What is WEI?
Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative
In 2009, the College received a $245,000 Small Business Administration grant to support women’s entrepreneurship in the South Bend community, which led to the creation of WEI. The initiative was developed through the collaborative efforts of the Department of Business Administration and Economics (BUEC) and the staff of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL). Through WEI, which got underway in January, 2010, the College is providing Saint Mary's women students with opportunities to learn about and experience entrepreneurship. In addition, it is partnering with community businesses, nonprofits and organizations to provide a number of financial and business education services to women entrepreneurs. WEI is pronounced "we."
The Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative has made a lasting impact for Saint Mary's College students and for the South Bend and Michiana community since its inception in 2009. Under the supervision of Saint Mary's College WEI director, with the support and guidance of Saint Mary's College Business Administration and Economics Department and the WEI Advisory Board, the following is a brief sampling of WEI's activities and accomplishments:
- Since the initiation of the WEI program, a total of 2,355 women have benefited from 43 educational events, conferences, and seminars. 260 women have graduated from the SPARK Women's Business Accelerator and 90 businesses are currently in operation. SPARK businesses contribute approximately 7 million dollars annually to the local economy.
- WEI has collaborated with Saint Mary's student members of La Fuerza, a Hispanic club within the College, to conduct a community outreach program for Latina entrepreneurs. The participants gained valuable skills on how to apply their newly acquired knowledge to their day-to-day business transactions.
- WEI and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority co-sponsored a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan program presentation to the African-American peer-to-peer adisory group. The presentation helped to demystify the SBA process as well as clarify how the loan program could assist with their business ventures.
- Saint Mary's College and WEI have hosted the Indiana Department of Administration's Spring Minority and Women's Business Enterprise Resource Fair & Workshop. Purchasing agents, vendors, clients, banks, and entrepreneurs gathered to exchange ideas and information regarding public and private sector procurement. Each year over 28 exhibitors and nearly 300 minority and women business owners were in attendance.