Featured award winners (left to right) Community Champion, Lili Muñoz, Colibri LA & Mujeres Makers Market; Partner of the Year, the Santa Barbara Public Library represented by Ahmed Merza; and Client of the Year, Elsa Cisneros, of Daily Greenz, Etc. (Photo Credit: Willa Kveta Photography)
Trailblazer award recipient Hannah-Beth Jackson. (Photo Credit: Willa Kveta Photography)

Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) hosted Empowerment is Priceless for the 16th year on Thursday, October 21 at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. The annual fundraising event honors small business owners and other members of the WEV community. This year, WEV awarded Partner of the Year to the Santa Barbara Public Library, Community Champion to WEV Client Lili Muñoz of Colibri LA & Mujeres Makers Market and Client of the Year to Elsa Cisneros of Daily Greenz, Etc.

 “Empowerment is Priceless is a great way to celebrate and support female entrepreneurship during Women’s Small Business Month,” said WEV CEO, Kathy Odell. “Women-owned small businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy and giving them the support they need to be successful benefits everyone.”

WEV also presented the Trailblazer award to former State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson. The Trailblazer award recognizes inspirational businesswomen in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties who have challenged societal gender norms and succeeded with passion, commitment, and grit.

 Jackson told the WEV audience, “Empowerment is the ability to control our own lives, and our own fates. And WEV makes that happen.”

Trailblazers are community members whose accomplishments serve as an uplifting example to other women. As a two-term California State Senator, practicing attorney, educator and small business owner, Jackson has been an inspiring example both locally and nationally.

“It is an honor to recognize Hannah-Beth Jackson,” said Odell. “As the author of the country’s strongest equal pay law for women, who also established the first requirement for women representation on corporate boards and expanded California’s paid family leave program, Hannah-Beth has improved the lives of working women in both the state and across the US.” 

Major sponsors of the event include: American Riviera Bank, City National Bank, County of Ventura, Cox, JP Morgan Chase & Co., La Arcada Courtyard, LinkedIn, Pacific Western Bank, and Ventura County Credit Union. All proceeds raised will directly benefit client programs in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties including; financial literacy training, business training classes, individual coaching, and business advisory services, WEV en Español and WEV’s Loan Program.

About Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), www.wevonline.org

Women’s Economic Ventures is dedicated to creating an equitable and just society through the economic empowerment of women. WEV is a business resource network for anyone looking to start a business, grow a local business, or improve their business skills. WEV provides small business training, advisory services, financial literacy programs and small business loans in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. While WEV’s focus is on women, it welcomes people of all gender identities into the WEV community. Business courses, programs and loans are provided in both English and Spanish.

Since 1991, WEV has provided business training and small business advisory services to more than 19,000 people throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. WEV has made more than $6.4 million in small business loans and helped more than 5,000 local businesses start or expand, generating an estimated $770 million in annual sales and creating nearly 12,000 local jobs. WEV is a U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Center and Microlender, as well as a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).