Achieving Economic Equity

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
WEV clients attend an Emprendimiento business training class.

Access to credit is a mighty tool in the modern world. Without it, individuals may face barriers to education, housing, and entrepreneurship, which in turn limits their ability to achieve financial independence, success, and happiness through their lifetimes.

Removing such barriers is one of the principal goals of Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), a nonprofit that passionately believes in entrepreneurship as a pathway to achieving financial security, enabling women to live full, healthy lives. The organization was launched to help women start and grow their own businesses through providing training, consulting, and access to capital. “Our founder had worked at a rape crisis center and observed that women had trouble getting out of abusive situations because they had no financial resources – or access to financial resources,” says Kathy Odell, chief executive officer. “She saw firsthand that if women couldn’t be economically independent, they’re trapped in whatever life everybody else imposes on them. And we don’t want that.” 

The Engine to Build a Better Economic Future

WEV has grown from a pilot program in Santa Barbara County to expanding its reach and impact across California’s Central Coast region. The organization has developed a comprehensive suite of programs and services, in both English and Spanish, tailored to the needs of women and historically-marginalized entrepreneurs. From social media training and financial education to customized consulting services to grants and forgivable loans, all wrapped up in opportunities to network and build community, WEV is giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to launch or expand their ventures, setting them on a path to fulfillment and financial independence. 

Odell notes that WEV continues to evolve and serve where there is the most need and highest impact for all women. “Sixty-six percent of the people we serve now are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and low-income people. We find that by focusing on these women, we ensure change for their entire communities, by lifting them out of poverty and into a more sustainable life.”

Building Financial Confidence Throughout Communities

WEV’s impact can also be witnessed by walking around downtown Santa Barbara and Ventura. “Our clients have built your neighborhood. They’re the dog grooming salon you stop at. They’re the cheese shop you go to for a weekend speciality. They are the heart and soul of the neighborhood,” says Odell.

Counting on women is a central theme for economic growth,  it leads to strong community development outcomes that benefit many. For philanthropists interested in women’s economic equity, Odell calls for funders to invest locally and connect with each woman’s story. “I think one of the frustrations organizations like ours have with funders is their expectation that they want big numbers. They want to see hundreds or thousands of people served. For us, it’s the intention. We’re serving, like, 700 entrepreneurs a year right now. We’re really connected to those 700, helping them grow and become successful. It’s not always about the number of people coming through your doors.”

For WEV, which has already assisted 5,500 local businesses that have generated an estimated $800 million in annual sales, this is a journey of empowerment and determination.


Women’s Economic Ventures

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(805) 908-0093
Development & Donor Relations Officer: Lauren Lafferty


Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing essential support and funding for anyone wanting to start or grow a small business on California’s Central Coast.

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