Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI)

In 2009, the College received $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, non-profits and organizations to provide a number of financial and business education services to women entrepreneurs. WEI is pronounced "we."

The Women's Entrepneurship 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 project director, Martha Smith, and WEI associate project director, Joan McClendon, with the support and guidance of Saint Mary's College Business Administration and Economics professor, Dr. Mary Ann Merryman, 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. 
  • 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 by providing tutoring on Microsoft Office. 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 sorotiy 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. 
  • Since 2011, 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. 
  • WEI coordinates an Executive Forum for Women CEO's whose business gross revenues are in excess of $500,000. Participants meet with an experienced business coach who helps facilitate creative and strategic problem-solving ideas. Members of the group also exchange ideas and solutions for difficult-to-solve problems. There is no other service in the Michiana area which is tailored exclusively for executive women. It is a model for delivering advanced entrepreneurship services at a national level and is an income-generating program that can contribute to WEI's sustainability. 

 

For Women Business Owners

Develop both yourself and your business by joining the Renaissance Executive Forum for Women at Saint Mary's. Attend a WEI sponsored business training seminar or event. Make a difference and mentor another woman entrepreneur. Access the professional advisor directory or receive advice from a Saint Mary's student consultant.  If you are economically challenged and want to start your own business, consider enrolling in the SPARK program.

For Professional Advisors and Organizations

Provide expertise to a woman business owner. Serve on the WEI advisory board. Speak at a WEI event. Become a WEI sponsor or sponsor a WEI event.