Institute Helps Women Launch Businesses


At 24, Orielle Hopkins was a vice president of a finance company making a great salary and investing in real estate. Meeting bills was no problem.

By 31, she had filed for bankruptcy and divorced. As a single mom of two, she struggles to make ends meet even though she still made a great salary.

Hopkins has now taken her experiences of learning to manage money and created Money Smart Mom, an Aliso Viejo Web-based business to provide tools and resources for women like her.

Hopkins is one of about 400 women (and a few men) being helped to start businesses by the Institute for Women Entrepreneurs, part of Rancho Santiago Community College District’s economic development efforts. Funding is from the district, the U.S. Small Business Administration and grants from Comerica Bank and Citibank.

While the institute’s services are free, its approach to business training is no-nonsense, highly hands on and interactive. It stresses homework and accountability.

It also deals with specialized needs of women who have never run businesses before, such as time management and coping with guilt about dividing time between family and business.

“We’re part of a community college system so there is business education involved,” said Institute Director Sallie Salinas. “The greatest challenge is getting women in here with a different mindset. It is not a hobby; they’re starting a bona fide business.”

Logo from the Institute For Women Entrepreneurs

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