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After conferring with a range of women business leaders, including a number who are active in Republican politics, Claudia Viek launched the  I-WE Initiative formally in November 2017.  She created the Steering Committee who  enthusiastically supported the purpose of changing the status quo of chronic under-funding for women entrepreneurs.

 In February 2018, Rebecca Kee was hired to serve as Communications Director, and she promptly created our website, logo and NewsFlash monthly letter. We love that mauve and yellow logo and many have complimented our look and website design.  In June we hired a summer intern, Tidani Berhe, to help us gather gender and race data from federal agencies supporting women entrepreneurs. In August we contracted with Erin Musgrave of EMC Strategies to provide PR consultation in crafting and disseminating our messages effectively.  We have built out our bi-partisan Sphere of Influencers (SOI) network and mailing list.  We published one Op-Ed in the American Banker, several blogs and entrepreneur profiles.  We convened our network members in Washington DC and in San Francisco to further define our strategies vis a vis our aspirational goal-- generating $50 million in more funding for women’s business assistance and $50 million in new capital to fund the start- up and expansion of women-owned businesses. 

In the past year, many directions opened up where I-WE could provide expertise, serve as advocate or as a catalyst and connector to advance our goals.  Our immediate objective is not to significantly grow the organization, but to stay small and focused on actions in partnership with our network members.  In 2019 we will need to discern the best opportunities to stay focused and effective. 

Following is a progress report on the three strategy areas currently governing our activities:

1.     Increasing Capital Access

·       What do Women Want for Financing Growth:  Completed sample survey of 405 Women Business Enterprises certified through WBEC-Pacific, the West Coast affiliate of WBENC. 134 (33%) responded and 45% of these respondents reported need for growth capital with majority indicating need for lines of credit $250-$500K.(survey)   We were invited by WIPP to include our survey questions in their upcoming national annual survey of thousands of WBEs.  This information will be used to develop a profile of WBE borrowers that we will take to lenders to advocate for the types of products indicated and to set up a channel for WBEs to access capital from lenders that participate. We will approach several lenders in CA with the sample survey outcomes to assess interest.

·       Home Equity Financing for Business Needs:  The NY Federal Reserve included our question of whether home equity was used to finance business needs in their 2018 Annual Survey of Small Business Credit.  This will be the first time that this key national study will have such data on all businesses, broken out in segments on women and race.  This information will create better understanding of how personal assets are used for business financing and will indicate possible policy directions, e.g. support for homeownership for LMI women.

·       Connecting Private Wealth Managers with Impact Investing in Women Entrepreneurs:  currently testing approach to reaching private wealth clients of banks, offering the opportunity to donate to the RSF Social Finance Women’s Capital Collaborative (WCC).  The bank would offer this tax exempt contribution to their clients to illustrate the bank’s CSR commitment.  We developed this offer as a result of trending research that shows that investors, and especially women, are interested in socially responsible options.  The WCC staff are following up with interest expressed by First Republic Bank.   WCC’s overall goal is to raise $10million in capital to loan to women entrepreneurs whose businesses include social impact goals.  ( ).


·        Convincing lenders to create relevant financing products for growth- oriented women owned businesses

·       Creating referral channels between WBENC/WIPP WBEs and interested lenders.

·       Identifying and attracting wealth managers to support the RSF Women’s Capital Collaborative.

2.      Increasing Funding Resources for  Business Assistance Programs and Women’s Business Centers

·        Supported California legislation that provided matching funds and expansion funding for 14 SBA WBCs.  I-WE Steering Committee members, Carolina Martinez of CAMEO, and Marsha Bailey of WEV, did the heavy lifting as did a number of our SOIs, notably Nancy Swift of JEDI and Bianca Blomquist from Small Business Majority.  The total amount accessed was around $2.5 million. This legislation could serve as a model for other states considering support for their WBCs which are chronically under-resourced.  

·       Approached Union Bank to create a special TA program for women entrepreneurs in CA. (Pending)

·       Advising Bank of the West on development of their new Women’s Entrepreneur Platform and array of resources for women-owned businesses.  This is the first financial institution in CA to create a women-focused program.

·       Crowdfunding for Women:  Sponsored and participated in I-WE Steering Committee member Jenny Kassan’s Fund and Fuel Your Dreams Conference in Baltimore. Jenny created the platform, Crowd Fund Main Street, to direct investors to her women entrepreneur clients.  We are discussing further opportunities for collaboration.

·       Advocated to Increase federal funding for SBA’s Women’s Business Centers and the Assoc. of WBCs.  No progress was made in this area due primarily to lack of agreement on a coordinated strategy.  A better approach, according to WBC leadership feedback, would be to direct funding support to the AWBC to work with their members to build capacity for growth.  


·       Achieving consensus on a coordinated strategy for increased funding for WBCs

·       Identifying and developing supporters and champions that will advocate to increase budgets in federal agencies serving women entrepreneurs.

3.       Aggregating Data on Women-Owned Businesses

·       Various I-WE members have asserted that “we need new metrics for women-owned businesses.  What doesn’t get counted, doesn’t exist”.  Shining a light on the landscape of women entrepreneurs has been the most frequently requested and responded-to area of our work.  There is the general perception among policy makers that women owned businesses are too marginal to make a difference in the economy.  Too often we hear the word “hobby” applied to businesses that are bringing in household income that is significant i.e. enabling home purchase, college education, etc. 

·       We are seeking data on gender and race from the following agencies that provide entrepreneur support and loans to women: SBA, HUD/CDBG, USDA Rural Development, EDA’s Minority Business Development Agency. The objective is to show the current federal commitment and estimating the economic impact. 

·       We publish Op-Eds, Letters to Editors, and blogs, aggregating information from various studies on women-owned businesses:  American Express, Bank of America, Nation Business Women’s Council, Federal Reserve, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Emergent Research’s State of Independence Report, etc.  We respond to opportunities to frame our case in major media.


·        Except from the SBA, we have been frustrated in our ability to get numbers on women and minorities from government agencies funding small business support and lending programs.  Therefore, we secured the assistance of Kamala Harris’ office in getting this information.  We will use this data to estimate the overall economic value obtained and frame a case for increasing investment in women. 

·       I-WE needs to develop specific strategies to address the lack of relevant metrics for women-owned businesses.  We see this as an opportunity to re-frame how women businesses are valued.  For example, we could host a webinar with several presenters that offer alternatives for measuring impact of women businesses; we could develop white papers on more appropriate metrics; we could collaborate with NWBC and the Federal Reserve to encourage more research and advocacy in measuring economic impacts.

Future Planning

Guidance is needed in defining a focused work plan, based on the varied opportunities that have emerged in our first year and are briefly described above.  I-WE is a catalyst, using our network to identify opportunities for actions that will advance our mission.  Are there other areas we should be addressing?  Where can we be most effective? 

Some I-WE members encouraged the identification of champions in Congress that would put  women’s funding “on the table”.  There’s agreement that the new members of Congress, a large number of whom are women and/or were elected by women, would be good prospects to approach for support.  Who are the best partners for I-WE to collaborate with?  Should we soft-pedal the advocacy and focus on metrics and education of policy makers?   

Financial Summary (projected through December 31, 2018)


Individual Gifts                     $27,000


   First Republic Bank          10,000

Total                                   $37,000



   Communications             6,362

   Intern                                     1,000


  EMC Strategies                     1,000

Travel/Lodging                    2,322

Food                                           852

Supplies/Printing                     192

Web(hosting, subscript)         483

Conferences                             650


Total                                      12,861

Net                                       24,139