Abbie Leffler, Staff Writer

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Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) just recently hosted their Empowerment is Priceless event on Oct. 25 at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. This exciting event raises money and honors important women in the community who are trying to make it in the world of business. 300 guests interacted with featured WEV clients at the event who shared their experiences as entrepreneurs and how the program’s business training, consulting, and loan programs have been influential in their success. 

Brianna Newport, a Westmont student who worked with WEV last summer, “would encourage people who are not the fundraiser-attending type to support WEV’s work by shopping at local businesses in WEV’s programs  (like Hook and Press Donuts or Serena Paddle Sports).” This event was the non-profit’s 14th annual breakfast fundraiser which also recognized the three award winners of the year. WEV awarded the 2019 Trailblazer, Business of the Year, and Volunteer of the Year award winners at this event, as well as raising more than $220,000 to support local women entrepreneurs. All proceeds will directly benefit WEV client programs in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, including Smart Entrepreneurial Training, Thrive, WEV en Español, and the WEV Loan Program. 

  Each year Women’s Economic Ventures presents the Trailblazer award to a woman who is a pioneer in her industry, exemplifying courage, vision, and the tenacity to overcome barriers. The 2019 Trailblazer award went to Marianne Partridge this year. She is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Santa Barbara Independent. In addition to that, she was also the first female senior editor of Rolling Stone Magazine. Gary Hopkins, Pacific Western Bank Senior Vice President, introduced Partridge at the event and expressed how “She was a maverick in her field, a feminist who challenged the establishment and changed the paradigm in the field of journalism.” Hopkins talked in detail at the event about the six women that Marianne Partridge mentored at Rolling Stone who became influential in the production of the magazine. 

WEV’s Business of the Year award honors a business owner who is creating a powerful impact in the community. This year, Caleigh Hernandez was the Business of the Year award winner. Hernandez is the owner of RoHo, a brand committed to social change that provides consumers with beautiful, ethical, handmade products from over 400 artisans across Kenya. She is currently a member of Thrive, WEV’s long-term, individualized consulting, coaching, and training program for entrepreneurs. 

Andy Winchester, Senior Vice President, Wealth Advisor at Wells Fargo Private Bank and Co-Vice chair of WEV’s Board of Directors, was honored as the 2019 Volunteer of the Year at the breakfast fundraiser. He thanked Wells Fargo for providing more than $1.4 million to WEV business training to allow women entrepreneurs in the Santa Barbara area to succeed in business. 

Women’s Economic Ventures has been working for 28 years to help women entrepreneurs thrive in the community. Women’s Economic Ventures Founder and CEO Marsha Bailey expressed that “Nearly three decades later, we have proven that business ownership can provide not only a viable pathway out of poverty, but can also build family wealth and stability, as well as contribute to the economic well-being of our communities.” WEV is giving women in the community an important resource with which to create meaningful change.