Group works to elevate women

Members of Women Entrepreneurs of Oro Valley meet at Urban Grove in Oro Valley. (Women Entrepreneurs of Oro Valley/Submitted)

Two Oro Valley women who founded a group to support female business owners are seeing the group expand and grow in other communities.

Hilda Ramirez and Nelly Holst formed Women Entrepreneurs of Oro Valley in 2019 with the vision of empowering and elevating women.

The group provides mentorship, business education and financial literacy to its 41 members. As a group, members also become members of the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce. There are monthly meetings featuring speakers on issues that affect women-owned businesses and a monthly coffee social open to members only.

Ramirez, a native of Mexico, was an Army wife for 21 years before her husband retired. She is a business consultant who works with startups and owner of a European coffee house in Catalina. Ramirez also is a Realtor and notary.

When she and her husband left military life and moved to Oro Valley, Ramirez said, it was a major lifestyle change. “I wanted to have a group where women felt welcome and without judgment and for professional experience,” she said.

Ramirez met Holst at a vendor event and started talking about forming a group for women and doing their own events. “Nelly has been my biggest supporter,” she said. “She’s always been beside me. She’s great.”

Holst is originally from Peru and moved to Oro Valley 15 years ago from Simi Valley, California. She is a nutrition advocate and works for Juice Plus.

There are some 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating about $1.8 million in revenue. Women control $20 trillion in annual spending and that number is expected to increase to $28 trillion in coming years. In Arizona, about 20.9% of employer businesses were owned by women in 2020.

“We’re looking to grow because there’s a need for women entrepreneurs to collaborate with each other,” Holst said.

A chapter of the group recently formed in Marana, and another will form next month in Catalina. Other chapters are expected to start in Green Valley and Santa Rita Ranch.

What are the benefits of joining the group?

“I feel one of them is we’re able to refer businesses with each other,” Holst said. “And the support. ... We’re able to brainstorm. We listen to each other.”

The membership of Women Entrepreneurs of Oro Valley includes women in law, insurance, marketing, photography, health, landscaping, travel, wine and finance.

“When I meet someone new (in the group) their stories are just amazing,” Ramirez said.

Every year Women Entrepreneurs of Oro Valley holds a luncheon event with business booths by professional women. “We just want to tell the community that we’re here for them, to elevate women and support their businesses,” Ramirez said.

“It’s a pleasure for me, it’s a blessing,” Holst said about her involvement in the group. “It always comes back. Whatever you put in it’s always coming back to you. The group is very positive. They give good feedback and they’re always there to help you.”

Women Entrepreneurs of Oro Valley