Originally published at newsroom.wf.com. Wells Fargo ranked No. 29 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.
Wells Fargo announced it is doubling our support for women-owned businesses through its Connect to More program after providing over 500 mentorship opportunities to women last year. This year, Wells Fargo will expand its partnership with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center to provide over 1,000 complimentary mentorship opportunities through its signature 12-week Milestone Circles mentorship program and roughly 13,000 hours of technical assistance.
“We hear from so many women entrepreneurs that owning and operating a business is isolating and can be hard for those who don’t have access to the right resources,” said Derek Ellington, head of Small Business at Wells Fargo. “On top of that, 48% of women entrepreneurs report that a lack of available advisors and mentors limits their professional growth. By providing women business owners access to trusted experts who can help them solve business challenges, plan for the future, network and grow, we are giving them the tools and opportunities to build a strong foundation and thrive.”
Connect to More program impact and next phase
Connect to More was a program launched last summer to support the success and sustainability of women-owned businesses through access to expertise and specialized resources. As part of the program, Wells Fargo partnered with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center to offer complimentary support through its signature Milestone Circles. Within the first year, over 500 women participated in the Circles and graduated — working through challenges, celebrating milestones, attending workshops and connecting with small business experts and mentors to enhance their businesses:
- “Through my 12 weeks in the Circles program, I was able to document a lot of processes and standard operating procedures that enabled me to onboard four new team members and step out of being directly involved in every single client deliverable. This has allowed me to scale my business from $9,000 in revenue to $20,000+ in revenue monthly and to a team of 11 amazing humans.” – Rachel Pereya, owner of Mastermind Business Services
- “The Milestone Circles program really blew me away with its approach to bridging ‘vision’ with ‘goals.’ The team created an environment for success with exercises that challenged me to really dig deep into our vision, which opened up so many opportunities. I was able to clearly consider our desired funding journey and received expert feedback from mentors. As a result, our company has identified funding partners that support our vision and mission. The future of FeaturesFirst Auto is a lot brighter with more clarity and funding!” – Lisa Bailey, owner of FeaturesFirst Auto
- “Thanks to the Milestone Circles, we implemented a new branding strategy and relaunched our brand. We also took the tools we learned and had a more assertive approach to our social media accounts. Our YouTube account increased from 1,500 views to more than 66,000 views in 2 months.” – Selmin Karatas, owner of Kazani Hair
“The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center has been inspired by the learnings and outcomes of the incredible women we’ve been fortunate to support in this inaugural year of this program,” said Nicola Corzine, Founding Executive Director of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center. “We are tremendously excited to be connecting with 1,000+ additional women business owners in the next 12 months thanks to the generous contributions of the Wells Fargo Foundation.”
This year, Connect to More will continue to offer Milestone Circles with the goal of helping over 1,000 women-owned businesses and adding more mentorship and individual technical assistance opportunities for participants, including milestone planning workshops, bi-weekly peer support groups, access to industry experts and mentors and ongoing alumni networking opportunities. Each Circle is open to all women-identifying business owners in the U.S. Those interested in applying must complete an application, and upon acceptance, will be placed in a Circle.
Speaker series for women entrepreneurs
Wells Fargo is also reaching women entrepreneurs through a quarterly speaker series that covers a range of topics and challenges with small business experts and women founders.
Wells Fargo’s overarching support of women business owners
These latest initiatives build upon a Wells Fargo legacy of supporting diverse and women-owned small businesses. In 1995, the company first announced a $1 billion, four-year long lending goal to support small businesses owned by women. This goal was met in just one year and served as a catalyst for several additional diverse lending commitments to women, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African Americans and Asian owned small businesses.
Wells Fargo also recently shared resources designed to help increase the growth of women-owned small businesses, including a $1.5 million grant to How Women Lead aimed at disrupting the unequal venture capital (VC) system for women founders and shared new data and an interactive tool-kit on closing the economic gaps facing women entrepreneurs.
Additionally, in 2020, Wells Fargo created a roughly $420 million national small business recovery effort called the Open for Business Fund. It donated $250 million for capital to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), more than $55 million to nonprofits providing technical assistance and more than $100 million for long-term resiliency programs. As of December 2021, $420 million in grant funding to nonprofits has been deployed, which is estimated to serve more than 152,000 small businesses and preserve or create more than 255,000 jobs. Roughly 85% of small businesses served by Open for Business Fund grantees are projected to be those hardest hit by the pandemic, including Black-, African American-, Hispanic-, Native American-, women- and Asian American-owned small businesses.