April 17 Newsflash

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  • Op-Ed in American Banker
  • Save the Date: June 1 lunch in San Francisco
  • New Steering Committee members
  • Internship Opportunity
  • Further Reading


We are thrilled to have our first Op-Ed published in the American Banker this week. Both steering Committee member Esther Morales, and Claudia made the case for directing government agencies and private banks to better target and support women-owned businesses: "Women entrepreneurs are the sleeping goddesses of our economy. When a woman business owner is successful, she buys a house and invests in her kids’ education. At the same time, her purchases, donations and taxes circulate locally." https://www.americanbanker.com/opinion/dont-overlook-women-owned-businesses


The Invest in Women Entrepreneurs Initiative will be hosting a lunch in San Francisco for our Sphere of Influencers to contribute to a strategic discussion to advance our I-WE goals of new funding for resources supporting women-owned business. Mark your calendars now for this Friday, June 1, 12pm-1:30pm gathering at the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center at 275 5th St. in San Francisco. Delicious sandwiches and homemade cookies included!


The I-WE Initiative would like to welcome two wise and talented new members to our Steering Committee:

  • Katie Vlietstra, who serves the National Association for the Self-Employed as Vice President for Government Relations and Public Affairs; and
  • Jane Campbell, who serves as Director of the Washington Office for the National Development Council


If you know of a talented student looking for a summer gig, please direct her to our new Summer Research Director position for the I-WE. Working remotely and receiving a $1,000 stipend, this intern will spend about 50 hours  researching the landscape of government support for women-owned businesses in the US as well as the correlation between homeownership and business capital for women. These issues were identified as important by our network members at our recent lunch meeting in DC. Check out this link for details on how to apply. 


  • Locally in San Francisco, the city government is pioneering a program that offers micro-grants to women business owners who wish to expand operations, finance new projects, make improvements to facilities and create additional marketing campaigns. Read more about the new Women's Entrepreneurship Fund here
  • 99designs recently published the results of their survey of 3,000 entrepreneurs. Their research lays out the challenges women entrepreneurs face in raising capital, but also shows some surprising similarities in industry distribution. Read more here

Stay tuned!

- Claudia


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  • Omnibus Spending Bill
  • Sphere of Influencers update
  • Entrepreneur Spotlight: Jessicurl
  • Further reading


The Omnibus Spending Bill approved on March 22 held surprising good news for small business.  The SBA saw small increases for both the Women’s Business Center – from $17m to $18m- and the Small Business Development Centers – from $125m to $130m – 5.8% and 4% increases respectively.  The often-eliminated PRIME program for lower income communities was preserved at $5 million.  The SBA overall fared relatively well, which is a sign that the Republican legislators in both houses value its mission.

Even more surprising, the allocation for USDA’s Rural Development was increased by 42% from $24 million to $34 million.  A large portion of this funding benefits small business development, which is a good sign, since non-farm businesses are now the largest employers in rural regions and 90% of these businesses are small or micro.

And finally, we were thrilled to see the CDFI Fund restored to $250 million which means that more women entrepreneurs who can’t get bank loans will benefit from nonprofit lenders serving their communities.  But this good news does not mean that we should lessen our efforts to encourage banks to substantially increase both their lending to women and their investing in CDFIs.

The meaning we can draw from these positive outcomes is that legislators are listening to their constituents, with active input from advocates such as CAMEO, AWBC, ASBC, Small Business Majority, NASE and others. And the upcoming mid-term elections, with so many contested seats, offer us an opportunity to make a strong case for why investing in women entrepreneurs creates healthy local economies. 


We'd like to welcome to the I-WE Sphere of Influencers:

  • Bianca Blomquist  Northern California Outreach Manager, Small Business Majority
  • Saundra Davis  Executive Director, Sage Financial Solutions
  • Sharon Miller  CEO, Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center
  • Claire Kramer Mills  Assistant Vice President and Community Affairs Officer, Outreach & Education, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • Kathleen Minogue  Founder and CEO, Crowdfund Better
  • Heather McCulloch  Founder and Director, Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap Initiative
  • Pamela Prince-Eason  President and CEO, WBENC (Women's Business Enterprise National Council)


Read our latest profile on an entrepreneur who took advantage of women's business resources to build a successful company.


