WESST Visionaries: Supporting Equitable Economic Development & Small Business Recovery

By Katie Knipe | June 24, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted small businesses throughout our nation. The total number of active U.S. business owners fell 22 percent from February to April, a drop of 3.3 million, but decreases were most pronounced among minorities. A recent Washington Post article explored this disparity and the potential long-term effects on economic inequality.

These vulnerable small businesses and communities experience disparities under normal circumstances, which is why WESST’s focus on providing services to entrepreneurs who face increased obstacles to starting and growing a business is so crucial. As we recover from the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, these small businesses and entrepreneurs – black, indigenous, people of color, immigrant, women – will be left behind without targeted support from WESST.

WESST has been supporting one such client – award-winning interior designer Marisa Saavedra-Gutierrez, owner of Spatial Harmony – since she first came to a Power Tools for your Business class in 2018. Marisa told us that before she found WESST, she felt like she was “freefalling,” like a “fish out of water” as she was establishing her interior design business. She has since mastered her financial systems and continues consulting with WESST to provide helpful insights. COVID-19 has drastically altered the way Marisa can operate which has presented challenges, but WESST has helped her discover ways she can pivot and use her unique gifts to help those of us who are stuck at home and could benefit from her interior design expertise. Since the stay at home order was put in place, WESST has advised hundreds of clients to help them talk through concerns and identify solutions.

WESST’s sustainability is vital to achieve the vision of an equitable, diverse small business ecosystem in New Mexico. As WESST has been responding to the needs of our clients, we have reflected on the generous individuals and small businesses who make this work possible. WESST Visionaries are a passionate group of individuals and small business owners committed to supporting local economic development through entrepreneurship. WESST Visionaries believe that anyone, irrespective of their race, color, gender, age or financial status – can achieve their entrepreneurial dreams if they are willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to reach business success.

WESST Visionaries understand that starting and growing a small business is a pursuit that requires a lot of hard work, patience and time. The same will continue to be true for the diverse entrepreneurs WESST serves who are weathering the COVID-19 storm. Thanks to our generous community of supporters, WESST will be here to walk alongside them on their entrepreneurial journeys!

One of our small business clients participated in a recent Zoom workshop and told us “thanks again to WESST for being the force behind these [learning] opportunities. It means so much in these difficult times—it helps a person keep their focus straight ahead (or even higher!) instead of down on the ground.” Thank you for making this possible!

If you’re reading this and you’re a WESST Visionary, thank you for your dedicated support that ensures we can serve New Mexico’s diverse small business community for years to come. If you’d like to learn more about joining our WESST Visionaries Circle, contact Katie Knipe at kknipe@wesst.org or (423)-963-0066.

About the Author


Katie Knipe

Katie Knipe hails from Kingsport, TN and has worked in nonprofit management and arts administration for the past decade. She has dedicated her career to fundraising for organizations whose missions fuel her fire, including those who promote classical music performance and who serve people experiencing homelessness.

Posted in