30 Faces of WESST – April
WESST is so grateful for the many individuals who have served on its Board of Directors during the past 30 years. Their advice, counsel, financial support and fiscal oversight have been instrumental in WESST’s ongoing growth and development. This month, we acknowledge the 4 individuals who each served for a total of 12 years on the WESST Board. Our sincere thanks and appreciation for these Board veterans.
A native of Albuquerque and the spouse of a small business owner, Mike Bickel has always been a champion for small business. He views small businesses as the life blood of our New Mexico economy and their success is essential to the growth and development of our state and its citizens.
With extensive experience in banking in Albuquerque, Bickel has a passion for knowing and working with small business owners. Joining WESST’s Board in 2007 was just another way to fulfill his goal of heling small business start and grow.
He had he privilege of Chairing the Board in 2009, the same year that the WESST Enterprise Center opened for business. During his 12 years on the Board, he served on the WESST Executive, Governance and Finance Committees. Following the end of his board term at the end of 2018, he continues to serve on WESST’s Finance Committee.
A long-time WESST donor, Bickel appreciates the comprehensive programming WESST offers to its clients throughout the state. He’s particularly impressed with WESST holist approach to helping small business through training and consulting that helps these business owners truly understand the financial side of their business. But the real key to WESST’s success are the staff. Mike feels grateful to be small part of this dedicated and inspiring team. “Teaching entrepreneurs about cash flow and break-even and helping them to pay constant attention to the financial side of their business is so very important,” says Bickel. “The WESST staff helps build these critical skills in these New Mexican entrepreneurs, providing them with the tools that are critical to their growth and success.”
In his current role as Senior Vice President for Bank of Albuquerque, Bickel is bullish on WESST’s evolution over the next 30 years. “There is a greater need for WESST today as our economy becomes more complex, competitive and global. I see WESST adapting to and staying current with these changes allowing them continue delivering relevant business assistance to New Mexican small businesses.”
Sharen Ramirez became a commercial lender because she wanted to help others, and she saw the impact that loans can have on people’s lives and dreams. In the 1980’s, she worked as a lender at a community bank in Albuquerque where she frequently received requests for loans from people who wanted to start a business. These individuals, often women, rarely qualified for commercial bank loans. Ramirez wanted to provide other routes to success for these clients, so she researched community resources and learned about WESST.
Ramirez served 12 years on WESST’s Board of Directors from 2004-2015. During that time, she also served as a member of the Loan Fund Committee, a volunteer position she continues to enjoy to the present day. Her deep experience and understanding of the internal workings of a variety of businesses has served as an invaluable resource to WESST, helping to make wise yet supportive choices on the Loan Committee.
During the Capital Campaign for the WESST Enterprise Center, Ramirez was instrumental in garnering a major gift from Wells Fargo Bank for construction of WESST’s award-winning building. While continuing in her role as a Senior Vice President for Wells, she has been a tireless advocate for WESST and says that she loves listening to clients talk about their business ideas with such passion and energy. Ramirez also notes that over the years, she has seen WESST clients in the media and been pleased to think, “I remember how they got started!” She’s confident that WESST will continue to grow and adapt with the times and believes that there will always be a need for WESST services.
Like many individuals who serve on WESST’s Board, Marjorie Rogers looks back on her 12 years of Board service as a very “rewarding experience.” She credits WESST as being the type of organization where you can see results and noted that watching someone realize their dreams has been personally and professionally rewarding. “Watching WESST grow from a very small organization to one with a statewide reach – always changing and adapting to better serve small businesses — impresses me tremendously,” notes Rogers.
Rogers’ 12 years of Board service ran from 2000-2011. During her tenure on the Board, she served on WESST’s Governance Committee and on WESST’s Executive Committee as Secretary, Vice Chair and as Chair of the Board in 2010. During the design and construction phases of the WESST Enterprise Center, she was instrumental in helping WESST, donating hundreds of hours of legal assistance to help WESST navigate the complex details of a public-private partnership. “I would never have made it through the legal challenges of the WEC project had it not been for Marjorie,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan.
As a Partner in the Modrall Law Firm and current State Chair of the American College of Trusts
And Estates Council, Rogers continues to volunteer her time, serving on the WESST Governance and WEC Advisory Committees. She is a Founding Member of WESST Visionaries and has been a long-time donor throughout her association with WESST.
Rogers evaluates WESST’s biggest impact as its ability to facilitate job creation locally through its consulting, training, lending and incubation activities. “WESST has the best staff I’ve ever seen in a non-profit,” notes Rogers and she believes that “if Albuquerque is successful, it will be partly due to WESST.” She loves going into a small business who has been assisted by WESST. “If I have a choice, I’ll always go to a WESST client business.”
Mary Wiederholt met Agnes Noonan in 1996 at a women’s leadership conference. She saw in the WESST microlending program an important and valuable community resource. At the banks where she worked, funding was not readily available to startup and small businesses. She was impressed that WESST not only provided much needed capital to entrepreneurs who might not otherwise receive it, but also provided technical assistance and business consulting to loan clients so that they would meet with greater success.
