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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Community & Neighborhood Development, Economic Development, Microfinance, Small Business Development

Mission: Women's Initiative's mission is to build the entrepreneurial capacity of women to overcome economic and social barriers and achieve self-sufficiency. We envision a future where women become the drivers of economic development and new job creation, and are leaders in their communities. We believe female entrepreneurs will help bring our country back to prosperity. Our goal is that every woman will know that she has the power to build assets and achieve prosperity. No woman in the United States will face economic insecurity.

Results: - Just one year after graduating from the 11-week training program, clients' average household income increaes nearly 60% - Five years after training, 70% of Women's Initiative graduates are still in business. - Women's Initiative graduates provide an average of 2.5 jobs through their businesses. In 2011, Women's Initiative graduates created and retained more than 5,500 jobs!

Target demographics: low-income women

Direct beneficiaries per year: 3000+

Geographic areas served: San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Marin County, Contra Costa County, Napa/Marin Counties), New York and Chicago

Programs: Women's Initiative provides business assessment and entrepreneurial readiness workshops, comprehensive business management training, personal development training, one-on-one technical assistance, business plan writing workshops, peer support networking groups, and ongoing business support services. Scholarships and stipends for childcare and transportation are available for very low-income women to ensure that no one is turned away for lack of financial resources. Women's Initiative administers a revolving loan fund, disbursing loans ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, and links women with asset building opportunities, including Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) where participants' savings are matched. Women's Initiative is unique among microenterprise development programs in that our services target low-income women, focusing on the needs of traditionally underserved groups including minorities, immigrants, and welfare recipients. A third of the women we serve have incomes at or below poverty, 12% are current or former welfare recipients, 80% are women of color, and over 30% speak Spanish as their first or only language. Services are provided in Spanish through our Alternativas para Latinas en Autosuficiencia (ALAS) program, the first program of its kind in Northern California.

Community Stories

21 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

i am a 48 year old female african american chef. i have worked my whole life to hone my skills as a culinary profesional. i enrolled into the Womens Initiative program to try and get the tools to help my open Feathers poultry cafe in Alameda Ca. After spending the last 30 years sharing my passion and my ideas with employers, they are successful and i have very little to show for it. now im ready to try and do it for myself and Womens Initiative is an awesome program that is helping me reach my goals. ive learned so much about my lifes work that i wasnt aware of before i did this program. financial aspect, projections, passions and ideas are all a part of what they ask for when they teach you how to write a business plan. they EVERYTHING to light to help you realize you options as a small business owner. I LOVE WI. the staff is great, the instructors are awesome im gonna miss them when its all over. we graduate at the end of july and i feel very strongly that once i submit my business plan and join the success link program, WI will put me intouch with the people i need to help me live my dream. once i get the funding i will hit the ground running and i wont stop until Feathers poultry cafe is the greatest in place Alameda and i plan to use as many WI alumni as i can in my business. thank you.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I was introduced to Women's Initiative for Selp Employment last year, when I attended the annual Gala with Nicole Levine, director of the San Francisco region, and it was everything she described it would be… inspiring, motivating, and poignant.
What I didn’t know at the time, but I’m pretty sure Nicole did, is how I would still be reflecting on the memories of the evening, and the amazing Women’s Initiative staff, volunteers, friends, and especially the graduates I met that night.
As a woman, a mother, and an entrepreneur, I believe our best future is in grassroots job creation. Investing in motivated and talented women who are brave enough to believe in themselves and their businesses is a great place to start!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Being a volunteer at Women's Initiative has given me the tools to create a positive impact on someone's life. I have been able to work with both clients and staff members, and the benefits I have acquired are endless. WI does a wonderful job training and opening opportunities for women; I know this only because of the statistics but because our clients demonstrate it to us everyday!

Elaine A.

Advisor

Rating: 5

What I like best about the Women's Initiative is that it continues to track and validate it's activities and impact with research to back up it's claims. I advised this non-profit (and will continue to do so) on research methods to measure the impact of the organization and design excellent surveys and metrics to do this. It is rare that a non-profit wants to understand it's impact in an objective way to enable transformation to be more effective in the future. I recently met one of the participants and was struck by her enthusiasm, passion and work ethic as an new entrepreneur.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Women's Initiative for Self-Employment is an inspiring organization because of it's dedication to serving low-income, high-potential women with big dreams to be self-sustaining. Nearly every client that graduates from the business skills course will tell you how their experience amplified their socioeconomic success, personal confidence, and well-being. The wonderful, compassionate, intelligent staff keeps the organization and clients happy and fulfilled, deeming it a truly great non-profit focused on women's empowerment.

Janis C.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Women's Initiative for Self Employment is a truly a great organization. I am blessed to have received solid business training as well as an extensive mature network of supporters and access to business opportunities. I owe my success and future success to WI. To date, I have launched my spice blend lines in 25 Bay Area Stores and now am expanding to Mid-West. I am working with Bay Area Schools on Healthy Eating Campaigns and Fundraising Programs. Love WI, love the supporters... love the skills to help me reach and exceed my breakeven point before the end of this year. Janis Callon / Founder - Community Spice Company

Andrea34

Advisor

Rating: 5

as a trainer with this organization, I have seen first hand the impact we have on women's lives....not just on their businesses, but on their overall quality of life. The work we do is so needed!

1 Mpho M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Women's Initiative is an incredibly inspiring and valuable organisation. It is inspiring because as a volunteer, i have met with some of their clientele who have testified of some the most powerful life changes they have gone through as a result of the program. They testify of dramatic changes in their quality of life (increases), of personal empowerment and how they have received much more than they ever anticipated. It is a valuable organisation because the low income clients they produce from their program contribute to the economy in a way they could not before. They create jobs and are in business extraordinarily longer than the national averages. I am not just lucky to volunteer for an organisation of this caliber, i am honored.

Sharon33

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Women's Initiative as a volunteer and board member for the past 4 years. The organization is all that one would wish for in a non profit. It has an inspiring mission, results that have been proven time and time again, a supportive nurturing community, and strong leadership and fiscal accountability. I am privileged to be associated it and introduce others to it every chance i get. Women's Initiative is changing lives and communities throughout the Bay Area and soon also in Chicago and NYC. We can only wish that federal stimulus money had such an impact!

Board Member

Rating: 5

Women's Initiative has created thousands of jobs in the San Francisco bay area by providing the training and support for low income women to start or expand their businesses. Now expanding to Chicago and New York, this organization is one of my favorites because it is life-changing and the results are long term. For every dollar invested in a program, $30 goes back into the communiy. Women's Initaitive has great statistics to show the success. I like supporting organization where I can see the results!