training is a proven method of job creation. Our white paper – Job Creation through Microenterprise Development – shows that the women who go through the small business training program offered by Women's Initiative not only produce jobs for themselves, but for others as well. In fact, in 2009 alone, Women's Initiative clients created more than 2,200 jobs.

It’s time for the government to realize that no amount of job training is going to help people find employment when there are no jobs to be had. With the number of unemployed workers still outnumbering job openings five to one, it is more important than ever that federal funding through the Workforce Investment Act should focus on job creation as well as job training.
Current job training programs appear to be operating under outdated assumptions about the economy. “A lot of the training programs that we have in this country were designed for a kind of quick turnaround economy, as opposed to the entrenched structural challenges of today,” the New York Times quoted Rutgers University labor economist, Carl E. Van Horn saying.
A study conducted by the Department of Labor showed that, even before the recession, job training programs resulted in little or no increase in earnings for participants. In contrast, women who participate in microenterprise training programs are seeing significant increases in earnings. Women’s Initiative graduates typically increase their income an average of 75% within the first 12 months after training.
In a Huffington Post op-ed Julian L. Alssid, Executive Director of Workforce Strategy Center in New York City, agreed that skills training alone isn't enough without job creating strategies.
Consider these three reasons to include job creation through microenterprise training in our workforce investment strategy:
· 18% of all US employment is in the microenterprise sector.
· Microenterprise training enables unemployed workers to create jobs for themselves and others in their community.
· Microenterprise training results in an increase in income and assets, thus stimulating the economy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Job Creation Through Microenterprise

Women's Initiative has released a new research paper on “Job Creation through Microenterprise Development.”

The research shows that our training support program is a proven method of job creation. In 2009, when major corporations were downsizing and announcing layoffs, Women’s Initiative graduates created 2,244 jobs. Other highlights of the research include:

·Nine in ten clients are employed or self-employed twelve months after training.
·More than six in ten are self-employed twelve months after training.
·One year after training more than one in ten clients provided part-time, full-time, temporary and contract jobs for others.
·Five years after training, more than one in five provided jobs for others, with an average of nearly two jobs provided for others per client.
·For every 100 women who receive training, an average of 245 local jobs are created and retained five years after graduation.
·With an average cost of $1,525 per woman served, a $1 million investment in Women’s Initiative’s programs would result in 132 new jobs being created within 12 months and a total of 480 new jobs in five years.

Congratulations to the strong clients of Women's Initiative who are having a significant impact on the Bay Area economy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Finding your tribe of support


I attended two very inspirational events last week. And although the speakers had extremely different backgrounds, their messages were quite similar and right in line with the Women’s Initiative philosophy.
On Thursday, I attended the ERA luncheon with keynote speaker Arianna Huffington. Arianna talked about the need for women to not only break the glass ceiling and achieve success, but to do it differently. Women, she said, do things with empathy, which is exactly what the world needs now. If the Lehman Brothers had been the Lehman Sisters, things would be a lot different today!
She also talked about the personal obstacles women face, including facing our own worst critic in ourselves. Arianna refers to her inner critic as her ‘obnoxious roommate’. This is the voice that tells you you can’t do it, you’re too old, you’re too fat, you don’t know what you’re doing. The challenge is getting past that inner critic. Arianna’s book On Becoming Fearless addresses this and says that fearlessness is not the absence of fear, but the ability to not let your fears stop you. The key she said is to form our own tribe of people who support us. People who lift us up and tell the obnoxious roommate to shut up.
On Friday morning, I went to the Women’s Initiative North Bay Fundraising Breakfast. We had several guest speakers, including our own charismatic Julie Abrams, and Alison Davis from Belvedere Capital, one of the most influential women in Bay Area business. But the most powerful speaker that morning was Mara.
Mara is a recent graduate of Women’s Initiative. Mara’s background is about as far from Arianna Huffington’s as you could imagine. Her mother was an alcoholic so Mara was left to care for her younger siblings as her mother was either absent or unable to care for them. Her father physically abused her mother. At 17 Mara could no longer take it and ran away from home, despite the guilt she felt at leaving her younger siblings. She soon married her boyfriend and found herself with two babies and in a not much better situation than what she had left. Her husband was verbally abusive, telling Mara that she was useless, that she would never survive on her own, and that her children would starve.
Despite that, Mara did find the strength to leave. Shortly after, she saw an interview on television with a Women’s Initiative graduate. A Latina like herself who had started her own business and become successful. Inspired but scared, Mara called Women’s Initiative and signed up for the business training course. There, she found a warm, caring group of women who never told her that she couldn’t do it, but only gave her words of encouragement and helped her discover her own path to success. She had found her own tribe of supportive women.
Mara’s goal is to start a local publication for Latina women that addresses the issues of domestic violence, self esteem, raising children in the United States and other issues that Latinas face. Mara doesn’t just want to succeed, but she wants to give back and help other women.
I’m confident that Mara will succeed, and that she will do it differently. She will do it with empathy and with a tribe of supporters.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cause of Death: Bad Neighborhoods

