Onboarding Course

A big warm welcome to WEDI. We're delighted to have you on board, and we hope you're settling in nicely.

When you've finished taking this short course, you will:

Have fun!

About WEDI

Mission and Vision

At WEDI, we provide the following services:

  • Low-income individuals and families attain sustainable incomes through business creation and expansion.
    • One-on-one pre-loan business training and technical assistance to prospective and operating business clients through our team of Economic Development Specialists (2-4 total staffers) and Economic Development Director (1):
      • Financial Stability counseling: personal budgeting, saving, credit repair
      • Business Stability counseling: business planning, financial projections
      • Capital Stability counseling: loan packaging, government-regulation facilitation
    • One-on-one post-loan business training and technical assistance to prospective and operating business clients through its team of Economic Development Specialists, Economic Development Director, and network of business coaches, including SCORE (“Service Corps of Retired Executives”) mentors
      • For clients who access loans through WEDI, staffers can offer up to 2 hours/week/client in direct, one-on-one business counseling.
      • Depending on the situation, WEDI can refer clients without loans/loan applications to an appropriate SCORE mentor or WEDI-recruited business coach. If no volunteer exists, staffers can provide assistance in a deprioritized manner (contingent on staff capacity).
  • Communities of entrepreneurs create focused, market-driven, and sustainable destinations that bring diverse neighborhoods together.
    • ​​​​​​​Microloans and other capital
      • WEDI currently offers clients loans of up to $20,000 as well as loan-packaging support to ensure a strong application based on each business’s potential for success rather than on the prohibitive credit and existing-earnings requirements of traditional lenders.
      • For larger amounts, WEDI will refer to a partner organization, like Pathstone Enterprise Center, Excelsior Growth Fund, and other lenders. If the client cannot access a loan through those resources, WEDI will attempt to adjust is policies to meet the need.
  • English language learners acquire fluency and comprehension to attain parity with native English-speaking peers to ensure high graduation rates and promote family health and strong community.
    • The ENERGY Literacy for Children and FLY after-school programs serve 64 ELLs and students with interrupted formal education (SIFEs) from Buffalo’s West Side in grades 1-8 and 7-8, respectively.
      • ENERGY focuses on improving the students’ abilities to read, write, and speak English. With an average ratio of one volunteer mentor per student, the program provides specialized reading and homework support. 
      • FLY focuses on project-based, STEM-focused learning as a means of English language acquisition.

 

Our mission

Our mission is to empower economically-disadvantaged people who live and/or work in Buffalo's community. 

Our vision

WEDI's vision is a vibrant, stable and inviting community. 

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Milestones in History

Over the years...

History of WEDI

The Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) began as a mission of Westminster Presbyterian Church to improve the quality of life for the residents of Buffalo’s West Side.  This mission is rooted in a long-term relationship between Westminster and Ferguson Avenue residents that began in 1998.  At that time, Westminster parishioners began working with Habitat for Humanity to improve the housing on Ferguson Avenue.  Around this period the church also began hosting ENERGY, an after-school program that continues to service school-age English-language learners (ELLs) from the West Side.

In 2006 WEDI was created as a separate 501(c)3 organization with the mission of improving the quality of life on the West Side of Buffalo by connecting residents interested in the success of their neighborhood with the resources necessary to achieve this reality.

WEDI’s early accomplishments include:

  • WEDI has run an after-school tutoring program for 20 – 25 children from the neighborhood each year since 1997

  • WEDI’s housing program has developed Ferguson Avenue, one block north of West Ferry Street and Grant Street, in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, West Side Ministries, and the City of Buffalo.  Home ownership on Ferguson Avenue has increased from 27% in 1997 to 63% today, thereby replacing several absentee landlords owners motivated to improve their community.

  • Through WEDI’s business mentoring program and Loan Loss Reserve fund that guaranteed loans to those unable to secure loans from traditional sources, WEDI has been able to add several successful new businesses to the West Side.  These include Candelaria Cleaning Services, Mow and Snow by Mary, Urban Roots, Jubba Tailor Shop, and The WASH Project.

  • WEDI has mobilized numerous volunteers from the community to assist as tutors, student mentors, housing volunteers, business mentors, and community developers.

