The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) has been part of the community and economic development space in the Midwest for over thirty years. The organization got its start by focusing on and supporting women-owned businesses, and since then it has expanded the scope of its mission to serving all underserved entrepreneurs, “…who face barriers in accessing traditional financing or resources in pursuit of their dreams and economic well-being.”
In this drive to serve their community, WWBIC is undoubtedly succeeding. Since its start in 1987, WWBIC has loaned out more than $60 million to small business owners, created and retained nearly ten-thousand jobs in Wisconsin, and supported more than fifty-five thousand clients. As WWBIC’s President for more than 24 years, Wendy Baumann has seen this growth and success first-hand. “We came out of the women’s economic empowerment movement and we came out of the microlending movement,” says Wendy, “From day one we were providing quality business education coupled with fair and responsible capital.” This was something unique about WWBIC at the time, as many organizations focused on either providing capital or providing business development support. “The focus remains on where there is an unlevel playing field and where we see inequity,” says Wendy. New growth initiatives also encompass veteran-owned small business and families as well as citizens re-entering society from incarceration. “Our focus is and really has been women, minorities, and lower-wealth individuals.”
Expanding its breadth and reach is WWBIC’s next big step, growing to encompass not just urban centers like Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, and Kenosha, but large swathes of Wisconsin’s rural communities as well with four offices all across the state. “About 25% of our clients are rural,” says Wendy, and they have plans to increase this expansion. “There’s not a lot of folks lending and operating in rural communities. We also offer our trainings and materials in Spanish so we’re reaching another hugely underserved market there.” WWBIC has also seen the potential for technology to transform the way that they can deliver high quality technical support to their clients, “We do place-based trainings, classes with a facilitator and a peer-to-peer connection, because those in-person community connections are so important. But we’ve also expanded to online and on-demand services to fit the needs of busy entrepreneurs. Through our online portals we offer classes and units in marketing and business planning, and then we pair that with in-person counseling to fit the specific needs of our clients.”
In terms of supporting the Small Business Borrower’s Bill of Rights (BBoR), Wendy had this to say, “Immediately I really just loved the concept of a Bill of Rights. It’s something that can withstand the test of time and people can understand it from many different perspectives.” The versatility of the BBoR as a platform for further change also spoke to her, “From public funding sources, private funding sources, to the businesses themselves, these are the rights we need to preserve around access to capital and for small business owners. I think it can hold the industry together, it’s a rallying piece that can be used in numerous positive ways.”
For over 30 years WWBIC has served the underserved in the state of Wisconsin, embodying the spirit and the principles of the BBoR in its drive to support small business owners and allow the small business economy to thrive.
We thank WWBIC for taking the time to talk with us about their business development work and the importance of the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights in the small business lending Industry.
If you are interested in learning more about the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your organization is currently a signatory or endorser of the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights and would like to be featured in our blog, please contact Gabriel at Gabriel@opportunityfund.org.