Around 275 women and men attended Santa Barbara- and Ventura-based nonprofit Women's Economic Ventures' annual Empowerment Is Priceless event held in May at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach Hotel.
The breakfast fundraiser recognized WEV’s 2014 Trailblazer Award honorees, Business of the Year and Volunteers of the Year. WEV clients also shared stories of their personal experience with WEV’s continuum of programs and discussed where their businesses are today.
The Trailblazer Awards are typically presented to individuals who are pioneers in their industry, exemplifying courage, vision and the tenacity to tear down barriers. This year, WEV honored three such individuals. Bonnie Weigel, president and CEO of FOOD Share; Jacqui Irwin, Thousand Oaks city councilwoman; and Kathy Hartley, co-owner of Watermark on Main and Lavender Inn and founder of INNCourage were named the 2014 Trailblazer Award winners.
Each year WEV honors a business owner who represents the diverse clients the organization serves. The award is not necessarily for the biggest or the fastest-growing business, rather, WEV recognizes the unique and inspiring nature of a business and the contributions it and its owner make to the community. The 2014 WEV Business of the Year award went to Estela Flores, owner of Stel Housecleaning. Through her business, Flores has created four full time and four part-time jobs and provides a livelihood for herself and her family. She is a shining example of what hard work, ingenuity, business tools and support are capable of.
“All of us are empowered when we master concepts we didn’t think we could master; when we face our fears and do it anyway. We are empowered when we take a leap of faith, not knowing where we’ll land,” said Marsha Bailey, founder and CEO of WEV. “But there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s easier to take that leap when you have a safety net beneath you—a safety net that includes a caring network of support, opportunities to learn and grow, and the financial resources to keep going. For thousands of women, that safety net is WEV.”
WEV also honored two Volunteers of the Year for their work and dedication: Santa Barbara County Volunteer of the Year, Business Consultant, Mike Kauffman, Ph.D., and Ventura County Volunteer of the Year, founder of Your Chief Simplicity Officer, Maura Raffensperger, M.A.
Major sponsors of the 2014 Empowerment is Priceless event were Montecito Bank & Trust, Rabobank, Ventura County Star, California Lutheran University’s School of Management, Limoneira, Coast Village Insurance Brokers, Boone Graphics & Printing, and Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach. All proceeds from the Empowerment is Priceless event will directly benefit client programs in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties including: Self-Employment Training (SET), Business Plan Intensive (BPI), SET to Launch, Thrive in Five™ and the Small Business Loan Fund.
— Candice Tang Nyholt is a publicist representing Women’s Economic Ventures.