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‘WEV Connects’ Brings Together La Arcada Businesses

Networking event celebrates the successes of Café Shell, Hampstead Village and Chocolats du CaliBressan

Women’s Economic Ventures founder and CEO Marsha Bailey, clockwise from left, development associate Danielle Mangone, program coordinator Finley Balma and program coordinator Llewellyn Somers attend Thursday’s “WEV Connects.” (Garrett Geyer / Noozhawk photo)

By Alex Kacik, Noozhawk Business Writer | @NoozhawkBiz | Published on 07.07.2011
Women’s Economic Ventures held its “WEV Connects” networking event Thursday night to support businesses at La Arcada, 1114 State St., in downtown Santa Barbara.

The owners of Café Shell, Hampstead Village and Chocolats du CaliBressan have each turned to the WEV program for assistance. WEV provides self-employment training, technical assistance and microloans to primarily low-income women.

“They really appreciate the supportive atmosphere of classes and relationships they create with peers,” WEV founder and CEO Marsha Bailey said. “This is an opportunity for them to reconnect and enjoy a summer night.”

Shelley Shoemaker of Café Shell bought the restaurant in August 2007, Hampstead Village owner Angela Torin opened her British goods store in December 2010, and Chef Jean-Michel and Jill-Marie Carrés of Chocolats du CaliBressan opened their second location in May.

“I had a four-year business degree and went to culinary school; in that bridge between being a chef and buying a restaurant I did event planning,” Shoemaker said. “I felt I just needed the businesses foundation of a business plan.”

She sent one of her longtime employees to WEV so he could learn ordering, payroll and hiring to become a manager.

“WEV helped me find a loan officer when I grew and helped me with management changes,” Shoemaker said. “Now, with the worst economy in 70 years, we’re coming through it and (Summer) Solstice was our best day in 20 years.”

When Jill-Marie Carré wanted to open a second Chocolats du CaliBressan, a business that makes and sells gourmet chocolate, WEV helped when banks wouldn’t.

“They’ve been instrumental and helped us grow and move to this point,” she said. “If you need any support at all, WEV will be there for you.”

WEV offers programs for entrepreneurs at every stage, including the 14-week Self-Employment Training “SET” course, the accelerated six-week Business Plan Intensive course and “Business Ready,” for those in the earliest stages of exploring entrepreneurship. WEV also provides start-up and expansion loans.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you without WEV,” said Torin, who opened her store only several months after she graduated. “It’s different when you’ve been out of the market for a long time. I needed the courage, confidence and knowledge to be able to do this, and that’s what I got from WEV.”

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