Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) hosted its annual Empowerment is Priceless fundraiser at the Museum of Ventura County on Oct. 27. The event recognizes outstanding women in business, as well as community partners who advocate for economic empowerment in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
This year’s awardees reflected the strength of community, including Client of the Year, Angela Rosales of Very Ventura Gift Shop & Gallery; Resilience Award to Rachel Sears Casanta of Hypercat Cycleworks,; Trailblazer Award to Heidi Whitcomb, founder of Ventura Rental Party and Events; and Partner of the Year to the Martin V. Smith School of Business and Economics.
WEV is a nonprofit that provides a range of small business support, including classes, consulting, and funding, as well as financial literacy programs in both English and Spanish. Information is at www.wevonline.org.
Rosales credited WEV with providing her a network of resources and funding that has allowed her business on Main Street in Downtown Ventura to survive and thrive.
“WEV rallied their financial network, educated us on grants and government programs … they were the first ones offering a low interest bridge loan before many of us business owners even had access to the PPP program,” she told the audience of 220 people.
Like many local businesses, Rosales’ shop was impacted by the Thomas Fire as well as the pandemic shutdown. “If it weren’t for WEV stepping in just at the right time with access to capital, I’m not sure I’d be here today.”
Casanta also expressed her gratitude tp WEV as she shared her story of resilience. She described how the bike shop she owns with her husband was the target of multiple burglaries during the height of the pandemic, and in 2021 she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.
“WEV had my back, with messages of encouragement and financial support. I’ll never forget that; find the silver lining, focus on the positive,” said Casanta who said she is now cancer free. Hypercat has been recognized with several industry awards and the business has enjoyed their biggest revenue months ever.
“The power of a strong, supportive community, where people pitch in and help each other practically, emotionally, and socially, supports mental and physical health,” said Kathy Odell, WEV’s CEO. “And it enables the entire community to better respond, adapt and recover from adverse events.”
Proceeds raised at the Empowerment is Priceless event will benefit WEV’s business funding and client programs, including financial literacy and education classes, business training courses, individual coaching, and business advisory services, all provided in both English and Spanish.
The event is underwritten by sponsors that include: JPMorgan Chase, Montecito Bank & Trust, Bank of America, City National Bank, Cox, Hutton Parker Foundation, Jean Kaplan, La Arcada, Linked In, Pacific Premier Bank, Trusted Legal, Ventura County Credit Union, Emma Bridges, Nancy Crouse, Junemarie Justus, Linda Rossi, Carrie Towbes and John Lewis, Banks Coaching, Boone Graphics, California Statewide CDC, Martin V. Smith School of Business and Economics, Nasif, Hicks, Harris and Co, LLP, Pacific Western Bank, Santa Barbara City College, Tileco, Union Bank, Ventura Rental Party and Events, and the Museum of Ventura County.
To support WEV’s work, visit www.wevonline.org/support.