Engines for Entrepreneurship, Economic Mobility, and Empowerment

By Elizabeth Wilder

Alphabet, Apple, Meta. Here in Silicon Valley, we tend to think of big employers as big tech companies because they are so visible. But only about 309,000 people actually work for the three largest tech companies, and less than four percent of the national workforce work in big tech.

So where are the jobs? According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses employ over 61 million Americans today—nearly half of private sector employees. The sheer dispersal of jobs in small businesses can make job hunting and job training decisions difficult. In our community, the cost of living adds to the challenges of finding AND keeping employment.

Economic empowerment is a core focus of the Palo Alto Community Fund (PACF). Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are honored to share outcomes from three organizations focused on economic mobility that PACF supported in 2023.

Providing Pathways for Economic Mobility


Awarded two years of general operating support plus a $100,000 Dave Mitchell Impact Grant

Since 1965, JobTrain (formerly OICW) has helped people of diverse backgrounds improve their social and economic well-being by teaching them the skills they need to find sustainable employment in high-demand industries with opportunities for career growth. Jennifer Overholt, Director of Impact, attributed the organization’s success to JobTrain’s staff. “They go above and beyond to understand barriers—such as transportation or child care gaps—students may be experiencing, then find solutions so our students achieve their goals.”

JobTrain served over 3,000 clients in 2023. Through their job centers, 276 people found immediate employment. Of the 559 clients enrolled in career training this year, 85 percent completed health care, technology, construction, or culinary arts programs. One client, Ivan, benefited from a partnership between JobTrain and the Carpenters Union Local 217. “JobTrain has opened many doors and opportunities for me,” Ivan said. “It’s been a life-changing experience. I got out of prison in February, completed the 12-week (construction) class, then got into the Union. It is October and I’m working my first job building apartments in Menlo Park.”

Increasing Entrepreneurial Capacities

The Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center (REC)

Received two years of general operating support

The REC, known for Start Smart, a four-week, ten-hour course that teaches the fundamentals needed to start a business successfully, reports a 28 percent increase in household income from clients who complete their program. Through the in-house Financing Resource Center, clients receive help applying for and accessing working capital of $5,000-$250,000 so they can start and grow their businesses.

Empowering Single Mother Success

WANDA (Women and Allies)

Received general operating support to help low-income single mothers develop and achieve economic self-sufficiency

Working in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, WANDA provides financial literacy education, networking and mentorship, and a structured 2:1 matched savings program that helps single mothers build wealth and a more secure future for themselves and their children.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted that all work “has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” The Palo Alto Community Fund could not agree more. We could not support these wonderful programs without the generous support of our donors. Thank you!


January 23, 2023