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Three Social Ventures Selected for Funding by Giving Circle

// June 21, 2021

Giving Circle Invests $125,000 in Social Ventures That Expand Opportunities for Women

Three women-led social ventures will receive investment funding from WFCO’s Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle (WIIGC) totaling $125,000. This is the second year that WFCO donors have come together to directly invest in social ventures (projects, nonprofits, for-profits, start-ups, and ideas) through the giving circle. Congratulations to the following women who received funding for their bold and innovative organizations:

Cass Harvey Walker, First Southwest Community Fund

First Southwest Community Fund supports the dedicated entrepreneurial spirit of rural Colorado by investing in the people, culture, and ideas that fuel innovation and financial knowledge in the San Luis Valley with an emphasis on areas of greatest need.

“We seek to serve underrepresented entrepreneurs and business owners, especially those who have traditionally been left out of our financial systems,” said Cass. “This includes rural entrepreneurs, women of color, and low-income communities. We are fortunate WIIGC believes in our model. This support means opportunities for expansion and growth for our Rural Women-Led Business Fund. It enables us to support more women start and scale their businesses in the San Luis Valley.”

Toi Massey, JEKL Foundation

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 while strategically disrupting industries whose demographic have historically been predominately white and male.

“This funding, the first of any of its kind that I have ever received, validates my mission has not been in vain, that I am not invisible in this effort, that other women see me and they believe in what I am doing and support it beyond just words. That gives me more than just hope, it gives me power,” said Toi.

Michelle Lasnier, Ruby’s Market

Ruby’s Market supports local, immigrant, and minority entrepreneurs by mobilizing intercultural events and exchanges that promote global expression through artisan goods.

“The WIIGC funding will be a game changer for Ruby’s Market,” said Michelle. “We are currently positioned for significant growth in both our retail operation and human (resource) team. Our goal, to create and celebrate opportunities for refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs, will become that much more attainable. It will help us expand our reach. This funding represents independence, certainty, and creativity for our community.”

In all, 113 women submitted applications for funding. WIIGC member Shalyn Kettering remarked that each of the organizations “showcase the talent, creativity, and passion of the women of Colorado. All of the projects are thoughtful efforts to address pertinent, persistent social issues and all individually are on a path toward success.”

Why invest in women entrepreneurs?

The Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle supports economic equity by providing funding for women entrepreneurs, who
consistently have less access to capital. According to a National Women’s Business Council report, female founders received only 2.2% or just $2.9 billion of the total $130 billion of 2018 venture capital dollars. And since 2009, Black women founders
received only .0006% of all venture capital dollars. Latina women received 0.36%.

Despite this gap in new business funding, startups founded and cofounded by women actually perform better over time. A study by Boston Consulting Group and MassChallenge shows they generated 10% more in cumulative revenue over a five-year period.

Where are they now?

A year ago, WIIGC chose its first two organizations to receive investment funding – Sistahbiz Global Network, founded by Makisha Boothe, and The Village Institute, founded by Ellie Adelman.

Created to help even the playing field when it comes to funding opportunities for social ventures led by and benefitting diverse women, WFCO was the first community foundation in the country to offer this type of impact investing circle. WIIGC provides donors a new way to collectively maximize their philanthropic dollars while extending WFCO’s mission through direct investment.

We recently followed up with Makisha and Ellie to check in on their progress and learn more about how WIIGC funding helped them adapt and continue to move their organizations forward.

Makisha Boothe, Sistahbiz

“We were very fortunate over the past year in that the WIIGC funds we received enabled us to scale the organization. While some of our costs were higher than anticipated due to the pandemic, we stayed true to our original intent to use the funds for back-office needs, including staff and data support, accounting, technology and marketing.

We are so grateful for the WIIGC funding. It has helped set Sistahbiz up for future growth, while enabling us to expand and strengthen our core foundation to provide even more Black women entrepreneurs with the business building tools and resources to build wealth and achieve long-term success.”

Ellie Adelman, Village Institute

In April, we welcomed our first class of preschool students at The Little Village. This would not have happened without the support we received from WIIGC. 

WIIGC funding also helped open the door to new sources of funding—we received a grant from the state to build out classrooms and create an engaging outdoor play space. We also received a generous grant from The Colorado Health Foundation for our new Essential Careers Pathway Program that will launch this summer.”

Learn more about WIIGC

To learn more about the next cycle of funding by the Women’s Impact Investing Giving Circle or how to become a member of the giving circle, contact Colleen LaFontaine, director of development, at colleenl@wfco.org.

*Photo is of Elena Miller-ter Kuile, an entrepreneur from the San Luis Valley, who won a pitch-off for the first ever Rural Women-Led Business Fund of the First Southwest Community Fund. 

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