The Oakland Chamber of Commerce has been promoting the social and economic empowerment of East Bay women for almost twenty years. This year, their subgroup East Bay Women in Business Roundtable, celebrated their last meeting of the year with an awards ceremony highlighting women for their outstanding achievements, gumption, and influence. These women are leaders in their fields and dedicated to the betterment of our communities. The four award categories included: Business Owner, Founder, or CEO, Nonprofit or Community leader, Public Servant, and Emerging Leader.
The luncheon was kicked off with an introduction by Barbara Leslie, President & CEO of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, and was moderated by Pam Moore, veteran KRON 4 News Anchor.
Barbara Morrison of TMC Financing was the winner of the Business Owner, Founder, or CEO award. Barbara is the Founder and President of TMC Financing, a small business advocate that administers 504 loans on behalf of the Small Business Administration. Since 1981, TMC has provided funding for projects worth more than $9 billion for over 5,000 small businesses across California and Nevada, resulting in the creation of an estimated 60,000 jobs.
Barbara is also the Founder and Board President of Working Solutions, a microlender that provides entrepreneurs with access to capital and resources to start a business. Working Solutions provides every entrepreneur with five years of business coaching, mentorship, and consulting. Since 1999, Working Solutions has provided over 500 loans and educated over 13,000 entrepreneurs, resulting in the creation of 1,900 jobs.
When accepting her award, Barbara described what job hunting was like when she was 22 and looking for her first job. Employment opportunities for women were limited and were found in the local newspaper “Help Wanted: Female” column. She never set out to be a business owner and did not have an easy path to where she is today – but persistence and following her passion led her down that course. Working with and helping small business owners has been her lifelong passion and starting a business was the best way to make a true impact.
Barbara inspires all around her with her wisdom, optimism and her experiences. When asked what advice she would give to younger generations, she stated, “It is important for tomorrow’s leaders to learn from the past and to recognize how much progress has been made.”
The success of both TMC and Working Solutions can be sourced back to Barbara and her vision. TMC is a leader in 504 financing and over the past 36 years, has changed the lives of many small business owners and revitalized the neighborhoods in which they operate. If you take a magnifying glass to a specific neighborhood, you can see TMC’s impact very clearly.
For example, the Laurel District in East Oakland has been named the “Best Completely Re-Imagined Neighborhood.” In the 1960s, Macarthur Boulevard was Oakland’s major thoroughfare until the construction of I-580. Since then, Macarthur Boulevard has become a thriving commercial center and is now the home of many local businesses. In one block of the Laurel District, TMC has financed building acquisitions for four businesses, including a family-owned Ace Hardware, a farm-to-table diner, a dentistry, and a flourishing BBQ joint.
The next award winner was Julayne Austin Virgil, CEO of Girls, Inc for the category of Community Leader. Girls Inc, is a nonprofit organization that equips girls to defy limitations and stereotypes, break the cycle of poverty, attend college, and create a promising future for themselves. Girls, Inc. is a nationwide organization, with the Alameda County branch incorporated in 1958. This branch has been awarded the United Nations Global Equity Award and has an impact on over 10,000 girls, families, and community members every year.
The winner of the Emerging Leader award was Claire Shorall, Manager of Computer Science, at Oakland Unified School District. Claire’s first day of college experience during her Intro to Engineering Computation class led her to where she is today. It was obvious that Claire was not on par with her other classmates, who were predominately male. She realized she was underserved by her high school and felt defeated by computers. Claire ended up not pursuing a degree in Computer Science but has since dedicated herself to promoting equality in Computer Science.
Claire is an evangelist for Computer Science education and has brought Computer Science to many Oakland high schools, opening a new world for her students. The number of high school students taking Computer Science has risen from 700 to 2,800 and Computer Science coursework has been added to 12 out of the 16 high schools in Oakland. In 2015, Claire was a recipient of the Teach for America Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching and, in addition to her work in the Oakland school districts, Claire is also the creator of Teachers Teach Computer Science.
The winner of the Public Servant award, Susan Muranishi, Administrator of Alameda County, has been lauded for her leadership style for many years. In 1994, there were less than five female administrators in all of California; Susan became the first one in Alameda County. During her time serving as Public Administrator, Susan has saved the county billions of dollars and deflects credit for the tight-rope budget to her team of county department heads. She encourages her team to express differing opinions until reaching a consensus through compromise, with the common goal of providing high quality service with limited dollars. Susan is also a Board Member of Girls, Inc.
The EBWIB award ceremony was a wonderful celebration of women in business in the East Bay. It was not only inspirational to meet and hear from the award winners, but to also connect with other members of the community with similar admirable aspirations.
Congratulations to the EBWIB award winners and a big thank you to the Oakland Chamber of Commerce for putting on the event. See you next year!
About TMC Financing
TMC Financing is a Certified Development Company (CDC) that has helped over 5,000 small businesses in California and Nevada get financing through the SBA 504 program. The Small Business Administration 504 loan program allows small business owners to finance commercial real estate and other fixed assets with long-term, below-market, fixed interest rates. Learn more about TMC Financing.