Time to Work for Yourself?
Women’s Economic Ventures helps women (and men) reach their entrepreneurial goals. Read story.
By Melissa Mininni
Time to Work for Yourself?
Women’s Economic Ventures Helps Women (and Men) Reach Their Entrepreneurial Goals
Saturday, January 28, 2012
by MELISSA MININNI
There’s an idea I’ve had for months now: wouldn’t it be great to run a combination pet store and singles bar? Customers could play with gerbils while sipping their favorite microbrew. But like many would-be entrepreneurs, I’m short on confidence, cash, and a clue about what to do next. Luckily, the knowledgeable staff at Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) can help with all three.
WEV is a local nonprofit that provides tools for both women and men to realize their entrepreneurial goals, whether it be launching a venture or expanding an existing business. Consulting, coaching services, and even startup loans are available, but at the core of the organization are two courses that shepherd participants through the process of writing a business plan: the Self-Employment Training (SET) program, and the Business Plan Intensive (BPI) program. The two are essentially the same, although BPI is a serious undertaking, as it distills the 14-week SET curriculum into a vertigo-inducing six weeks.
“We try and make it clear that it really will be a lot of work,” said Katie Walters, SET instructor and owner of Circa Vintage Modern, a mid-century furniture and accessories boutique in Arroyo Grande. She spoke at a recent orientation session, mandatory for anyone thinking about taking the SET or BPI programs. These sessions give potential entrepreneurs an overview of the program, as well as a sense of what they’re in for, both in the class and as business owners.
Walter’s path to small business ownership came when she first taught the SET class at WEV and decided to take the course along with her students. She described how students come together to support and energize each other, holding one another accountable and creating a network that retains its value long after the course has finished.
A recent graduate of the SET program, Karen Czuleger agreed. “We’re still connected,” she said of her fellow students, crediting that connection with helping her to stay motivated. Although she only finished the course in December 2011, Czuleger has already launched her business, Painted Sea Star Studio, where she turns her watercolor paintings of the Santa Barbara coastline into eco-friendly greeting cards and a 2012 calendar. Her designs have sold at the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market and Chaucer’s Books in Santa Barbara.
Following the business strategy she outlined with the help of WEV, Czuleger has plans to expand sales in the coming year. “They told us during the program, you have to take it one step at a time,” she said. “And at the end you have this notebook that keeps you focused, from day to month to year.” Like many who contemplate starting a business, Czuleger explained how frightening it was. But the exercise of writing a business plan was invaluable. “I finished 1,000 times more confident than when I started.”
The confidence boost is perhaps most valuable when contemplating starting a business in a struggling economy. “The classic [put down] people hear is, ‘Who do you think you are? Don’t you know it’s a bad economy?’” said Walters. But for many people, that’s exactly when working for yourself becomes a necessity. WEV was conceived by founder Marsha Bailey during a recession. She wanted to provide people, women in particular, with employment opportunities. AndWEV is good at it — a 2009 survey found that 12 to 18 months after taking the course, 63 percent of former students were operating a business. Owners of existing businesses who took the SET course reported an average sales increase of 73 percent over the same time frame.
So would Walters endorse my kitty litter and margaritas idea? “I don’t ever tell anybody not to do something, but I ask a lot of questions,” she said. “I’m there to be a sounding-board and also the voice of reason, to a certain extent.” It’s not uncommon for people to enter the SET program with one idea, and finish with one that’s very different. At WEV they won’t talk you out of anything, but they will help you put together your business plan and decide for yourself.
SET runs twice a year, with the next program starting in February. Attend an orientation to find out if you’re ready. Here’s a list of upcoming orientations:
- Monday, January 30th in Santa Barbara (6–7 p.m.)
- Tuesday, January 31st in Buellton (6–7 p.m.)
- Tuesday, January 31st in Thousand Oaks (6–7 p.m.)
- Thursday, February 2nd in Ventura (12–1 p.m.)
United Way of Santa Barbara County Forges Financial Empowerment Partnership
Banks, nonprofits and schools will collaborate to provide free tax preparation for low-income families and financial literacy workshops
United Way President/CEO Paul Didier says the collaborative Financial Empowerment Partnership served 2,161 families in Santa Barbara County last year. (Alex Kacik / Noozhawk photo)
Volunteer Bob Correa has been helping low-income families prepare their taxes for free for more than 30 years and helped launch the Volunteers Income Tax Assistance program in Santa Barbara County.