  • The California Assembly is proposing AB-2463, the "Small Business Assistance Act of 2018." This bill would create the California Small Business Assistance Program under the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), with the goal of assisting small businesses by forging partnerships with existing federal small business technical assistance centers, providing grants to them to maximize collaboration and impact.
  • Entrepreneur Magazine profiled a women-only coworking space called The Wing, where women can grow their own businesses in a supportive, collaborative environment.

Stay tuned!

- Claudia

Wild Curls Inspire Wild Success for Jess McGuinty

 Jess McGuinty, founder of Jessicurl

Jess McGuinty, founder of Jessicurl

Jess McGuinty didn’t dream of becoming an entrepreneur, her unmanageable hair pushed her into it. Fighting her way through wild curls, Jess found an online community of similarly tangled folks who all shared the challenge of finding products to tame their locks. Strangers quickly flocked to her when, after much trial and error, she concocted a formula for the perfect homemade hair gel.

When Jess tried to share the recipe she was surprised by the responses of her online friends: no one wanted her free instructions, everyone just wanted Jess to make it for them. Looking back she laughs, “my customers forced me into business!”

Jess knew that she could make a great product, but had no idea where to begin as a business owner. Living in Berkeley at the time, she happened upon an organization called SCORE that connected her with retired business professionals who could share their expertise. A friend offered her use of his chemistry lab to perfect the preservation of her products, and her father gave her business tips that she wasn’t too stubborn to take.

Jess advises up-and-coming entrepreneurs to not let their egos get in their own way: “You haven’t done this before, so how can you be expected to know how to do it?” The resources and friends that supported her were essential to her success, and Jess points out that most communities have a Small Business Development Center where free advice and services can go a long way in setting a new business owner on the path to profit.

What started in Jess’s kitchen has grown into Jessicurl, a strong business that operates out of a factory in Arcata, California. Jess takes pride in her successes (including an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show) and the excellent staff she employs, but it always comes back to her commitment to her customers. Helping them to find the products and community that enable them to love their hair and themselves is what inspires her.

Jess knows that a simple idea can lead to big achievements, so she recommends that other budding entrepreneurs take advantage of community resources and lean on others for help. “Just ask questions and keep learning,” she encourages, “that’s literally how everyone else before you has done it!”

March Newsflash

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  • Meet the Invest in Women Entrepreneurs (I-WE) team
  • Upcoming Sphere of Influencers Lunch in DC
  • Advancing our work
  • Further reading

The Invest in Women Entrepreneurs Initiative has launched!

Staffing, Steering Committee, and strategy plans are underway!


Welcome Rebecca Kee, our communications director who will be developing website content and connecting people with the research, studies, and articles that support our ambitious goal of five-fold growth in support for women business owners. Rebecca has worked in political advocacy, public education, and once led food tours of San Francisco (she'll point you to the best baked goods in SF!)

Our Steering Committee is still in formation, attracting women business leaders from a diverse array of backgrounds. We seek to be bipartisan by working together across political affiliations, which will make us more effective in changing the status quo, i.e., the extraordinary lack of capital and minimal government funding for Women's Business Centers. All communities benefit when women entrepreneurs thrive! Check out our current (and growing!) list of leaders and influencers here


I-WE Influencers in Washington DC will be gathering for the first time at our lunch next week on March 7 at the lovely offices of the American Sustainable Business Council. We're looking forward to a lively session of charting out key strategies and connecting in-person with some of our talented and resourceful leaders in this cause. 