Although life expectancy in the US has increased by 30 years in the last century, if you live in a neighborhood with high poverty rates, chances are, you and your family can’t expect to live as long as those living in affluent communities. People who live in West Oakland die an average of 10 years earlier than those who live the Berkeley Hills and Bay View/Hunter’s Point residents die 14 years earlier than those living on Russian Hill.

A report published in Race Poverty and the Environment, a project of Urban Habitat shows that the neighborhood you live in directly impacts your health.

Bob Prentice, Director of the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII) writes that physical and social improvements such as food and water sanitations, workplace and traffic safety, declines in tobacco use, and housing conditions have contributed more to life expectancy than advances in antibiotics and vaccines over the past century.

Community economic development may have more than an economic impact on low-income communities; it may help people in these communities live longer and healthier lives. Women’s Initiative has been awarded a grant from the UCSF’s University Community Partnerships Council to investigate the relationship between economic development and health. Together with our university partners, Dr. Claire Brindis and Dr. Mary Kreger and at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF Women’s Initiative will be studying the impact of microenterprise development on community health and well-being, especially that of mothers and their children.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Miss Karen's Krew"

Recent Women's Initiative graduate Oriana Bolden created this heartwarming video about her Simple Steps class at Women's Initiative, led by trainer Karen Auguste. These 3 short minutes really capture the warmth, support and community that happens in our classes.

Thank you Oriana!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Women's Initiative in San Francisco Magazine

Beautiful article in this month's San Francisco Magazine on 'Reinvention'. Women's Initiative CEO Julie Castro Abrams is quoted and graduates Isabella Guajardo and Emily Dods are featured.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hamburg's Blog on Women's Initiative

Liz Hamburg, founder and president of Upstart Ventures was in the Bay Area last week for the Microfinance USA 2010 conference. She spent a few days with Women’s Initiative, learning more about what we do and meeting our clients. Read about her experiences in her blog.


Friday, May 21, 2010

More in Need and Little Relief in Sight

Are Bay Area non-profits keeping up with the recession? The United Way’s recently released Bay Area Nonprofit Pulse Survey indicates that while non-profits are doing more with less, just three percent are seeing improvements, and one in four have had to eliminate services.

More than six in ten non-profits reported an increase in demand for services last year and four in ten were not able to meet those demands.

Unlike for-profit businesses, demand and revenues often negatively correlate in the non-profit sector. Since the beginning of the Great Recession growing demand for services has been accompanied by declining revenues from both private and public sources. More than half of non-profits reported a drop in revenues in 2009.

Many non-profits reported tapping into reserves to cover costs last year which will be painfully felt in coming years if demand for services remains high. Anne Wilson, CEO of United Way of the Bay Area says that those hit hardest by the recession may take years to get back on their feet.

