Union Bank entrepreneurs
Female entrepreneurs can find workshops and advisors at Women’s Business Centers ilke the one that serves San Diego and Imperial counties. Photo credit: Screen shot, California Network Women’s Business Center, via californiawbc.org/

California’s Women’s Business Centers, a network of small business centers dedicated to helping female entrepreneurs, is partnering with Union Bank for additional funding.

The statewide WBC network, including 16 centers, is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration as well as the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

Women entrepreneurs and others can seek advisers who work with small business owners one-on-one at no cost and in different languages when necessary. 

The MUFG Union Bank Foundation launched its WE CAN — Women’s Entrepreneurship, Capacity, Advocacy, Nurturing — initiative last year, with a two-year $500,000 grant to help build under-resourced women’s business centers throughout California.

Foundation officials noted the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs, especially women of color, in pursuing the initiative.

“Union Bank has a long legacy of supporting the small business community within our West Coast footprint, and that’s what makes WE CAN so incredibly important for us,” said Kathy Patoff, chief operating officer for MUFG Union Bank Foundation.

In 2020, women’s business centers in the state – including the Southwestern College satellite campus in National City – served 12,300 clients, assisting them in leveraging $50 million in capital.

That led to the creation or retention of 15,850 jobs, officials said, while aiding 9,000 businesses in starting or expanding, and helping owners raise their gross revenues by $350 million.

Miriam Magana used a local center to grow her in-home childcare business.

“I took a financial course … which I couldn’t believe I had never done, so after 15 years of having a business, it was the best decision I could make, and they made it very easy and possible,” she said.

California has the greatest number of women business owners in the nation, according to Union Bank, at 1.5 million.

Yet despite women’s contributions to local economies, investment in and training for women-owned business centers has been stagnant. The bank, hoping to boost investment opportunities, is working with women’s business centers to offer workshops about access to capital and other banking-related topics.

“This grant funding and partnership makes a world of difference to our centers and to women entrepreneurs across the state,” said Nancy Swift, chair of the state’s women’s business center network. “… This partnership offers a significant return on investment and is much-needed.”

Find the closest center at Californiawbc.org. Those who are interested also may call (619) 216-6719.