30 Faces of WESST – February
In the late 1980’s, Ginny Stanley first became involved with WESST as a volunteer consultant. She can still see the face of a client she worked with as Ginny advised her on pricing and cost accounting. After several hours of working with this single mom who wanted to start a business, Ginny says that the lightbulb finally went on for the client and this was a source of great satisfaction both for the client and for her as a consultant. Shortly thereafter, Stanley took on all of WESST’s bookkeeping work and provided these monthly services pro bono until the mid-1990s. This in-kind support was of tremendous help to WESST in its early years when it didn’t have a budget for financial services.
A CPA for over 30 years, Stanley ran her own practice in the 1990’s and for the past 19 years, she led the Wealth Management Division of REDW Financial and Business Consultants. Along the way, she served on the Board and several committees of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and as the President of the New Mexico Society of CPAs. In the fall of 2018, she left REDW to pursue her own full-time business – Family Mediation and Peace Making Center, LLC (gstanley@fmpmc) which provides mediation services for divorcing couples, trustee and conservatorship services. Something Stanley loves about her current work is the opportunity to help people during one of the most difficult periods of their lives and of course, “the hug at the end” when clients have concluded a successful negotiation.
Stanley is a passionate supporter of WESST and was a Founding Circle Member of WESST Visionaries. “WESST fills such a critical role for small businesses throughout New Mexico. I’ve always been so impressed by the passion of its leadership, staff and volunteers and the impact WESST is making in terms of new business startups, job creation and access to resources, says Stanley.
She’s bullish on the future of WESST and believes WESST will continue to maintain and attract strong leadership that will help WESST move to the next level of development and remain an integral part of the New Mexico small business landscape for decades to come.
Kim Blueher came to WESST 29 years ago when Jessica Glicken appeared at her desk and asked if she wanted to start and run a microloan program at the then nascent non-profit called WESST. Kim immediately said yes, and has been an integral member of the WESST staff ever since.
Kim has always been passionate about lending, and she was especially excited to direct her energy towards a lending program that provided funding to women who might not otherwise have access to loans. This was a unique and cutting-edge program, with few other organizations providing lending of this kind at the time. Kim felt lucky to work in an environment that made the client’s best interest the priority.
As the program grew, Kim found her skills growing as well. She honed her ability to teach financial literacy, answer client questions, and provide critical consultations, helping clients meet with greater success as a result. She felt she was really making a difference in the lives of the small-business owners who came to WESST. Along the way, WESST also received its CDFI certification from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
One of her favorite examples of the difference that a loan can make is the story of Vapour Organic Beauty. When Krysia Boinis came to WESST, she couldn’t get a regular bank loan due to her financial situation. She had private label orders with a large company for her new beauty line and needed financial support to make it happen. Kim found creative ways to make the loan work for Krysia and for WESST. Today Vapour Organic Beauty is an internationally successful brand.
Over the years, the loan program at WESST has grown in capacity and in the type of clients that come seeking funding. Kim says that with the growth, the guiding principles of the program have stayed the same. She and her department are always considering how best to serve the client and are always looking for creative solutions to the funding needs of New Mexico small businesses. Under Kim’s leadership, the WESST Loan Fund has extended 877 totaling $8,910,785; 58% these loans have gone to women, 47% to people of color and 41% to low-wealth individuals.
Kathy McCormick volunteered for the WESST Loan Fund Committee while working at the NM Economic Development Department in the 1990s. Given that her professional efforts focused on creating jobs primarily in rural communities, she thought WESST’s mission fit nicely with her day job. McCormick has served as Chair of the WESST Loan Fund Committee for over 20 years and she stays involved because she’s proud to be associated with WESST staff and other Loan Fund Committee members. She also enjoys supporting entrepreneurs and is amazed at the variety of businesses they create.
The WESST Loan Fund Committee has approved over 900 loans since inception and as McCormick points out, all of the applicants have been risk takers, willing to start or expand a business and worthy of admiration. A few that she remembers well include the single mother from a Sikh community in northern New Mexico who had a herd of goats and sold goat milk primarily to local restaurants. Another one was with two young men from Albuquerque, including a youth pastor, who designed and operated a haunted house at Halloween. Then there was the young man from the Middle East whose father had been killed. His mother wanted a better life for him and allowed him to immigrate with the help of a local Catholic charity. His sponsor cosigned on a WESST loan to support the young man’s purchase of a gas station/convenience store. McCormick found him to be an inspiration.
Serving on the Loan Fund Committee is a challenge. Applicants appear before the Loan Fund Committee in person, and members of the Committee must consider whether or not the loan can be repaid. Committee members are also able to take some risks, however. Kathy is, more often than not, proud of the risks the committee takes on behalf of applicants.
WESST gives entrepreneurs a fighting chance at success by providing technical assistance and access to financing. Most of the loans considered by the Loan Fund Committee can’t be financed conventionally, often because the business is a start-up or doesn’t qualify for a bank loan if an existing business.
McCormick envisions that WESST will “keep on keeping on” in the years to come. There will always be those with an entrepreneurial spirit. And there will always be entrepreneurs in need of the hands-on support provided by WESST. She is now retired and caring for a family member, traveling and giving back to her community by serving on two non-profit Boards. She continues to serve on the WESST Loan Fund Committee as part of her ongoing contribution to the Albuquerque community
Since the early 1990’s, Wells Fargo has provided ongoing support to WESST’s training, consulting and access to capital programs for New Mexico entrepreneurs. The Bank recognizes WESST as an important business resource throughout the state and believes WESST’s work has improved the lives of small business owners and families.
Specific initiatives supported by Wells include:
- From 2003-2018, Wells Fargo was the Bank partner on WESST’s Individual Development Account (IDA) Program. In this capacity, the Bank provided service-free savings accounts for all IDA participants. During this period, over 500 low-wealth individuals were able to meet their individual savings goal and with matching funds from WESST, were able to use their savings for small business development, higher education or a down payment on a first home. Wells has also provided grant funding to support WESST’s financial literacy training initiatives.
- The Bank has been a major supporter of WESST’s Technology Toolkit Program which is designed to help small business owners incorporate technology tools into their businesses.
- Wells was a major private contributor to the capital campaign for the WESST Enterprise Center which is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2019.
- The Bank has also shared their talent with WESST with several Wells employees serving on the WESST Board over the years. These include Sharen Ramirez, Ryan Parker and Joe Trimble.
- Pat Nie and the late Jennifer Riordan have been invaluable resources as well – lending their time and talents to addressing ways and means to better serve New Mexican entrepreneurs. Pat is particularly complimentary of “WESST’s great staff.” Says Nie, “WESST has shown how committed they are to the small business community in New Mexico; the collaboration and innovativeness WESST has exhibited will continue to make WESST a leading CDFI for New Mexico.”
WESST has been blessed by its long-standing partnership with Wells Fargo. From the Bank’s perspective, “We consider it an honor at Wells Fargo to partner with WESST for the crucial work they do to increase financial awareness and support our small business owners. We are a stronger community because of the efforts of WESST! “ said David Hockmuth, Wells Fargo Region Bank President for New Mexico.
To go back to the WESST Celebrates 30 Years of Impact Page click HERE.