women’s leadership council

Women's Leadership Council Program Overview

Women, especially those with lower income, face enormous challenges compared to men in building successful businesses and careers. Imagine you have a wonderful talent, but are a single mother, have limited education, job experience, or English language skills. Could you do it? With these obstacles taking that first step to start a business takes an enormous amount of drive and confidence and may seem unattainable.

Yet against such odds, extraordinary women come to Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center to start and grow their own businesses and realize their dreams of financial security.

For over 30 years, Renaissance has helped 27,000+ entrepreneurs, 76% of which are women, by providing critical business training, guidance and support. Renaissance recognizes the needs of our underserved communities in the Bay area and provides special programs for women including small business and empowerment training classes, mentoring and networking that can help in every stage of small business development. 

April Spears grew up in public housing in San Francisco and was passionate about cooking.  Despite her lack of resources and limited education, she dreamed of being self-sufficient and owning a restaurant in her community. After several ups and downs, April turned to Renaissance and began taking classes and receiving mentoring to help her build her award-winning Auntie April’s Chicken and Waffles Soul Food Restaurant. April now employs over 10 Bayview residents, is building her brand and negotiating to open a new restaurant in SFO airport!!!

April is one of the extraordinary of women that Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center helps to succeed. We founded our new Women’s Leadership Council to establish a deeper support system that goes well beyond business training. We are now offering services that provide confidence building, emotional support, and in some cases the life skills needed to be a female entrepreneur.

Cristina is a Latina single mom with 3 children. She scraped by working at a local construction company where she helped with administration, compliance, marketing, purchasing and even client services. She began to see a larger future for herself and started taking odd jobs as a small contractor. A friend told her about Renaissance and our Simple Steps/Paso a Paso classes. There she learned critical business skills and to build her own company ACI Construction.  Cristina is financially self-sufficient, has been winning larger commercial projects and now employs four local residents.

“I learned to be confident from Renaissance, especially as a woman. I like being a role model for other women in construction and to my children.”

-Cristina Rosario ACI Construction

With their achievements these women also serve as role models for their children, families and neighbors. Some examples of our Women’s programs include:

  • Introductory and business planning and empowerment classes
  • Legal assistance
  • Individual consulting
  • Merchandising training
  • Lease and contract administration
  • Professional office space
  • Women-only networking and mentoring opportunities
  • Access to capital services
  • Financial technical assistance
  • Fashion program
  • Pop-up markets and other sales events

Our Renaissance women are starting neighborhood restaurants, catering businesses, construction companies, beauty services, florist shops, event planning, etc.…  With every successful new women-owned business the whole community benefits. On average, Renaissance Women Business owners:

    • Create jobs for 2-3 people in their neighborhoods
    • Increase their income by an average of 20% each year
    • Buy products and services locally – lifting up the whole community

“Renaissance gave me a foundation and a starting point. I was so inspired by other entrepreneurs in my classes and the wealth of knowledge and emotional support.”

Antoinette Sanchez – Endless Summers Sweets

The Women’s Leadership Council is actively seeking other like-minded peers to join us and help expand our services and programs to serve more women in the Bay Area. We all have experiences and knowledge to share with these talented and inspiring women. As part of the Women’s Leadership Council you will also enjoy engaging with the Renaissance clients at networking and mentoring events, network with your Council peers as we help women achieve new heights in our communities. Renaissance needs you and your community needs you. Please join us in this exciting effort.

Women’s Leadership Council

The Renaissance Women’s Leadership Council is a dynamic group of women and men dedicated to supporting lower-income women as they strive to achieve economic independence for themselves and their families as successful businesswomen.

The Council provides support, vision, and guidance in driving programmatic direction, raising funds, and increasing the visibility of English- and Spanish-speaking women entrepreneurs, ensuring they have access to the critical training, resources, networks and ongoing support all entrepreneurs need to succeed.

Individual Members:

Bruce Burtch, CEO, Bruce W. Burtch, Inc. (retired)
Charmaine Detweiler, Chief Financial Officer, New Resource Bank (retired)
Alison Davis, Fifth Era (Renaissance Board Member)
Evelyn Dilsaver, Independent Board Director
Nancy Green, Athleta
Deborah Harrison, Accenture
JoAnne Lauer, Blockchain Capital
Cheryl Lucanegro, SoundHound
Barbara Morrison, TMC Financing
Dani Nolan, EY
Theresa Noriega-Lum, BlackRock
Stacey Paynter, Strategic Connections, LLC
Helen Russell, Equator Coffee
Nancy Sheppard, Women2Boards
Laura Thompson, Thompson Concepts Groups (Renaissance Board Member)
Marion Weinreb, Marion Weinreb & Associates
Mimi Willard, CO$T

Corporate Members


Council Member Annual Giving Levels are:

  • $1,000 – $10,000 and above

To join please fill out the Renaissance Women’s Leadership Council for here. If you are interested in learning more about the Renaissance Women’s Leadership Council, please contact Laura Giacomini, Director of Development at (415) 348-6207 or lgiacomini@rencenter.org.

We look forward to seeing you soon.