Other ways that non-profits are stretching resources include collaborating with other organizations such as the United Way’s SparkPoint Oakland Center to bring together a number of non-profit organizations including Women’s Initiative for Self Employment. Non-profit organizations are also working with more volunteers to increase levels and quality of service without increasing costs.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Women of Vision" Gala


Our 8th Annual Gala, held at the Hilton Union Square on May 13th was a huge success. Approximately 600 of the Bay Area’s business leaders came out to support Women’s Initiative, celebrate our honorees and shop in the graduate marketplace.
Lydia Beebe, corporate secretary and chief governance officer of Chevron received the Founder’s Award for her commitment to providing leadership opportunities for women. Women’s Initiative graduates Isabella Guajardo of Gil with a Truck and Doris Shahrokhimanesh of Abe’s Blazin’ Spice BBQ received the Woman Entrepreneur on the Rise awards.
More than 20 Women’s Initiative graduates had booths in the marketplace. Guests of the gala shopped for jewelry, hats, candles, clothes and other unique items, spending nearly $20,000 with our graduate businesses!
The Gala is our largest fundraiser of the year. In addition to money raised through sponsorships and ticket sales, we raised more than $100,000 in donations at the event. As the recession continues to take its toll on non-profits, the support of our generous donors is more important than ever.
Below are some photos of the event, courtesy of photographer Jennifer Baciocco.
Nancy McFadden of PG&E and Gala co-chair, presents the award to Isabella Guajardo of Girl with a Truck
Graduate honoree Doris Shahrokhimanesh of Abe's Blazin' Spice BBQ
Women's Initiative Governing Board members Rita Steel and Michele Grau-Young, Founder's Award recipient Lydia Beebe, and Women's Initiative CEO Julie Castro Abrams.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Mothers who can’t find sufficient healthy food for their children are taking matters into their own hands, according to Dale Buss of the Wall Street Journal. These women are combining their knowledge of children with the need for healthier food to create small businesses that focus on healthy snacks and organic baby food. In his article, The Mothers of Invention, Buss describes these “mompreneurs” as women who are using this opportunity as a “chance to achieve a work-life balance they never found in the corporate world.”

At Women’s Initiative, 27% of clients are single parents. Many working women face the struggle of providing care to their children while financially supporting themselves and their families. Flexible work schedules through self-employment can help provide a solution, although balancing work and family life is still not an easy challenge.

The “mompreneurs” in Buss’ article are still facing challenges, including how to maintain growth and adapt to market needs in a weak economy.

By 2007, 70% of mothers with children under 18 participated in the US labor force (compared to only 47% in 1975). Self-employment can provide women with confidence, financial independence, an outlet to take full advantage of their skills and give back to their community, and an opportunity to create flexible schedules to balance work and family.

With an economically depressed economy and high unemployment rates (10% nationally and 12.4% in California), this need for new strategies to achieve self-sufficiency is growing. Today, Women’s Initiative graduates more than twice as many women annually than 5 years ago.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

So, You Want To Be An Entrepreneur?


In The Wall Street Journal’s “So, You Want to Be an Entrepreneur”, Kelly K. Spors writes that while entrepreneurs come from all sorts of backgrounds and personalities, there are still certain attributes that improve the odds that one will be happy and successful with one’s business. Before taking the entrepreneurial plunge, one should ask:
  • Do I like all aspects of running a business? You have to do it all, at least in the beginning, from creating the product to marketing and sales to bookkeeping and administration. If you hire an employee, you have to do all the training.
  • Am I comfortable making decisions on the fly with no playbook? You have to be a decisive decision-maker. In the beginning, there is no structure or precedent.
  • How persuasive am I? You have to sell others on your passion. You have to cold-call potential leads, network, and be willing to argue why your product is worth buying.
Are women who come to Women’s Initiative for Self Employment ready to take the entrepreneurial plunge? What stage of the entrepreneurial process are women in when they first come to Women’s Initiative?
Speaking with one of our business trainers, I learned that the average client already has her product and business idea in mind. She is confident in her skill set (be it cooking, cleaning, crafts) and has experience working in her field. She is capable and willing to learn, and the reason she comes into Women’s Initiative is because she has gotten stuck and seeks access to training and resources that she can’t find by herself.
Interestingly, the trainer said she found that more than just the business training, it is the sense of empowerment that women walk away with when they graduate from the course. More than learning the basic accounting, it is the confidence a woman gains that helps her communicate professionally and successfully convey what she wants.
So, you want to be an entrepreneur? Women’s Initiative has found that more than just the business training, it is the sense of empowerment, the chance to network, and be part of a larger support group where a woman can share her successes and mistakes that women entrepreneurs value most and which ultimately contribute, to her business success.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Support for Small Businesses