  • WEDI established and funded the position of Housing Director to establish Homebuyers Clubs on the West Side to assist individuals who want to learn about homeownership.

WEDI’s approach to implementing its mission currently includes direct economic development through programs in business development, mentoring, micro-loans, and the West Side Bazaar and educational empowerment through the ENERGY and FLY after-school programs.  In 2013, the WEDI Board of Directors elected to transition away from housing-related efforts in order to  focus on economic development and education programming. This move included transitioning the Homebuyers Clubs to Jericho Road Community Health Center and coordinating volunteers interested in housing and neighborhood redevelopment through West Side Ministries.

WEDI’s economic development-focused work arose from the identified needs of the West Side neighborhoods.  The West Side of Buffalo, particularly the Grant Street area, was once a thriving commercial district within the city, but had deteriorated dramatically. To become vibrant again, the area recognized the need for new small retail businesses to meet the diversity of local needs while also attracting shoppers from the broader Western New York community. Since then, the program has made a couple expansions, first to the City of Buffalo and then to areas in Erie County. The Board approved expansion to Niagara County, but staff have not implemented this yet.

Much of the potential for retail entrepreneurship has come from the local immigrant community. The city of Buffalo resettles the highest number of refugees in New York State each year.  A large percentage of these new residents settle on the West Side of the city. Their potential for entrepreneurial success often depends on having the access to resources and understanding of American business practices that is necessary to operate conventional storefront enterprises, as has equally proven to be the case for low-income residents who grew up in the United States. If these entrepreneurs receive the opportunity to put their business ideas into reality inexpensively and with assistance, their influence on the West Side commercial district can be mutually advantageous for businesses and consumers.

West Side Bazaar

In the fall of 2009, a new group of concerned West Side agencies, business people and residents came together to form the Niagara District Stakeholders under the guidance of David Rivera, Council member for the district. One of the goals of that group was to make a dramatic improvement on the business atmosphere of the West Side. After many months of visioning to determine what the means of achieving that impact would look like, WEDI undertook the project, and the West Side Bazaar concept was born. The Bazaar was to be a small business incubator where new business owners could find a safe, nurturing, inexpensive environment to develop their business acumen with guidance in the ways of running an enterprise successfully.  The Bazaar would also serve as an important culturally relevant business incubator as refugees and immigrants were drawn to the West Side of Buffalo and looked to maintain their heritage in a new and unfamiliar environment while earning a living. The Bazaar would prove to serve these needs well as it helped to guide and develop new businesses for new Americans.

Following many months of preparation, workshops and site analyses, the Bazaar opened on March 3, 2011 at 242 Grant Street, near Lafayette Avenue. It initially housed six newly minted business owners from Indonesia, Peru, Rwanda, South Sudan, and the USA. The Bazaar quickly became a community mainstay for shopping, eating, and combining commerce with socializing. During this initial phase, three entrepreneurs successfully grew their businesses out of the Bazaar and into their own storefronts.

In 2012, the Bazaar won the competitive 21st Century Fund Grant of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and moved to an expanded location in the heart of the Grant and Ferry marketplace. The 25 Grant Street location has become a destination where enterprising shoppers can find handcrafted gifts, clothing, and jewelry from all over the world and fresh, exciting multicultural foods.

The West Side Bazaar currently houses up to 4 full-service food vendors, 5 retail food booths, and 11 retail business owners. The Bazaar has become a cornerstone of the revitalization of the Grant Street commercial district.

Recent Updates

With the support of a national consultant, the microloan program underwent a restructuring in the Spring of 2018, likely leading to a more efficient and risk-appropriate program.

The ENERGY program for students in grades 1 – 6 is housed at Westminster Presbyterian Church. The students are bussed 3 afternoons a week from their West Side neighborhood. In the Fall of 2018, the FLY Program is moving to West Buffalo Charter School, and WEDI is starting its first high school program, Launch, at Lafayette High School. 


The West Side Bazaar is also relocating to a new, yet-to-be-determined location, and the Board will approve this final decision in the Summer of 2018. Included in this expansion is a new emphasis on farm-to-table, nutrition, and health activities and programs in partnership with appropriately specialized organizations.

