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FEMALES & FINANCES: WENDY BAUMANN

Wendy Baumann

For this month's Females and Finances series, we’re featuring Wendy Baumann from the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation. Wendy has been president of the WWBIC for over 23 years (wow!), helping women across the state realize their goals. Read on for some lovely insight into her upbringing, family and professional career. Way to Own It, Wendy!

What does “Owning It” mean to you? 

I have spent most of my dedicated career helping others “own it” through advancing sound financial capability, educational opportunities and access to fair capital to start businesses! 

However, “owning it” may allude to having control, self-sufficiency and a future on one’s own path – whatever that may be. Through the work we do at WWBIC, we see each day the light bulbs go off in people’s heads and minds about money. When you can assist someone in shoring up an understanding around money – its use, its value, its future value and even such things as the importance of credit scores and basic savings measures – it is grand.

Tell us how you got to where you are today.

Well, I do often end my day a bit tired, and then I remember a great adage: At the end of the day you are supposed to be tired, and at the end of your lifetime you are supposed to be dead tired. So I rest a bit and get up and do it again. 

I had great parents with great values who worked hard, and shared the importance of a work ethic. My mom is a former professor of political science and headed up the Institute of World Affairs for decades, and my father, while much of his career was in human resources management, really was and IS an entrepreneur. He owned small retail stores, tearooms and restaurants. So I grew up knowing that academia, entrepreneurship and internal affairs all have value and meaning. 

I studied hard in grade school and high school, went on to college and later obtained a master’s degree. I fit a family of four in there, and to some degree grew up with them a bit too. I love the kids and family pets, and have full days and a full life. 

I only really worked in the private sector for one year of my life, and did not find it a fit. I am mission-driven. So for my full career after college (except that one year), I have worked in the public – really not-for-profit – arena. 

My first position was at Goodwill Industries, and that proved so helpful since we discovered that our first daughter was deaf and later that our third child, and first son, was also deaf. Here too my personal life provided helpful with my career experience and exposure. 

I probably began delving into economic development with a position as executive director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin and then later with MATC for five years, working with small businesses in an incubator setting. 

This brought me then to WWBIC. For the past 23 years I have served as WWBIC’s president and CVO. At WWBIC we provide hope and opportunity to many, and we focus on women, minority individuals and lower-wealth (we call these individuals pre-rich) individuals. 

When I came on 23 years ago our budget was not even $250,000, and now we have nearly 50 employees with a budget of over $5 million, and a $13 million-plus loan portfolio that’s still growing. WWBIC’s four physical offices give us a way to bring our work statewide.

The secret is dedication, focus, time commitment and balance (and little or no TV)!

What would you say are your most important lessons learned about finances?

Here I would point out how important it is to understand money – its flow (i.e., cash flow for our WWBIC customers and businesses) and its value, current and future. When you can finally understand how people think about money, you can then assist them (if they need assisting). When you own it, you have control. When you do not own it, you have much less control. So OWN your money and its future!

What’s your favorite current financial education resource?

We love the America SAVES program – a national social marketing campaign focused on changing a nation of SPENDERS into a nation of SAVERS. We also see many good things coming out of FDIC and the Federal Reserve Bank too.