I-WE leadership will be creating strategies that leverage government funding for women entrepreneurs, in particular targeting under-served regions. We will also be working to connect with private lenders who can do more to fund women-owned businesses. We have a host of ideas and avenues for change:

  • In California, Governor Brown has proposed significant funding ($20 million) for small business development that would include matching funds for women's business centers. We will work to direct this funding in strategic, effective ways. Already, CAMEO's new CEO Carolina Martinez is taking the lead along with Small Business Majority and other partners to shepherd this bill that will have a significant impact on women entrepreneurs.
  • We are scheduling meetings with bank leaders who have expressed an interest in creating loan funds that are accessible to women.
  • We will celebrate and promote the 30th Anniversary of HR 5050.  Check out  “Spotlight on H.R. 5050: The Bill that Changed Everything for Women Business Owners,” the white paper, published by NAWBO, reflects on the provisions that transformed the course for women business owners and highlights the current areas for improved policy and better women involvement. HR 5050 allowed women to apply for loans without a co-signer and created the SBA's Office of Women's Business Ownership that today funds over 100 Women's Business Centers, serving 145,000 women entrepreneurs annually. This is a great opportunity to yes, celebrate, but also to point out the continuing need to achieve real equity for women both in capital access and in getting business assistance resources.


Support for women-owned business frequently makes the news for being a proven, bipartisan way to improve the economy. Check out some current research and articles to learn more:

  • "Accelerating the Future of Women Entrepreneurs - the Power of the Ecosystem" with policy recommendations that support women-owned business was published by our Steering Committee member, Esther Morales, when she directed the National Women's Business Council
  • Time Magazine reported on Washington DC as a women-friendly counterpoint to the Silicon Valley boys' club.
  • Profiled on our website is Judi Henderson, a small business owner who turned the chance opportunity of a warehouse full of mannequins into a successful business. Judi benefited from the Renaissance Women's Business Center in San Francisco when she was starting her business. 

Welcome, and stay tuned!

- Claudia

The Madness of Judi Henderson

 Judi Henderson, founder of Mannequin Madness

Judi Henderson, founder of Mannequin Madness

Judi Henderson, founder of Mannequin Madness, calls herself the "accidental entrepreneur." Successfully working as an employee of large corporations, she had no intention of founding and running her own business. But after a chance encounter with a retiring business owner who specialized in mannequin sales, Judi decided to buy his whole inventory and open up a shop of her own.

Like many budding women entrepreneurs, Judi faced two challenges: seeing herself as an entrepreneur and having the business skills to succeed. "I think sometimes women are loath to see themselves as entrepreneurs because there aren’t images that look like us. I never saw someone on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine that looked like me. Women entrepreneurs were mostly involved in fashion or food. There was a lack of role models for thinking beyond those spaces."

Judi had the drive and the idea, but needed the business skills to get her company off the ground. She took a class at the Renaissance Center, a resource center for entrepreneurs, which helped her design a plan. "What I originally had in mind wasn’t going to be successful, which Renaissance helped me realize. They saved me from making a costly mistake."

Judi recommends to other budding entrepreneurs that they seek out similar resources to start off on the right foot. Moreover, she thinks that more women need to see themselves as business owners and more banks need to fund them. "You look at loans to women - the success rate is unbelievable. Often higher than among the men. Women are very resourceful, and they are often working on businesses that benefit the community locally and at large." She insists that banks and the government need to see that women might do business differently, but that doesn't make them a risky investment: they're highly motivated and invested in their families. While investors may be dazzled by big tech start-ups, Judi makes the point that smaller businesses are more likely to hire locally, and that even tech firms need the support of community businesses to provide services and support. 

For a long time Judi saw herself as a hobbyist, until her business began to take off and she realized that she had become a role model to others. "I was featured on CNN and a woman in London liked my idea. We started communicating online, and ultimately I met with her in person there, and next thing you know she was having her own entrepreneurial success."

Judi now runs Mannequin Madness in a 3200 square foot warehouse with a diverse group of employees. Her two biggest pieces of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs are:

#1: Educate yourself by taking workshops, classes, and surrounding yourself with other entrepreneurs. Find support. Don’t try to do it alone. 

#2: Become digitally savvy. Even a low-tech business needs to use tech skills to grow, whether its having an e-commerce website or tools for running the business.