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30 Faces of WESST – May


The San-Francisco based Hearst Foundation has provided support for WESST programs since 2001. Founded by William Randolph Hearst in 1945, the Foundation “funds direct-service organizations that tackle the roots of chronic poverty by applying effective solutions to the most challenging social and economic problems. The Foundation prioritizes supporting programs that have proven successful in facilitating economic independence and in strengthening families. Preference is also given to programs with the potential to scale productive practices in order to reach more people in need.”

Hearst’s first grant to WESST (2001) supported our statewide MARKETLINK program, an initiative which helped micro and small businesses to identify and create new markets for their goods and services. A key part of MARKETLINK was the delivery of our award-winning Perfect PitchTM curriculum to over 1,500 rural artisans throughout New Mexico. General support grants from the Foundation during the same decade were instrumental in helping WESST launch its business incubation program. WESST’s Technology Toolkit Program was the beneficiary of Hearst support in 2014. This statewide program continues to educate small businesses about technology and how to incorporate tech tools into their businesses. In 2018, WESST welcomed a new two-year Hearst grant which supports La Escalera, an innovative program designed to accelerate the growth of businesses owned by immigrants and Limited English speakers.

“The Hearst Foundations look for outstanding institutions with transformative programming designed to ensure people of all backgrounds have an opportunity to build healthy and productive lives,” said Paul “Dino” Dinovitz, Executive Director. “We are pleased to partner with WESST.”
“Over the years, Hearst Foundation support has been catalytic for WESST,” notes WESST President Agnes Noonan. “It has been so instrumental is helping WESST take a leap forward in our growth and development. Ultimately, this support has made us a stronger organization which in turn means greater impact for our small business clients.”


Since the early 1990’s the McCune Charitable Foundation has been a key partner in WESST’s economic development efforts throughout New Mexico. Founded in 1989, the Santa Fe-based Foundation was established to continue the philanthropic legacy of Marshall and Perrine McCune who were long-time residents of Northern New Mexico.
Highlights of McCune Foundation support over the past three decades include:

  • Multi-year support of WESST’s MARKETLINK Program, a statewide initiative which helped micro and small businesses identify and create new markets for their goods and services. A key part of MARKETLINK was the delivery of our award-winning Perfect PitchTM curriculum to over 1,500 rural artisans throughout New Mexico.
  • Multi-year support during the planning and construction of the WESST Enterprise Center in the mid-2000’s. The initial vision for the WEC to be located in an underserved neighborhood (Martineztown) and create job opportunities for low and moderate income residents aligned well with the Foundation’s leadership in the redevelopment of downtown Albuquerque. Subsequently, the Foundation and the Pittsburgh-based McCune Foundation played a critical role in helping WESST raise nearly $2.0 million in private sector support for the WEC.
  • Support for WESST’s Technology Toolkit which assists small businesses in New Mexico to incorporate technology tools into their businesses and maximize their online presence in order to facilitate revenue growth and job creation.
  • WESST’s collaborative work with City Alive’s Molino initiative targeted to diverse entrepreneurs in Albuquerque’s underserved neighborhoods. This work is facilitated by WESST’s partnerships with the South Valley Economic Development Center, Encuentro, the New Mexico Dream Team and numerous neighborhood and community-based organizations.

“The McCune Foundation’s commitment to impacting positive social change aligns so well with WESST’s mission of creating sustainable economic opportunities for diverse populations throughout our state,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. “The level of support we have been fortunate to receive over the years is directly tied to our long track record of economic impact.”

In January 1996, Diane Barrett visited the WESST office in Las Cruces with a friend on each arm and a smile on her face. She was a woman on a mission: to become self-employed. Shortly before her first visit to WESST, Diane moved to Silver City to open a restaurant with a friend. That friend backed out after Diane made the move. Only mildly concerned with the financial obstacles in front of her, Diane focused on her passion, baking, and on her belief that with her friends’ support and WESST’s help, she could do anything.

Armed with a tray of pastries and chocolate covered strawberries, Diane presented her $5,000 request to the WESST Loan Committee in Albuquerque which was subsequently approved. Her business started in a 760 square foot space on Bullard Street in downtown Silver City and doubled in size multiple years in a row. Several years after starting, she applied for and received an SBA 504 loan which financed the purchase of the building.

In 1999, Diane’s Bakery and Café was listed in the New York Times Travel Section as “the place to eat in the Southwest.” In 2000, she was honored as Entrepreneur of the Year by the PNM Entrepreneurial Leadership Awards. She also received a $5,000 cash prize for winning the Metropolitan Life “Achievement Against the Odds” award and a “Welfare to Work” award which was presented by then Governor Gary Johnson.

Diane has been a great role model for women like herself to follow and she has also been willing to help other entrepreneurs with advice and support. She credits WESST with being there every step of the way of her business journey. “WESST had faith in me she says, and helped me to believe in myself.” WESST President Agnes Noonan was so impressed with Diane’s grit and work ethic that she invited her to accompany her to Washington DC in the 2002 on a small business advocacy tour. The duo visited with every member of the New Mexico delegation and urged continued support for small business programs.

Diane sees a great future ahead for WESST, one in which WESST will continue to support and assist hard-working creative dreamers like herself to create new businesses and jobs and help build strong local communities. Among the challenges she faced in moving from welfare to successful entrepreneurship and owner of her own small business were: 1) overcoming the belief that women on welfare cannot make the move without years of planning, education, or financial support; 2) realizing that public opinion does not dictate success; 3) being an entrepreneur requires hard work; 4) learning that there is not a financial cushion to lean on (being forced to depend on her own skills and abilities); 5) finding out that her family had to make sacrifices as well; and 5) recognizing there is never enough time to do everything (learning to prioritize).

“I admire Diane tremendously,” says Noonan. “Imagine – a woman who started out on public assistance working hard to build a business that has been employing 30+ people a year for the past 22 years. This is an amazing accomplishment for any small business but particularly impressive in rural Silver City which has weathered the fluctuations of the mining industry. When I think of perseverance, I think of Diane Barrett. She is an incredible role model for women in business.”

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