Woman-led businesses are on the rise. Right now, there are more women-owned enterprises than ever before. But unfortunately--it looks like women are doing more with less. Despite the rise of female entrepreneurship, the lending gap continues to widen, according to a new report published in March by CNBC. According to that report, the average funded business loan for women-owned firms in 2017 was $57,097, just short of 100 thousand dollars from last year.
This inequality comes at a cost to more than just women entrepreneurs. There is wide consensus from both economists and academics alike that women are under-utilized resources that can generate economic expansion. As it is now, women-owned companies (11.6 million) employ nearly 9 million people and generate more than $1.7 trillion in revenue. And note, when women own more of the wealth, they are more likely to invest in their families and communities – meaning our economic future is tied to bringing women to the table.
Jane Wurwand knows much about the struggle that women entrepreneurs face. In 1983, Jane and her now-husband immigrated to the United States and started their own business with no more than $14,000 and no local contacts. They opened the country’s first skin and body therapy school, the International Dermal Institute, and shortly thereafter created what was to become the industry’s leading professional skin care company, Dermalogica. Informed by her early struggles, Jane created the Wurwand Foundation with her husband, Raymond, to give back to entrepreneurs in Los Angeles who lack the resources to grow their businesses.
Wurwand Foundation recently partnered with Opportunity Fund to pilot a grants challenge to offer funding to LA-based women entrepreneurs to help expand their businesses. The winners, selected from a pool of Opportunity-Funded clients, were Lia Hirtz of World Empanadas, Stephanie Alves of ABL Denim, Maria Teresa Villareal of Cosmetica Latina, Marcia Charles of Pinky Rose Boutique, and Niki Okuk of RcO Tires. They each received grants between $5,000 and $10,000 in recognition of their ability to grow thriving businesses, for their support of women entrepreneurship, and their community impact. All five finalists were jointly recognized by our Southern California Regional Director, Iosefa Alofaituli, Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia and Jane Wurwand at our annual Taste of Microfinance event as they were cheered on by Opportunity Fund supporters, partners, clients, and friends – making their victory especially sweet.
The five grants challenge finalists with our Southern California Regional Director, Iosefa Alofaituli,Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia, and Jane Wurwand, at our annual Taste of Microfinance event in Los Angeles
But the Wurwand finalists aren’t the only entrepreneurs to gain from our partnership. Like Opportunity Fund, Wurwand Foundation focuses on traditionally underserved communities, with a special focus on women, minorities and LGTBQ individuals. Opportunity Fund and Wurwand Foundation know that creating lasting, positive impact for these communities can’t be done alone:
“Opportunity Fund has already made an incredible impact in the communities we’d like to support,” says Marsha Olson, Wurwand Foundation’s new Program Director, “they are committed to building stronger communities, and so are we. Together, we aim to create economic opportunity for entrepreneurs not just here in Los Angeles, but across the country."
When asked about the future of our partnership, Wurwand Foundation hopes that our joint initiative will become a blueprint for economic development that we can replicate in other cities across the country. Their goal is to grow and expand this initiative to connect business-owners, bring their ideas to life, and drive economic growth beyond Los Angeles.