Wiederholt wanted to get involved, so when she was approached to serve on WESST’s Board, she took advantage of the opportunity. She served on the Board for 12 years from 1997 to 2009. While on the board, she served on the Executive, Loan Fund, Finance and WEC Admissions Committees. She also served as Board Treasurer and Chair of the WESST Finance Committee for several years. Wiederholt says that she enjoyed serving on the Loan Committee because she loves helping entrepreneurs who bring such passion, drive, and commitment to their endeavors.
Additionally, Wiederholt helped break ground on the WESST Visionary Campaign as one of the first to make a 5-year commitment to supporting WESST. She continues to be an invaluable member of the WESST Finance Committee, always offering sage advice and asking the right questions.
In her current role as a Senior Vice President and Commercial Lender at Century Bank.,
Wiederholt remains an enthusiastic supporter of WESST’s services to New Mexican small businesses. Says WESST President Agnes Noonan, “Since that fortuitous day when Mary and I met by chance, she has been an incredible resource and supporter of WESST; even more importantly, I’m so lucky that our professional relationship has blossomed into a wonderful friendship over the years!”
BETTE BRADBURY, REGIONAL MANAGER – SANTA FE
At the time of their first meeting, Bette Bradbury and Agnes Noonan had a lot in common. They both relocated to New Mexico in the Fall of 1991. They also both applied to be WESST’s second Executive Director. Noonan was hired in 1991 and as testament to Bradbury’s desire to give back and help other women identify and develop their entrepreneurial skillsets, she began volunteering for WESST, joined the WESST Board and served as Chair of the Board in 1993. In 1994, Bradbury was hired to oversee WESST’s statewide expansion and she worked tirelessly to set up WESST’s Regional office network in Farmington, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Roswell and Rio Rancho. From 1996-98, she managed the New Mexico Women’s Business Conference hosted by WESST, a statewide event that attracted women business owners from all industries. In 1998, WESST hired Bradbury as the Regional Manager for Santa Fe, a position that has allowed her to share her entrepreneurial talents and corporate experience with thousands of women in Northern New Mexico.
Bradbury’s own small business career began at age 11 when she set up and managed a neighborhood babysitting coop. In high school, she participated in Junior Achievement and was ultimately honored as the JA President of the Year for the state of Michigan. With an extensive corporate background in marketing where she was often the only female executive, Bradbury loves putting her own skillsets to work to help create opportunities for bright, motivated women. To this end, she authored WESST’s award-winning Perfect PitchTM curriculum in 2004 and designed MARKETLINK, a multi-year initiative targeted to creative entrepreneurs seeking to grow revenues by expanding markets. Content from both continue to be incorporated into present-day WESST training and consulting initiatives.
With an academic background in communication and multi-cultural education, Bradbury is committed to identifying and delivering WESST programs and services that are user-friendly. Working with a broad array of socio-economic groups has provided innumerable opportunities to witness incredible results. “When a small business client says ‘this year I’m going to make a profit’ and does or when the child of a WESST client becomes the first in their family to go to college,” I am so very proud of the consistent and meaningful impact WESST has had for 30 years,” says Bradbury. Her commitment to the growth and success of her clients is unwavering, resulting in multiple recognitions and awards, including the SBA’s Home-Based Business Champion of the Year Award in 2009.
“Bette was instrumental in helping WESST grow from a tiny little two-person office in Albuquerque to a statewide player in economic development. I have been so grateful for her dedication and commitment to WESST’s mission and the many creative ways she keeps helping us evolve into a better organization,” says Noonan.
BANK OF AMERICA
Bank of America has been a long-time advocate for WESST, providing ongoing financial support to key WESST initiatives. Most notably, the Bank has been a key funder of WESST’s financial literacy initiatives, including WESST’s Individual Development Account (IDA) Program as well as more recent initiatives focused on distance learning and business incubation. The Bank recognizes WESST as an important business resource throughout the state and is particularly grateful for its vision and leadership in helping women business owners achieve success.
“Entrepreneurs in New Mexico play a critical role in the economy and community, having created thousands of local jobs and generated hundreds of millions in annual revenue. But women owned businesses haven’t always been as prevalent or successful as they are today. Looking back 30 years, it was the vision and leadership of organizations like WESST that truly made the difference in empowering entrepreneurs, and specifically at their beginning, female entrepreneurs. More than 40% of all the small businesses that Bank of America serves today are women-owned. Bank of America has partnered with WESST for many of their 30 years to help get startups on the path to success – because we are not successful until our customers and communities are successful first. It’s that spirit of community and partnership that we congratulate WESST on its 30th anniversary,” says Paul Mondragon, the Market President for Bank of America in New Mexico.
To go back to the WESST Celebrates 30 Years of Impact Page click HERE.