As United Way of Santa Barbara County announced the new coordination of the VITA services and financial literacy workshops, Frank Quezeda of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara says it wouldn’t have been possible without volunteers like Correa.
“The reasons why these programs are successful is not because the coordinators or the organizations but the volunteers,” Quezeda told local officials and community leaders at the United Way offices Wednesday. “I want to recognize our long-standing volunteer who has been doing this for over 30 years. Without Bob, the VITA program wouldn’t exist.”
The Financial Empowerment Partnership is a collaboration of local high schools, nonprofits and banks that offers free tax preparation for low-income families and financial literacy workshops.
Last year, the program served 2,161 families in Santa Barbara County, amounting to $4.14 million in tax refunds, United Way CEO and President Paul Didier said.
“The numbers are astonishing. This is money on the table that rightfully belongs to residents of the community,” Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneidersaid. “It’s fair that they get the money that’s owed to them so they can have their lives be as self-sustainable as possible, so they can afford health care, educational tools and basic needs. A program like this creates a better community.”
United Way, Montecito Bank & Trust and the Housing Authority provide a series of financial literacy workshops for students and adults.
“This program and partnership have hosted financial literacy classes that make sure more of the participants have savings account so they can save for their kid’s college education and plan for retirement,” Didier said. “It’s all about creating long-term financial assets so they can become a part of the community.”
There are nine VITA sites throughout the county, including the Carpinteria Children’s Project at Main, United Way of Santa Barbara and the Goleta Valley Community Center.
United Way will also host four “Mega Tax Days” in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Isla Vista that will offer financial literacy resources, special offers on savings and checking accounts, and support from various nonprofits and businesses.
“They give families the tools they need in order to put these refunds to work by saving and building a stronger financial future,” Montecito Bank & Trust President and CEO Janet Garufis said. “Families learn how to use a bank, how to balance a budget, the importance of saving, and the benefits and risks of credit.”
Other community leaders attended the announcement, including representatives for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and county Supervisor Salud Carbajal, county Clerk-Recorder Joseph Holland, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, Dos Pueblos High School and the Santa Barbara High School Dons Net Café.
Contributing partners include Montecito Bank & Trust, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Community West Bank, the Housing Authority and the Carpinteria Children Project at Main.
— Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at[email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk,@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook andPinterest.
Margo Kline: Symphony in Fine Fettle with Guest Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers
Soloist adds star quality as the Santa Barbara ensemble lights up the Granada Theatre
In a marvelously eclectic program Saturday and Sunday, the Santa Barbara Symphony gave its first performances of 2012, with violinist Anne Akiko Meyersadding extra star quality.
Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers shined in her weekend performances with the Santa Barbara Symphony.
The orchestra was in fine fettle on Sunday at the Granada Theatre, and Meyers was right in tune, playing with obvious gusto. She brought to her performance an extra note of bravado — she is eight months pregnant, while touring with her customary brilliance and what looked like energy to spare.
Maestro Nir Kabaretti led the orchestra through a vivid sampling of works, starting off with Johann Sebastian Bach’sBrandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major. All of the strings were commanding, especially the violas, and this effervescent work was a good opener.
It was followed by Ernest Bloch’s 1925 Concerto Grosso No. 1 for String Orchestra and Piano Obligato, a resolutely tonal work that Bloch composed as he was leaving his post as director of the Cleveland Institute of Music. Bloch’s students were heady with ideas about atonality and “modern” forms, and this was the composer’s illustration of how a tonal work could still fit in those “modern” times.
After intermission, the orchestra essayedJoseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 in G Minor, known as “The Hen.” This is one of Haydn’s “Paris Symphonies,” written in 1785 on the fly, as it were, while the composer was also serving as Prince Esterhazy’s opera producer and director in Hungary. Anyone who thinks the early composers were stuffy has only to listen to “The Hen” to appreciate Haydn’s humor and good nature.
Then came the eagerly anticipated performance by Meyers, who played The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane, Rhapsodie de Concert for violin and orchestra. After a standing, shouting ovation, Meyers returned to play one encore, “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz.
The violinist would seem to have it all: striking beauty, a prodigious musical gift, and an education at the Colburn School of Performing Arts at Indiana Universityand, finally, the Juilliard School. She also had her first baby in 2010 and is preparing to welcome a new one practically any minute now.
To top it off, her violin is the Molitor, a Stradivarius named for one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s generals and reportedly owned originally by the Emperor himself. It could not be in better hands now.
— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.