The California Association of Micro Enterprise Opportunity (CAMEO) urges Senator Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein to support the Small Business Community Partner Relief Act of 2010.

This legislation would enable the Small Business Administration (SBA) to make federal funding for microloans and technical assistance more readily accessible to small businesses.

These services can help save and create thousands of jobs in California by helping small business owners manage the start-up and operation of their businesses.

Due to severe local government budget cuts, many microlenders have been unable to raise non-federal matching funds as required by the SBA to qualify for federal funding. This has negatively impacted services available to small businesses, many of whom need assistance now more than ever.

CAMEO represents 130 microenterprise organizations who provide microloans and technical assistance to 25,000 businesses in the state of California.

You can support microentrepreneurs by asking our senators to support the Small Business Community Partner Relief Act of 2010.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Women's Initiative CEO featured on

Women's Initiative CEO Julie Castro Abrams is featured on Fast Company's website in their 30-Second MBA segment. Julie's topic is "How do you prepare for a board meeting."


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thank you Women's Initiative Volunteers!

Women's Initiative celebrates National Volunteer Week by announcing that our volunteers logged more hours in the first quarter of 2010 than in all of 2007! Women's Initiative volunteers have given more than 5,000 hours in 2010 so far, and we're not even halfway through the year. Last month alone, our volunteers logged nearly 1,800 hours in service to the thousands of local women entrepreneurs who participate in our microenterprise training, lending, and ongoing support services. Our growing network of volunteers really speaks to the relevancy and urgency of our mission in response to this recession. Are you looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of low-income women who are working hard to transform their lives, support their families, and revitalize our local economy? Complete our online volunteer application to learn more about Women's Initiative's volunteer program, and visit our website for more details.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Microfinance – A Successful Strategy to Help Small Entrepreneurs in the USA

Microloans are still too often associated with small community loans for extremely poor women in Asia, Africa and South America. However, Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the concept of “microcredit” and the Grameen Bank, was driven by the belief that access to credit should be recognized as a universal human right. Therefore, in 2006 the Nobel Committee awarded Yunus and the Grameen Bank the Nobel Peace Prize “for their effort to create economic and social development from below” not only in his native Bangladesh but “across cultures and civilizations”.
Today, many small business owners here in the United States face similar difficulties as their Bangladeshi colleagues in receiving access to fair loans from traditional banks. “Coming To America: Third World Microlending,” a story featured on NPR in March 2010, documents that microfinance is no longer only a strategy of poverty-alleviation in developing countries. It has also become a successful tool to help small entrepreneurs in the USA. The story captures beautifully the struggles of small business owners to find the necessary capital that allows them to launch their own business, the role of microlenders, such as Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment which has been an active microlender for lower-income women in the Bay Area for more than two decades, and the growing demand on Washington to realize and support the significant work of microlenders across the country.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nominate Your Favorite Woman Entrepreneur

Women’s Initiative for Self Employment is now accepting nominations for their Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. The awards seek to recognize women entrepreneurs in cities throughout the Bay Area who demonstrate the following:

- Have been successful despite the barriers that exist for woman business owners
- Exemplify how business ownership and leadership is beneficial for women and their families
- Have a positive impact on the local community
- Advance their business through innovation.
A Leadership Committee from each region will determine the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year based on information provided by the nominee. Winners will be announced in August and honored at one of five regional award celebrations in October. In addition, winners will be recognized in local media and featured on the Women’s Initiative website and newsletter.
To be considered for the award, an individual must indentify as a woman and be the founder or owner of a successful business. Deadline for nominations is May 31. Click here for more information and to nominate a woman entrepreneur.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Claiming Tax Credits Helps Stimulate the California Economy


