Boosting business with ‘mucho’ gusto
After more than a full year, the Open for Business Fund enters its third phase: focusing on grants to nonprofits for sustaining small businesses like LA’s Los Taquero Mucho for the long term.
In 2019, brides, grooms, and other festivity planners in the Los Angeles area were lucky to score a coveted booking with the catering and pop-up business Los Taquero Mucho. Their recipes blossomed from a familial love of cooking, offering specialty tacos such as a pork belly Cochinita Pibil and an ‘El Cremita’ grilled chicken taco with a signature white house sauce.
With demand for their tacos heating up, the co-owner trio — husband and wife Sylvia and Miguel Garcia, with Sylvia’s brother Alex Ramirez — decided to follow their dreams. They quit their office jobs and started working to establish a permanent restaurant.
Although the idea was popular with customers, their timing wasn’t great.
“When COVID hit, everything canceled on us,” said Sylvia Garcia. “We didn’t know how we were going to afford the purchases needed to start a business; we had just enough for catering.”
Their timing did allow them to access a grant through a community development financial institution (CDFI) that benefited from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund, a roughly $420 million small business recovery effort. Launched in July 2020, the fund provides grants to nonprofits that help small businesses stay open, maintain jobs, and recover from the economic effects of COVID-19. It was created as a unique way for Wells Fargo to donate the gross processing fees generated from its participation in the Paycheck Protection Program in 2020. More than 80% of those served are Black, African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and other diverse small business owners who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
“This is giving us the opportunity to grow our business, and give back to the city that has supported our growth, while we work with other restaurant owners and also create job opportunities.” — Sylvia Garcia, CEO and co-owner of Los Taquero Mucho
In the year the fund has existed, Wells Fargo first provided grants directly to CDFIs, such as Genesis LA, the organization that worked with the co-owners of Los Taquero Mucho. In a second funding opportunity, more than $50 million went to nonprofits to support entrepreneurs with technical assistance. The third phase of funding is focusing on providing funding to nonprofits that assist small businesses in growing equity in their business, with money going into acquiring property and equipment as part of physical business improvements.
“There are very few nonessentials when starting up a business,” said Jenny Flores, head of Wells Fargo Philanthropy. “We see everything from technical assistance to acquiring assets and property as vital elements in the long-term success of small businesses, which is why the final phase of the Open for Business Fund is focusing on this additional area of support.”
The co-owners of Los Taquero Mucho were able to secure money from an Open for Business grant to help buy kitchen equipment. They were also able to access business support from a local business incubator program, through the Blvd Market project, which was also supported by Wells Fargo.
Blvd Market is an effort to “Gentefy,” rather than gentrify, the LA-area community of Montebello, by giving people from the area a platform to revitalize the city. The Garcias and Ramirez are from a neighboring community.
“This is giving us the opportunity to grow our business, and give back to the city that has supported our growth, while we work with other restaurant owners and also create job opportunities,” Sylvia Garcia said.
Blvd Market is comprised of a collection of restaurants in shipping containers and attracts customers far and wide, putting Los Taquero Mucho in an appetizing position as restaurants reopen.
“For us, being able to start the business and to now have our very first physical location — with the help we were able to access — was just unbelievable,” Sylvia Garcia said. “Without it we would not be where we are right now.”
Wells Fargo’s support of diverse and women-owned businesses
Wells Fargo is donating roughly $420 million ($250 million for capital to CDFIs, $50 million for technical assistance, and $100+ million for long-term resiliency programs).
*PPP data from Program inception in 2020 through 6/9/2021.