Indomitable is the spirit of VSEDC Founder Marva Smith Battle-Bey, a visionary icon whose tireless efforts laid the foundation for economic growth and empowerment in South LA. Transitioning into Women’s History Month, reflecting on her legacy and the impact of women in economic development and entrepreneurship is essential.

Marva endeavored to confront the steady economic decline following the aftermath of the 1965 Watts Riots to lay the foundations of VSEDC in 1981. Today, VSEDC has grown from its grassroots beginnings to a pivotal force for systemic change and ensuring minority- and women-led businesses in South LA, Watts, and surrounding communities thrive against the odds.

Marva’s dream was to forge a world where women and Black entrepreneurs possess the tools and resources for success. True to this dream, VSEDC offers comprehensive programs and a curriculum of live workshops, one-on-one assistance, and lending programs.

Historically, South LA’s entrepreneurs faced towering barriers to capital. VSEDC’s designation as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in 2018 marked a turning point, offering a welcoming alternative to traditional banking barriers. Our microloans and small business loans, primarily focused on minority and women-owned businesses, reflect our dedication to breaking down financial barriers. 

Our partnership with the City of Los Angeles and the Economic & Workforce Development Department (EWDD) further propels lending opportunities. Through its management of the South LA and Watts BusinessSource Centers, VSEDC provides bespoke assistance to harness our communities’ untapped economic and financial potential.

During the last fiscal cycle, VSEDC channeled roughly $1.5 million into micro and small business loans, achieving an equitable distribution among male and female entrepreneurs, underscoring our commitment to ensuring that every entrepreneur has access to the capital needed to thrive.

Acknowledging the critical gap in technological access, VSEDC has spearheaded initiatives to bridge the digital divide.

Our Business Enterprise Center (BEC) in Chesterfield Square has blossomed into a hub of innovation, hosting the AT&T Connected Learning Center and the South Los Angeles Best Buy Teen Tech Center. Here, youth and entrepreneurs explore cutting-edge technologies and digital literacy, with nearly 300 students already benefiting from our tech boot camps. Through democratizing technology access, we enable our community with essential skills for the future.

Looking ahead, VSEDC’s mission continues to evolve. Our upcoming Women’s Business Center, launching in May 2024, promises to further our reach and impact, embodying Marva’s legacy of empowerment. Later this month, VSEDC hosts its HerStory Women’s History Month Pitch Competition, an opportunity for women entrepreneurs to showcase their vision and drive.

Watch for inspiring stories throughout the month, highlighting the achievements and aspirations of women entrepreneurs in our community.