Key Elements to the Success So Far

Key Elements to  Success So Far

  • Driven clients/children with vision

    • Diversity among ideas, people, and places

    • Unique products (innovation at the local level)

    • Hard-working

  • Staff, Board and Volunteers

    • Passion, willingness to really get involved, sacrificial, visionary

  • Intimate working relationship between WEDI staff and clients

    • Business coaching/counseling

    • Technical training

  • A deep understanding of the needs of our clients/community

  • A commercial space for direct sales

    • Subsidized rent

  • Powerful brand and marketing

  • Community support and funding

  • Collaboration

    • Fill gaps in service provision

    • Partner with organizations with expertise

Recent successes!

Bazaar expansion! 

New York Times

Chan Zuckerburg

Ignite Buffalo 

People - Our core strength

Who is who?

BEN BISSELL | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 


YANUSH SANMUGARAJA | ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR


JOSHUA BRENNER | ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST


RAISA DIBBLE | ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST


JAZMINE FRAZIER | ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST


RONALD MATHIS| ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST


Who do we serve?

Who do we serve?

  • Over 800 business clients since 2012

  • >700 people in the pipeline

  • 72% ethnic minorities

  • 51% refugees

  • 2% asylees

  • 10% other immigrants

  • 51% women

  • 91% previously low-income

  • 46% previously extremely low income

ENERGY

  • 34 children in grades 1-6

  • 100% refugees

FLY

  • 30 children in grades 6-8

  • 100% refugees/immigrants

A City of Immigrants

Buffalo

A City of Immigrants

Buffalo is a city of immigrants and was once a booming town, where the people who lived here came from everywhere.

We were settled by New Englanders, then successive waves of European immigrants: Germans first, then the Irish, Polish, Italian, Jewish.

More recently it has been the Latino population.

And now refugees/ immigrants from Somalia, Bhutan, Burma, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Iraq, and many other countries.

Each influx of immigrants has changed Buffalo and remains a principal client demographic for WEDI.

Buffalo then(1990):

Buffalo predominantly populated by Polish-, Italian-, and Irish-Americans.

Buffalo now:

From 2000 to 2010, the Buffalo-Niagara Metro Area saw a 33% rise in foreign-born population, growing from 4.4% of the total population in 2000 to 6.0% in 2010. In fiscal year 2014, Erie County received 1,380 refugees, representing a 29% increase from 1,074 in 2012 and maintaining the county’s status as the highest resettlement area in New York State

Must Know Resources

Policies

Volunteer Policy

Appearance and Conduct

Volunteers are expected to dress appropriately and conduct themselves professionally. Please dress appropriately for the role you will be performing, ie. no open toed shoes for clean up projects. Volunteers may not smoke or drink at any of the WEDI locations while on duty.

Assignments

As a volunteer, you are directly responsible to the program or individual to which you have been assigned. Sometimes a change of assignment is necessary, either for your convenience or to meet the changing demands of the organization. Please do not change assignments unless you have made arrangements to do so with a WEDI staff member. WEDI encourages volunteers to be self-motivated and self-starters.

Training

All volunteers are required to participate in a volunteer orientation. This includes an initial orientation conducted by the Capacity Building Specialist. 

Attendance

Volunteers are a vital part of WEDI and we count on you being here when you're scheduled. Therefore, if you are unable to be here or running late on your scheduled day, please notify your program director at least two days in advance unless sickness or an emergency occurs. If you plan to take a vacation, please notify your manager as soon as you know the dates that you will be away.

Better Impact

Better Impact is used to record your volunteer hours and attendance. Please verify your hours weekly. Further instructions will be provided at orientation.

Parking

Parking is free at all of WEDI’s locations (https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zGHxSj3K8JUc.khluWzDS0klE).

Terminations of Service

Your volunteer service may be discontinued if you are frequently absent, have unannounced absences, or do not comply with WEDI policies & procedures or volunteer rules & regulations. If you decide to discontinue your volunteer work or require a leave of absence, please inform the staff as far in advance as possible.

Contact Us

If your questions are not answered above, please e-mail or call the Capacity Building Specialist at 716-393-4088. The WEDI Office is located at 436 Grant St.

Procedures

How to log hours every week

We use Better Impact for time-tracking. This short video will tell you all you need to know to get going.

5 Handy Resources