Womenventure Awarded $250,000 Grant from Wells Fargo’s Diverse Community Capital Program

Funds will support micro-lending for women of color

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — WomenVenture announced today that it has been awarded a $250,000 grant from Wells Fargo as part of the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business®: Diverse Community Capital (DCC) program. The program is designed to help Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s) assist underserved populations. WomenVenture will use the grant money to support and enhance its micro-lending program for women of color.

“The growth and success of diverse-owned small businesses depends on the entire ecosystem of organizations that work with and support these businesses,” says Joe Ravens, Wells Fargo Minnesota region president. “WomenVenture plays an important role in helping women small business owners access the resources that can be critical for launching and growing their business.”

WomenVenture was one of only 12 organizations from across the country chosen during the DCC program’s second round of funding. The goal of the DCC program is to address challenges that diverse small business owners face when starting or growing their businesses, such as access to capital. WomenVenture not only provides educational training and business consulting to women business owners, but also offers a robust micro-lending program, deploying loans up to $50,000 to qualified borrowers. Since 2013, the number of microloans written in the U.S. has declined 26%. This grant will allow WomenVenture to increase their capacity to offer smaller, nontraditional loans to more women business owners in diverse communities.

“It’s an honor to receive such a significant grant from Wells Fargo and an important validation of the work we are doing in the Twin Cities community,” says Elaine Wyatt, Executive Director of WomenVenture. “In Minnesota, women own 35% of all small businesses, yet they access only 4% of all bank capital. And while the number of African American women-owned businesses has increased by 79%, the average median income for African American Minnesotans has fallen 14% and the poverty rate has increased. We have an incredible opportunity to help these women start and grow truly profitable and sustainable businesses.”

WomenVenture client, Yolanda Maxwell, owner of Little Steps Childcare Center, knows firsthand how valuable such assistance can be. Having overcome an abusive childhood, she had long dreamt of owning her own childcare center and providing children with a safe space to play and learn. She came to WomenVenture in search of working capital to grow her business and legal help to keep her business open. “There were a lot of obstacles,” notes Yolanda. “But WomenVenture saw the potential in me and my business.” WomenVenture provided Yolanda with a volunteer lawyer to negotiate a new contract with her landlord and a loan to both operate her business and cover her lease fees. Little Steps is now serving over 20 children in the South Como neighborhood of St. Paul.

The Wells Fargo grant will increase WomenVenture’s ability to lend to diverse entrepreneurs and help to close the gap in access to capital for women- and minority-owned businesses. It will significantly increase the number of low dollar loans to low- and moderate-income women. In addition, WomenVenture will be able to add a community liaison role to reach out to neighborhood centers and women-centric organizations to make them aware of our services, furthering their ability to reach and support women business owners of color.

About WomenVenture

WomenVenture is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit dedicated to helping women attain economic self-sufficiency through the creation and growth of profitable and sustainable businesses. For nearly four decades, the organization has provided more than 100,000 women of all ages, cultures, races and income levels with the tools and resources to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality. Last year, WomenVenture served 1,001 clients, 58% of whom were low to moderate income and 32% were people of color. We helped start, enhance, or expand 614 businesses that created and/or retained 1,319 jobs that paid an average wage of $27 per hour and generated $47.5 million in revenue. WomenVenture also deployed and facilitated $5,200,000 in capital to our clients, with a loan default rate of 5.2%.

WomenVenture client businesses are fueling Minnesota's economy. They help communities grow by paying taxes, by supporting other local businesses, and by creating jobs that pay living wages. For more information about WomenVenture, visit www.WomenVenture.org .

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 8,600 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 42 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 27 on Fortune’s 2016 rankings of America’s largest corporations. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories .