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Women’s Economic Ventures Presents Trailblazer, Business of the Year at Annual Breakfast Fundraiser

Gonzalo Fernandez, Ventura County Volunteer of the Year awardee; Wenda Baerg, Santa Barbara County Volunteer of the Year awardee; Marsha Bailey, WEV founder and CEO; Kate McLean, 2016 Trailblazer awardee; and Reyna Chavez, owner of Scrubs on the Run and 2016 WEV Business of the Year awardee. Click to view larger
Gonzalo Fernandez, Ventura County Volunteer of the Year awardee; Wenda Baerg, Santa Barbara County Volunteer of the Year awardee; Marsha Bailey, WEV founder and CEO; Kate McLean, 2016 Trailblazer awardee; and Reyna Chavez, owner of Scrubs on the Run and 2016 WEV Business of the Year awardee. (Laura Luongo / Studio Luongo photo)

Nearly 300 women and men attended nonprofit Women’s Economic Ventures’ annual Empowerment is Priceless event, held on May 12, 2016, at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach hotel in Ventura.

The breakfast fundraiser recognized WEV’s 2016 Trailblazer, Business of the Year and Volunteer of the Year award winners.

WEV clients also shared their personal experiences as entrepreneurs and how their businesses have evolved as a result of their involvement with WEV.  

This year’s fundraiser was especially significant, as 2016 marks WEV’s 25th anniversary.

“I’m so proud of what WEV has accomplished in the past 25 years,” said Marsha Bailey, WEV’s founder and CEO, “because WEV is truly a product of this community, an example of what can happen when dedicated staff, committed volunteers and visionary donors put their hearts, their souls, their time and their money into a labor of love.”

This year, Empowerment is Priceless featured a generous matching gift from Lynda Weinman, co-founder of the online learning site lynda.com. As a result, WEV raised over $230,000 to support local women-owned businesses.

“Lynda Weinman is a great role model for women, not just because she’s been so successful but because of the way she has succeeded and given back to our community. Her leadership and generosity has inspired others and will help WEV expand our economic impact,” said Bailey.

“Women typically start businesses with roughly half as much money as men,” Bailey continued. “Women often won’t apply for a business loan because they assume they’ll be turned down. At WEV, we build both skills and confidence to help women think bigger.”

WEV has made $4 million in small business loans and plans to increase its lending to $1 million per year within the next three years.

WEV’s Trailblazer Award is presented each year to a woman who is a pioneer in her industry, exemplifying courage, vision and the tenacity to overcome barriers.

This year, WEV honored Kate McLean, former president of the Ventura County Community Foundation and a leading advocate for social good in the Ventura community. 

“Kate changed charitable giving and the attitude toward philanthropy in our county,” said WEV Board Member Elena Brokaw. “Because of her, we are surrounded by a rich fabric of social justice and environmental, cultural, health and educational service providers.”

Each year WEV also honors a business owner who represents the visionary 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 2016 WEV Business of the Year award went to Reyna Chavez, owner of Scrubs on the Run Uniforms and Accessories, Inc., one of the region’s only providers of high-quality scrub uniforms and accessories for medical professionals. 

Scrubs on the Run originally began as a mobile business and has now progressed to a storefront on Ventura’s Main Street, with plans to expand further. Chavez’s ambition and dedication to her customers makes her an outstanding business owner.

WEV also honored two Volunteers of the Year for their commitment and service to WEV clients: Santa Barbara County volunteer Wenda Baerg of Citizens Business Bank and Ventura County volunteer Gonzalo Fernandez, owner of GBF Consulting.

Major sponsors of the 2016 Empowerment is Priceless event were Union Bank, Pacific Western Bank, City National Bank, Montecito Bank & Trust, Comerica Bank, Ventura County Credit Union 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), SET to Launch, Thrive in Five, WEV en Español and the WEV Loan Program.

Amy Bernstein is a publicist representing Women’s Economic Ventures.

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