Unique among micro-lenders, the Women's Venture Fund, Inc. builds on the life experience of each client to:
- Develop her self-confidence
- Expand her understanding of business opportunities
- Provide the skills, training and resources to assume ownership of progressively more complex enterprises
Some of WVF's many accomplishments include:
- A five-year grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide training and technical assistance
- Certification as a Community Development Institution by the U.S. Department of Treasury
- A $100,000 challenge grant from Board member Abigail Disney
- Participation in a roundtable discussion with Vice President Al Gore on micro-finance and with President and Mrs. Clinton at the Women's Economic Leadership Conference
- Vision 2000 State Model of Excellence presented by the Office of Advocacy, U.S. Small Business Administration
- Hispanic Entrepreneur Award (awarded to Maria Otero) sponsored by Hispanic Magazine and Bloomberg
Six Stages of Entrepreneurial Development
Stage 1: Desire
An emerging entrepreneur desires to have her own enterprise but has no clear sense of what either the product or market should be.
Stage 2: Friends & Family
Those in the second stage have a product or service, but serve a limited market: family, friends and close neighbors.
Stage 3: Indigenous Neighborhood Market
Entrepreneurs at this stage are beginning to move beyond selling to their immediate friends, family and neighbors. At this point, the micro-entrepreneur feels confident enough to sell her product to a stranger to whom she feels connected, perhaps through a friend or because they both shop at the same neighborhood retailer. Also at this stage, market opportunity is still being evaluated through personal preferences and shopping experiences.
Many times, the early products are not marketable outside their original neighborhoods. If a woman wants to grow to become self-employed and, eventually, an employer, she will need to refine or even change the product line or service she supplies based on market demand.
Stage 4: Local Market
Slightly more sophisticated than the woman who confines her activities to her neighborhood is the one who brings her products or services to craft and street fairs or local merchants. At this point the entrepreneur is beginning to encounter an objective market that has no affiliation to her. This is a significant development because it denotes the emergence of the potential for self-employment. The entrepreneur has typically gone beyond self-esteem and confidence barriers to engage comfortably in commerce with strangers. At this point, she is able to apply marketing information better and to begin the process of developing more substantial marketing plans. She will also begin to appreciate the benefits of good record keeping. Her experiences have provided her with a better understanding of how to use her own business information to plan her growth and manage her enterprise effectively.
Stage 5: Trade Show & Conventions
The fifth stage of entrepreneurship represents the beginning of a stabilized small business. At this step in the process, the entrepreneur has incorporated an understanding of a generic customer profile and can begin to think in terms beyond self-employment. She typically markets her products at conventions and trade shows or the equivalent. The entrepreneur also begins to see her role within the context of the larger industry she belongs to and begins to perceive a larger scale opportunity. Because she has wider exposure to the world of business possibilities and some actual experience, she is able to digest and evaluate her original marketing concept more critically.
Stage 6: Mass Market
The last and final developmental step in this evolution is when the entrepreneur recognizes a mass market and chooses what product or service she will supply based upon market demands. This objectification of the market and its demands cannot be perceived until the woman has first understood that customer behavior can be objectified and forecasted. As long as she focuses on the market and her product as an extension of herself (products that give her self-esteem primarily though compliments of friends and neighbors) she is unable to find a market niche that has mass appeal.