A report published by the New America Foundation and economists at California State University at Fresno showed that one in five Californians who qualify for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) will not claim these refunds. According to the report, this amounts to a loss of more than $1 billion for California’s economy because local businesses will lose out on sales that would have created thousands of jobs.
To learn if you are eligible for the EITC, go to, an initiative of California First Lady Maria Shriver or call 211 to learn about local free tax preparation services.

When There Are No Jobs

When the Nummi auto manufacturing plant closed last week in Fremont, 4700 workers lost their jobs. It’s estimated an additional 20,000 jobs will be lost as suppliers to Nummi close. Where do you look for a good paying job that will keep your family safe when your whole life you have worked in one auto plant and there are no others to replace it? Even if people were up for retraining for another line of work, there are so few jobs available today. I see an opportunity here. With the right training and support, these workers (and/or their spouses) can start their own businesses. Let’s help them create communities where people live and work, where local businesses are unique and created and owned by people who live close by and care about the community. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

IDAs Save Homes From Foreclosure


Over the years, the microfinance industry has shifted its focus from increasing incomes to building the assets of its clients. After all, assets are the key to financial stability, allowing us to weather storms, such as the big, rainy mess we're in now.

Individual development accounts (IDAs)--matched savings accounts funded, for the most part, through the federal program Assets for Independence--are a powerful tool for financial security. New research from CFED and the Urban Institute shows that low-income homebuyers who used IDAs to buy their homes were two to three times less likely to lose their homes to foreclosure, probably because their IDAs enabled them to avoid subprime mortgages.

Which begs the question: at a time when foreclosures are at a record high, why is this innovative program--with proven results--getting only $19 million a year, while the big banks have gotten hundred of billions?

If you are a graduate of Women's Initiative interested in opening an IDA, please click here for more information.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Women of Vision" Gala, May 13, Hilton Union Square

Join Women's Initiative on May 13th in honoring the Women of Vision who have supported our oorganization and who have launched businesses and created jobs. The Gala includes a marketplace of graduate businesses and promises to be one of the most inspirational events you'll attend all year. More information and tickets available here.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

House Passes Small Business Relief Bill


The House passed a Small Business Relief Bill today that could have an impact on your business if it is approved by the Senate. According to a summary of the bill written by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), the bill contains a number of provisions that provide tax relief to small businesses, including:

· 100% exclusion of capital gains tax on small business stock acquired between March 15, 2010 and January 1, 2012
· providing tax write-offs for SBA-backed loans and government-backed loans that use real property as collateral
· increasing the amount a business can write-off for start-up expenditures
· decreasing reporting penalties from a flat fee to a proportion of income not reported

The bill will now go to the Senate. Do your senators know how the bill will impact your business?

More Capital in the Community - Call to Action!

Please join Women’s Initiative by contacting Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Dianne Feinstein to urge them to please sign on to the Menendez letter in support of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).

CDFIs are important to the economic recovery in CA by financing businesses, families, and neighborhoods that are generally unable to access the capital they need from conventional lenders.

Please contact please contact Bridget ( in Senator Boxer's office and Ahmad ( in Sentaor Feinstein's office to urge them to contact Jason Tuber ( in Menendez's office, by Thursday, April 1st.
Thank you for your support!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Women's Initiative graduate businesses featured in San Francisco magazine

Two Women's Initiative graduate businesses are featured in this month's San Francisco magazine article on the best sandwiches in the Bay Area. Not surprising to see Bakesale Betty's fried chicken sandwich on the list, and great to see the torta la tesorito from La Casita Chilanga featured as well. FriedChicken-1_full

Thursday, March 25, 2010

San Francisco Bay Area in “Double Trouble”