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.