There are 315,000 women business owners in Los Angeles County, but only about 500 of them belong to the L.A. chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

While L.A. has the largest NAWBO chapter, the organization is looking for a bigger membership base, an effort being led by Executive Director Sonya Levy Wayne.

For its first 20 years, the L.A. chapter was run by volunteers and consultants. Now it is hiring a paid, professional staff, with Wayne at the head.

"This was one way to be sure we'd be ready to accommodate the changes and growth of women entrepreneurs in Los Angeles," Wayne said. "Now we just need to get the word out on what we provide."

Wayne says NAWBO provides women business owners with access to capital and funding sources, business education, scholarships, networking events, and gives them public policy support.

"We connect women to national and international sister organizations, and can assist in trade import and export. Since we have over 30 corporate partners, we can help women enter into and build those types of relationships," Wayne said.

Wayne has a hands-on approach to client services and takes calls from members herself. "They can call me, I serve as a referral service as well, and I try to connect folks who can do business together," she said.

Wayne was previously executive director of the Santa Monica College Foundation, where she managed a $6 million development campaign. Before that, she was director of corporate gifts with the Los Angeles County Museum, and assistant dean of USC's School of Fine Arts.

She received her MBA from UCLA's Anderson School. She also received her bachelor's degree in art history from UCLA, and attended the Sorbonne in Paris to earn a certificate in French language.

Moving here from Hartford, Conn. in 1989, Wayne was immediately taken with Los Angeles. "I thought it was fantastic. I was impressed with the openness of the community and the freshness of the place that someone with creative ideas could take an idea and run with it. The East Coast is a little more difficult to break into, and make a name in."

- Jolie Gorchov

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.