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Women’s Economic Ventures Selected as Partner for Maria Shriver Program

The California first lady's WE Invest is a new statewide women's economic empowerment initiative.

As part of her endeavor to create a powerful, unified community of women helping women, California first lady Maria Shriver, in partnership with The Women’s Conference, has launched WE Invest, a new statewide women’s economic empowerment initiative. Designed to promote financial security and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of women across California, the WE Invest program is partnering with Women’s Economic Ventures and two other nonprofit organizations in California to launch the initiative to help women move forward together on a path toward personal and economic well-being.

“We Invest will help all women have a seat at the economic table,” Shriver said. “Only when women and their families are financially secure, and their creativity, ideas and spirit unleashed, will California be able to achieve its full potential.”

As part of the partnership between WE Invest and Women’s Economic Ventures, WEV was invited to participate in the 2008 Women’s Conference. With more than 60 internationally acclaimed leaders and visionaries and 14,000 women in one arena, the Women’s Conference has grown from a small government initiative for working professionals into a far-reaching organization, a life-changing experience, and an international network of women from all walks of life, backgrounds and perspectives.

“Maria Shriver is known for her efforts to increase awareness of the needs of women and families in our communities. Through her growing family of innovative WE programs, she is helping to bring resources to organizations in our state that can actively meet these needs,” said Judy Hawkins, WEV executive director. “WEV is poised to partner with WE Invest as a trusted provider of business training and support services for women throughout the business lifecycle. WEV businesses boost the local economy, provide jobs and strengthen our entire community.”

Five WEV Self-Employment Training graduates with businesses of their own were invited to showcase their businesses at the 2008 Women’s Conference in Long Beach on Oct. 22. Three of the WEV graduate businesswomen had the opportunity to talk about their businesses and products with well-known leaders such as Shriver, news journalist and social entrepreneur Leeza Gibbons, celebrity chef Rachael Ray and actress Rita Wilson.

The WE Invest partnership will help link aspiring businesswomen with WEV’s Self-Employment Training Program, a 14-week, 56-hour training program for women who are starting or growing their own businesses. WEV clients also have access to business counseling, facilitated peer groups, personal development, literacy training, mentoring and start-up and expansion microloans.

WEV is one of only three WE Invest statewide partners, which also include The Women’s Initiative in Oakland and Community Financial Resource Center in Watts. Each program represents WE Invest’s core values and program objectives: to help women overcome social and economic barriers to their journey out of poverty.

At 18 months after graduation, 63 percent of WEV Self-Employment Training graduates are in business and household incomes increase an average of 43 percent. Graduates who were already in business when they came to WEV see their sales increase an average of 163 percent.

California has more female employers than any other state in the nation, and is home to 869,000 woman-owned businesses. Yet more than 2.2 million California women and families live in poverty.

Marjorie Wass is a publicist.

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