Printdsc_4497by Andrea Carter

When Coachella Valley CPA, Joan Busick, found herself headed for a divorce with little financial means and two kids, she knew she needed some kind of plan for her future, but wasn’t sure how to take those next steps.
“I read a book that taught me I need to be responsible for myself, and it was clear real quickly that the best way to do that was to get a higher education,” said Busick.
Busick enrolled at Cal Poly, but she needed help. So she went to the local Soroptimists where she had to talk about herself and the situation she was in – which was not in her comfort zone, but she did what she had to do.
“My Doris Day/Rock Hudson theory was that we see too many Hollywood happy endings and not enough reality,” added Busick. “They understood where I was at, and selected me to receive a $600 grant.”
Crediting a small amount of money and a group of women who believed in her for the pivotal changes she was able to make in her life, Busick earned a Business Administration degree and passed the CPA Exam. When she started her accounting business, she decided to focus on women.
“Women have so many common threads. We all feel we are the only ones making these mistakes, and it’s helpful to know other women have been in our shoes,” said Busick.
After starting her new career and moving to the desert, she wrote a book called “Surviving Beyond Happily Ever After” to encourage women who weren’t ready to handle life on their own or found themselves alone. Then, she really wanted to get behind something. A nonprofit that encouraged women to succeed was her calling – and with a support network of other women in the community – the Girlfriend Factor was born.
The organization was founded May 8, 2006, and it mainly began as a social and networking group for women in the community who paid $50 to become part of the Blind Faith Gang. “They really launched us,” said Busick. “And it was a lot of fun. We were women encouraged and sustained by chocolate, alcohol and good hair days. We did things like the Ultimate Pajama Party with a mechanical bull, Drag Queen Bingo – even Pole Dancing mixers! We definitely knew how to have a good time while building a fund that allowed us to take Girlfriend Factor to the next level.”
The organization provided its first educational grants in 2007 to 9 local women pursuing goals in the community. It was a small amount of money for educational expenses and a whole lot of support. A couple years ago, Girlfriend Factor was able to move to awarding $2,000 grants annually for recipients.
The total number of recipients to date are over 120. These women must be 25 years or older, and most have gone through some type of obstacle or hurdle in their lives. They must both live and go to school in the Coachella Valley. The education grants are renewable, and Girlfriend Factor sticks with recipients through their educational journey until they graduate. Many of them are still in the community – now teachers, dental hygienists, nurses and cosmetologists, among other careers.
The Girlfriend Factor believes education is the key to economic advancement and self-sufficiency among women, and that women can accomplish anything they set their minds to when they have the support and encouragement of their girlfriends.
Some of the organization’s key activities throughout the year include the GoGirl Luncheon – which is coming up November 1st at the Indian Wells Resort Pavilion; Club Cabana; the Little Black Dress Reception/El Paseo Fashion Week; the LBD Circle Event and a number of mixers throughout the year.
“It’s very humbling to be at the 10 year anniversary mark,” said Busick. “It’s exciting to see that so many others have grasped the vision. We’re really growing in the community, and that means so many other women’s lives will be impacted.”
For more information, go to TheGirlfriendFactor.org.