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Call for Members: The Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle

// January 18, 2023

Grow Businesses, Support Families Through the Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle

With the aid of low-interest loans from The Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle (WIIGC), women in Colorado have launched businesses with a diverse range of offerings that meet unmet needs in the marketplace.

Craving delicious gluten-free peach hand pies? Looking for a high-quality education at a diverse-by-design preschool? Interested in a maternity spa with all the services and support a new mother needs? These are a few of the businesses that women in Colorado are growing with the help of the giving circle.

The giving circle offers low-interest loans to projects, nonprofits, small businesses, startups, cooperatives, hybrid structures, and funds that are led by and in turn support women. Dollars eventually are returned to the fund to be re-invested in new businesses in the future.

Women-led businesses still under-funded, under-valued

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurial women don’t have access to resources like those offered by WIIGC and our partners, making it difficult for them to launch and expand businesses. Women only receive 4% of small business loans, and when compared to men, receive less capital at higher interest rates.

“Investments in companies founded or cofounded by women averaged $935,000, which is less than half the average of $2.1 million invested in companies founded by men entrepreneurs. This disparity exists despite the fact that startups founded and cofounded by women actually performed better over time,” noted the Boston Consulting Group in a recent report.

Join the giving circle’s third investment cycle

WIIGC works to narrow this disparity, expanding women’s access to resources to fulfill their dreams of entrepreneurship. At its core, WIIGC believes trusting women with low-interest capital fuels new businesses, creates jobs, and strengthens community.

Members will contribute a minimum of $2,000 while learning about impact investing from WFCO partner Impact Finance Center.

In the first cycle of funding, WIIGC members invested $40,000 each in two social ventures in Denver. In the second cycle, WIIGC members invested a total of $125,000 in two businesses in Denver and a fund in the San Luis Valley.

Meet the organizations funded by WIIGC to date

First Southwest Community Fund: Training and loans for rural businesses

The First Southwest Community Fund offers loans to local business leaders via the Rural Women in Business Fund. This San Luis Valley-based fund works with the Rocky Mountain Microfinance Institute to offer affordable capital, capacity building, and education to women in southwest Colorado. Their partners range from a bread maker in Monte Vista to a geological survey company. Forty women have graduated from the RMMFI and First Southwest Foundation program.

With the aid of dollars from WIIGC, the Rural Women in Business Fund offered expertise, support, and training, plus a loan, to two experienced hairstylists preparing to launch a new salon. Marilyn Stoltzfus and Desiree Pacheco renovated and outfitted a space for the Divine Beauty Bar, where stylists now offer cosmetology and esthetician services.

“We’ve supported over 50 entrepreneurs with loans from $5,000 – $75,000. We’ve found technical assistance is the key to success. We tackle the inequities affecting women and women of color,” said Azarel Madrigal, First Southwest Community Fund’s executive director, who knows there are brilliant, ambitious women in communities across Colorado poised to launch small businesses, such as Divine Beauty Bar. She continued, “There’s a need statewide for resources and support like this.”

Women-owned businesses, like Divine Beauty Bar, are the fastest-growing segment of small businesses.

JEKL Foundation: Changing the face of STEM

JEKL Foundation offers a variety of high-quality interactive workshops and programs designed to expand the understanding of the interdependent STEM disciplines and art/design.

“The investment the Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle made in JEKL awakened in me a renewed energy to expand my mission to change the face of STEM forever,” said Toi Massey.

JEKL increased capacity, onboarded a professional team to manage financials, and established a solid chart of accounts with new knowledge of actuals, gross, and net profits. JEKL also worked with a professional marketing strategist and established a business plan and model for breaking into the projected $9.25B STEAM subscription box platform and programming market. With the business plan, JEKL landed an opportunity to pitch as one of only 50 finalist in the international BLACK AMBITION competition. Additionally, JEKL leased space within a local fulfillment establishment for direct-to-consumer business-to-business subscription boxes.

“With the funding we were able to supplement the hiring of high school and college students who established an advisory and deployed workshops for middle school youth who designed and published STEAM activities that have become a part of our repository and that were launched with a Youth Entrepreneurial Summit!”

Little Village School: Culturally Responsive Preschool and Early Educator Training

Dollars from the Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle supported the launch of the Little Village School, a high-quality child care center serving refugee families. Each day, toddlers and preschoolers who speak seven languages are cared for by teachers who are themselves multi-lingual newcomers to Colorado. Last year, 29 children learned together in supportive, vibrant, culturally responsive classrooms.

The school does more than prepare children for kindergarten. It’s also a classroom for future preschool teachers; 21 recent immigrants have participated in the Village School’s teacher training. One new lead teacher dreams of eventually taking all that she’s learned back to her home country, Myanmar, and opening a school there as well.

“The Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s Impact Investing Giving Circle offered one of the first big investments in the Little Village. We’re really grateful for the runway the funds provided to learn and grow as an organization,” said Ellie Adelman, executive director of the Village Institute. The school used the investment to help with cash flow as they opened the school’s doors.

Ruby’s Market: Selling food and handmade goods by newcomer entrepreneurs

Ruby’s Market on Old South Pearl St. in Denver serves as a retail outlet for over 100 entrepreneurs, artists, and makers who are recent immigrants and refugees. At Ruby’s Market, women sell jewelry, art, and food products.

With WIIGC’s funds, Ruby’s Market purchased a commercial freezer and stocked their shelves with wholesale goods. The freezer inspired existing entrepreneurs to expand their product lines, and now shoppers can find delicious samosas and gluten-free peach-filled handpies.

“It’s a fight to make a profit, and we have the heart to be in this game for a while. The investment helped our cash flow and gave us the chance to invest in equipment and stock our shelves,” Michelle Lasnier, the founder and visionary behind Ruby’s Market, explained.

“The reason we’re here is to elevate first-time entrepreneurs. That’s the heart of what we do. Our vendors develop their products and skills, and support one another.”

SistahBiz: Connections, community, and capital for Black women-led businesses

SistahBiz offers training, coaching, technical assistance, back-office support, and networking to Black women-owned businesses. WIIGC’s funds to covered cash flow needs while seeking new funders. Training and support, like the type SistahBiz offers to its partners, has long-lasting impact: one study shows that three years after participating in training, women entrepreneurs had 15% higher profits.

“We’re working on increasing the number of coaches and back-office service providers, all of which SistahBiz supports and ensures are Black women businesses, so we have a two-sided model. We’re growing a sustainable and long-term model that gets measurable results for Black women-owned businesses,” explained SistahBiz founder Makisha Boothe.

Incubated businesses such as MamaBird, a maternity spa in Aurora that opened with support from SistahBiz, are now thriving. One of SistahBiz’s entrepreneurs explained, “Because of all the resources and knowledge of SistahBiz, we’re a legit, confident, money-making business entity, not a side hustle…we could not have done that in such a short amount of time without SistahBiz.”

What’s Next for the Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle

The Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle is preparing for its third round of investments. Colorado is full of women entrepreneurs who need a little support to get their businesses off the ground.

We invite like-minded investments and philanthropists to learn more and join this dynamic, thriving community of changemakers.

Questions? Contact Renee Ferrufino, vice president of development, at



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