The place to start and grow your business

30 Faces of WESST – March

Joanie Griffin was one of the first women to benefit from WESST services in the early 1990s. At the time, she had started her own firm – Griffin and Associates — to provide marketing, advertising and public relations services. She was a “one woman executive suite” and struggled with the question of whether she should remain a solopreneur or proceed down a growth path. She came to WESST and through a series of consultations and coaching sessions, Griffin decided to grow her firm. She credits WESST with giving her the confidence to go forward and soon after she hired her first employee.

Over the next 25 years, Griffin built her firm steadily into one of New Mexico’s premier marketing and public relations firms. The company has served over 500 private and governmental agencies in the Southwest with a staff committed to creating, learning and always having fun. In the fall of 2018, Griffin and Associates merged with a former competitor based in Santa Fe and created a new company called sunny505. The new company boasts a staff of 14 and has an expanded footprint with offices now in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Durango and Pensacola, Florida.

Griffin’s energy for her business is matched by her commitment to giving back. She is a long-time WESST donor, a Founding member of WESST Visionaries and an annual sponsor of Silver Soiree. In addition to financial support, her company has provided significant in-kind support over the years, including the design and production of many of WESST’s annual reports. The company also raises money annually on behalf of the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation via an annual bike ride and supports numerous non-profit missions such as Go Red for Women, the New Mexico Jazz Workshop, Fathers Building Futures, among many others. Griffin’s philanthropic commitments were recognized this past fall when the company was awarded AFP’s Outstanding Corporation in New Mexico Philanthropy Award.

When asked why she continues to support WESST, Griffin notes, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without WESST. My responsibility is to give back and hopefully make a difference for other business owners who follow in my footsteps.” She has been excited to witness WESST’s growth over the past 30 years and envisions that WESST will continue to be New Mexico’s premier organization for supporting small businesses in New Mexico. She’s bullish on New Mexico’s economic future and is grateful WESST will be there to help start and grow the state’s small business stars of tomorrow.


Office of Women’s Business Ownership
One of the most important pieces of legislation for women-owned businesses was the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988. In addition to creating the National Women’s Business Council, the Act also created a Demonstration Program for Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) as a response to women’s organizations that presented evidence to Congress that women face discrimination in starting and running small businesses. A leveraged federal investment in women’s economic development, the WBC Program quickly demonstrated its value and has enjoyed consistent, wide-spread, bi-partisan support from Congress over the years. The WBC Program was made a permanent SBA program with the passage of the WBC Sustainability Act of 1999.

WESST was among the first organizations in the country to receive federal funding to support the establishment of a Women’s Business Center in Albuquerque in 1989. Subsequently, 5 additional WBCs were funded in New Mexico, including Santa Fe, Roswell, Las Cruces, Farmington and Rio Rancho. The program is housed in the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, the only federal program specifically targeted to women business owners.

As a long-time partner, the WBC program has enabled WESST to bring federal dollars into the state every year which has in turn supported the comprehensive business support services WESST provides to women throughout New Mexico. Our sincere thanks to all of our wonderful partners at OWBO!

SBA’s Microloan Program
In 1993, the SBA started a Microloan Demonstration Program in response to the significant gaps in capital access for diverse and underserved entrepreneurs. WESST’s application to participate in this new SBA program was accepted and we’ve been an active SBA Microloan lender ever since. Under the guidelines of the program, WESST borrows money from the SBA to relend to small businesses in New Mexico. The borrowed capital is accompanied by a technical assistance grant to WESST that supports our capacity building technical assistance to borrowers before and after a loan is extended. Over the past 25 years, WESST has borrowed and repaid millions of dollars to the SBA. On behalf of WESST Microloan borrowers, thanks to the SBA Microloan Program for helping WESST make affordable capital available to New Mexico’s Small Businesses.

SBA District Office
WESST’s participation in the WBC and Microloan Programs wouldn’t be possible were it not for our great, on-the-ground relationship with the SBA’s District Office for New Mexico located in downtown Albuquerque. Over the past 30 years, District Office and WESST staff have forged a close working relationship which includes cross-promotion of products and services available to small businesses throughout the state. In the past 5 years, the WESST Enterprise Center has frequently hosted the SBA’s Emerging Leaders Program which is designed to accelerate the growth of mid-size companies. WESST has had the pleasure of working with some wonderful SBA staff over the years including Susan Chavez and Marta Nesbitt during our first 15 years and with the current District Office staff which includes John Garcia, Ivan Corrales, Alice Mora, Shelly Brown, Mary Drobot and Josh Baca. Thanks to you all!


Long before the alternative loan fund movement took hold in the United States, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinatti were among the early pioneers who supported non-profit organizations who wanted to make loans to those who could not access capital elsewhere. Founded in 1809, this women’s religious group exists to carry out the Gospel of Jesus through service and prayer in the world. Currently, there are 275 members of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati who serve in 20 dioceses and two foreign countries, including dioceses in Las Cruces and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In 1989, WESST’s founders contacted the Seton Fund to inquire about support for launching a WESST Loan Fund in New Mexico. Using WESST’s business plan as security, the Seton Fund agreed to lend WESST $50,000 for five years for this purpose. The Seton loan was extended for an additional 2 terms and repaid in November, 2009. Over the years, WESST took great delight in sending periodic reports to the Fund about the level of loan activity and about the lives of women who had been forever changed because they could access capital for their business.

A special thanks to Sr. Mary Assunta Stang, Sr. Barbara Muth and Sr. Martha Walsh who served as Seton Fund Directors over WESST’s 15-year relationship with the Fund. “I never hesitate to share this story about how WESST’s Loan Fund got started,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. “The fact is that women’s religious groups around the world have always been committed to social justice and standing in solidarity with people living in poverty. It is so fitting that WESST’s Loan Fund began with the Seton Fund’s belief that WESST could make a difference for women in New Mexico. We will forever be grateful to them.”

To go back to the WESST Celebrates 30 Years of Impact Page click HERE.