The Solvang Chamber of Commerce will celebrate Women’s History Month with a business forum for women throughout the Santa Ynez Valley, and targeted advertising promoting women-owned businesses in the region.

The promotions and training are funded in part through a $5,000 grant from Women’s Economic Ventures and Wells Fargo.

“Between the fires (of 2017) and Highway 101 being closed last year, the impact was great on us here in the valley. We are 100 percent dependent on tourism, and 70 percent of our business comes from Southern California. When they gave out economic impact grants last year to help businesses impacted, we really thought about how to support the business community, not just a single business,” said Tracy Beard, executive director of Solvang Chamber of Commerce.

With 65 percent of Valley businesses owned by women, focusing the funds on women in business here fit the bill, said Beard, who is also president of the Association of California Commissions for Women and serves on the board of the County of Santa Barbara Commission for Women.

“We know investment in the Valley’s women will pay off for the community in creating more jobs and in reducing the commute over the hill and giving people more satisfaction about what a magnificent place we live in here,” said Patty DeDominic, chief business coach at DeDominic & Associates.

DeDominic will lead the March forums together with Nicki Parr, business recovery specialist with Women’s Economic Ventures.

“We really want to tell the story about women in business here, and uplift our women in our community. Patty is probably the most dynamic woman who has come to the Valley recently who will improve the success of women in the next five years. I truly believe that,” Beard said.

Though the funds were secured by Solvang Chamber of Commerce, the promotions and educational offerings will be available to all women in business throughout the Valley, regardless of chamber affiliation. Women need not be a member of any of the valley’s four chambers of commerce to participate.

Women interested in starting their own businesses and those who are already entrenched in the business community in any capacity are equally welcome.

“We have hundreds of women in the Valley who own their own businesses, who work professionally in management, at the hospital, and at all the schools,” Beard said.

She pointed to Linda Johansen of King Frederik Inn and Pea Soup Andersen’s Hotel and Sue Manning, owner of Lena’s Dress Shop, as shining examples.

“Linda is engaged in our community at every level, from running the business to giving, donations, helping get funding for nonprofits, supporting women in general and supporting our Chamber of Commerce,” Beard said.

She is inspired by Manning who, at 79 years old, still shows up to work every day to focus on her customers’ needs.

“When I go after something, I really go after it,” said Manning, who entered the business world in her 50s, and purchased Solvang’s oldest shop in 2004.

“I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to be in business,” Manning said. “My biggest secret is that I spent many years in retail listening to people, seeing what’s good and what’s bad. You have to go at it, have a good accountant, and mind your Ps and Qs. I have good camaraderie with my vendors, I pay my bills, I’m here five days a week to do anything I can to help out my customers.”

DeDominic said research by the National Association of Women’s Business Owners shows women are community builders, are a better credit risk and that they more frequently provide benefits to employees that create family-friendly workplaces. That research also shows women are more risk averse, and are more likely to build local businesses that build local economies.

“Being in business is very challenging right now for everyone, especially with some unpredictability in the economy. We think the future for women business owners is bright. We want to make sure they strengthen their networks, systems and teams so their businesses can be more resilient and successful,” DeDominic said.

The forums will include sessions on leadership, public speaking, time management, finance, business loans, systems, and entrepreneurial controls.

For more information about the forums, contact the Solvang Chamber of Commerce at (805) 688-0701.

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