It’s hard to imagine that spending an afternoon shopping in a boutique-inspired room full of everything from handcrafted jewelry to delectable cupcakes and even organic baby wear would constitute ‘giving back’, but such was the case as I indulged at the Women’s Initiative ‘Woman Entrepreneur of the Year’ awards luncheon this past Friday. Each booth filling the hallways leading up to the ceremony luncheon showcased some of the high-potential, low-income women who have graduated through the 11 week program and successfully launched their own businesses. Over 26,000 women in the 25 year organizational history have benefited from an accelerated and robust offering of technical business training; spanning bookkeeping to marketing and even addressing the emotional aspects of starting a business.
Each woman carries such a strong spirit of passion and positive karma for not only her own business but also for other graduates of the program and the larger community. In fact, ‘one in four self-employed clients provides jobs for others through her business’ and equally impressive statistics show the high level of community service and philanthropic donations that these women make even in very early stages of business start up. There is such a resounding connection to collective success and helping others improve their lives.
Featured during the awards ceremony were so many impressive entrepreneurs including Loretta Nguyen, recipient of the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. Nguyen’s amazing journey started out in a low-income immigrant family, one of eight children, and hoping to merely ‘get by’ in life. Now she stands tall, a force driving social awareness through local art and apparel, and proud graduate of the Women’s Initiative business program.
I couldn’t help but smile in recognition of Tanya Holland, a familiar face on The Food Network. Holland received the distinguished Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award for her culinary prowess and influence in the community. Just last year, the City of Oakland declared June 5th as Tonya Holland Day for her ‘significant role in creating community and establishing Oakland as a Culinary Center’.
It’s women like these who are challenging their own adversity and fostering growth upwards of 4.9 billion on the economy. And the return on investment from donations into the organization are phenomenal, ‘for every one dollar invested in the Women’s Initiative program, $30 is returned to the local economy as a result of clients’ increased sales, increased income, job creation, and increased sales tax revenues spent locally.’
It was an honor to attend and celebrate these women on behalf of SAP, one of Women’s Initiative’s key sponsors. As the event closed and I walked back to the train station, I couldn’t help but be filled with an even bigger sense of pride for the company I work for and it’s vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.