Women's non-profit to close doors soon

December 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A well-known Bay Area non-profit is closing, becoming another victim of the current economy. For the past 11 years, C.E.O. Women has helped scores of low income, immigrant, and refugee women start their own businesses. ABC7 takes a look at the impact made by this East Bay non-profit.

The moving boxes and the empty desks tell the story of a non-profit that could not cope with the current economic climate, but its contributions will last a lifetime.

"We've served over 2,000 women since we started from 44 different countries," said Farhana Huq, president and founder of the non-profit.

Some women said they overcame obstacles such as being born in small cities in other countries or not knowing how to speak English.

C.E.O. stands for "creating economic opportunities" for women. Guadalupe Chavez opened her restaurant in 2006 in Union City.

Monday ABC7 met Elvia Buendia, the owner of La Luna Cupcakes. She sells her products to shops like Philz Coffee in Berkeley and Whole Foods. C.E.O. Women taught her the nuts and bolts of starting a business.

"There is also the business language and so I learned more about the business language and what it took to start my own business," said Buendia.

Like many non-profits, C.E.O. Women's financial well-being further eroded in 2010. This year, it lost most of its funding from foundations and corporations. This is what some non-profits are being told.

"'We are really consolidating our funding this year,' 'We are not going to fund organizations, but we are going to fund specific issues related to a specific geography or a particular social or economic issue,'" said Huq.

"Now that they are gone, the small businesses are the ones that basically make the economy and they really help people get the courage to open their business," said Buendia.

C.E.O. Women will officially close on December 21, leaving many immigrant women without the tools necessary to succeed as entrepreneurs.

They are certainly not the only non-profit group that is suffering. A Bay Area United Way survey shows that 62 percent of the groups it serves report an increase in demand, but 54 percent are getting less money.

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