Group helps women become entrepreneurs


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Party planner Ines Alvizar is adding finishing touches to her latest event. It is for her own graduation from the Silicon Valley Women's Initiative Program.

Sixty-eight low income women have their diplomas in hand and are ready to start their own businesses. They learned entrepreneurial skills through 11 weeks of courses.

The average income of the women before entering the program is $26,000 a year, but just one year after graduation, the majority go on to make $37,000 a year and 70 percent of graduates own their own business after just three years.

Before joining the program, Alvizar's event planning business was actually losing money, now it is not.

"It was slow because I didn't know how to make marketing and how to get more customers," Alvizar said.

One single mom was homeless when she joined the Women's Initiative. Now she wants to start a marketing firm for start-ups, but she has no capital.

"These times of recession and economic crisis is a time where people have made it big time," Diana Estrada said.

Optimism is part of the curriculum; it has to be in this economy. Even the program's budget has dropped by 15 percent.

"We're doing more with less," Executive Director Lorrie Williams said.

And like any advice given to a recent graduate -- students are taught to do the same.

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