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Financial institutions that support small businesses like Anna’s Gourmet Banana Nut Bread, Inc., will receive grants and loans as part of Wells Fargo’s Diverse Community Capital program.

Small businesses thrive dollar by dollar, dream by dream

Fifteen financial institutions that support small businesses will receive grants and loans as part of Wells Fargo’s Diverse Community Capital program.

May 5, 2016

A small business loan helped Happy Cup Coffee in Portland, Oregon, hire more people with disabilities.

A loan to Anna’s Gourmet Banana Nut Bread, Inc. helped the owner (pictured above) expand her business in Smithfield, North Carolina.

And a loan to JO’s Learning Academy in Milwaukee is making it easier to connect kids at a childcare center to a kitchen where they learn about nutritious foods.

In all these cases, financial support was made possible by local community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, which serve traditionally underserved populations by providing financial resources and training.

Wells Fargo will provide $5.67 million in grants and $16.67 million in lending capital to 15 CDFIs as part of the most-recent Wells Fargo Works for Small Business®: Diverse Community Capital program. The three-year, $75 million program will provide $50 million in lending capital and $25 million in grants to CDFIs. The money helps the CDFIs provide diverse-owned small businesses access to capital, technical assistance, business planning, and other resources. CDFIs can visit the program page to learn more about the guidelines and to access the online interest form.

“Wells Fargo is committed to helping small businesses start, stabilize, and grow, and this program is one of the ways we’re demonstrating that,” says Mike Rizer, Wells Fargo’s head of Community Relations. “CDFIs are crucial for many small businesses to succeed. The additional lending capital, technical assistance, and other support these 15 CDFIs will provide to the diverse-owned small businesses in their communities will help make those businesses, and ultimately, our communities, even stronger.”

Filling a funding gap

The Support Center, which is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and serves small businesses across the state, is one of the 15 recipients. Wells Fargo has committed $1 million in lending capital and a $500,000 grant to the CDFI, which has helped businesses such as Anna’s Gourmet Banana Nut Bread, Inc., a gourmet dessert bread company. Owner Anna Marie Wade started the business in her home and was able to expand it thanks to a loan from The Support Center. “This is a group that supports small businesses that don’t have a lot of startup, that may not have been in business very long, but that have a strong business plan and a wonderful product,” Anna says.

“In our market study, we found a huge gap in funding of small businesses,” says Lenwood V. Long Sr., president and CEO of The Support Center. “We believe The Support Center is a niche lender, filling in that gap. We are not a depository, so we’re not a competitor of Wells Fargo, but we are filling a need. Because of Wells Fargo’s support for small businesses, they see us as the perfect vehicle through which they can channel monies to support small businesses.”

Albina Opportunities Corporation is a CDFI based in Portland that serves the Portland metropolitan area. Wells Fargo has committed $125,000 in lending capital and a $250,000 grant to the CDFI. The funding will allow Albina Opportunities Corporation to lend significantly more money to small businesses, says Robin Wang, executive director of the CDFI.

“Wells Fargo’s Diverse Community Capital program not only provides funding to CDFIs to support underserved businesses, but it also acknowledges that access to capital among minority- and women-owned businesses remains a challenge,” Robin says. “Wells Fargo is making a significant investment to address that problem.”

Albina Opportunities Corporation has provided support to Happy Cup Coffee Company, which has 10 full-time employees and 16 part-time employees, two-thirds of whom have developmental disabilities. In addition to providing job opportunities, the coffee roaster also donates a percentage of its profits to vocational and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.

Small business Happy Cup Coffee’s current and former employees
At Happy Cup Coffee: Keyona Martin (left), Kelly Hales, Caitlin Lawson, and William Snell.

The lending capital from Albina Opportunities Corporation enabled Happy Cup Coffee to purchase additional brewing equipment and hire four more employees.

“It allowed us to employ more people at a time when jobs were harder to come by, and the money has stayed local,” says Scott Rector, who co-owns Happy Cup Coffee with Rachel Bloom. “The money they lent us went to people who live in the local community, and that’s where they’re spending their money. When you buy a cup of Happy Cup coffee, you’re helping people at a disadvantage in a real way.”

‘A lifelong impact’ on kids’ health

Forward Community Investments is a CDFI in Madison, Wisconsin, that serves mission-based organizations that work to reduce social, racial, and economic disparities across Wisconsin. Wells Fargo has committed $1.25 million in lending capital and a $100,000 grant for the CDFI, which will allow Forward Community Investments to focus on growing, mentoring, and lending to a diverse population of real estate developers, says Salli Martyniak, president of Forward Community Investments.

“The beauty of what we do is, it’s not only providing capital, but it’s providing services and technical assistance to make our borrowers sustainable in the long term,” Salli says. “We work with them to the point where a conventional bank is ready and willing to finance them. I see our role as helping those organizations become bankable on their own.”

One small business that Forward Community Investments has helped is JO’s Learning Academy in Milwaukee, as the childcare center expanded to include an early elementary school. In addition to receiving a loan to complete a new building that houses the school, it later received additional financing to build a connector between the school and the childcare center. Once completed, children will have easier access to the new building and its “healthy foods kitchen” where they and their parents can learn to prepare nutritious meals. The childcare center and school are in an area where there is a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, says owner Schnell Price-Lambert.

Small business JO’s Learning Academy staff
JO’s Learning Academy owner Schnell Price-Lambert (left) and Executive Director Mary Harmon.

“It’s rewarding when you have a little boy say, ‘Where are you getting this? This food tastes different. It’s so fresh,’” Schnell says. “This can have a lifelong impact on the health of these kids, on the way they eat and on their view of fresh fruits and vegetables. Without organizations like Forward Community Investments, it would be incredibly difficult for small businesses like mine to exist. There would be no JO’s Learning Academy. It’s meaningful to me that Wells Fargo is helping CDFIs so they can help more small businesses grow.”

Contributors: Sara Harrison
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