Wells Fargo today announced $13 million in grants to Bay Area Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to help small businesses stay open and maintain local jobs. The funding will help the CDFIs provide grants, loans, technical assistance, and business coaching for diverse entrepreneurs.
The grants are part of Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund (OFB) program, a roughly $420 million small business recovery effort across the U.S. to help entrepreneurs recover and rebuild. The initiative focuses on three key areas: increasing access to capital through CDFIs, technical assistance, and long-term recovery and resiliency programs. Already, the Open for Business Fund is helping a projected 22,000 small businesses keep an estimated 66,000 jobs nationwide.
These are businesses like Nzilani Glass Conservation, which embodies everything great about Oakland. Established in 2003, Nzilani is an award-winning, firm known for architectural glass preservation, design and fabrication. It is dedicated to making the profession more equitable by being accessible to under-served communities.
Nzilani’s founder, Ariana Makau first came to PCV for HR and Business Management assistance in 2016 when the company was in its first growth phase while conserving the monumental stained-glass windows at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (for which Nzilani won a California Preservation Award). In the ensuing years, PCV has provided Nzilani with funding, and Ariana has worked with other advisors from PCV’s free Business Advising program.
“Be Safe. Have Fun. Do Excellent Work.” “Be Safe.” guide all work that includes leaded art glass. When the COVID-19 outbreak began in March 2020, resulting in business closures, Ariana put safety before profits and sent her entire company home. She sent this email to her team: “Good Morning Team Nziers, I want you to know that while we are not physically together, I’m still working on our behalf…My pledge to you is to check out at least one opportunity/lead every day to see how we can be at the top of the list when we’re back at work or even during our imposed hiatus. Missing the studio already! In solidarity, Ariana.”
An employee responded: “Hi Ariana, I just wanted to thank you for the effort you are expending to make sure we will be ok. I know that a lot of it is out of your control, but it’s the thought that counts. This reason is why I choose to stay with Nzilani. You are doing the best you can for us, and I really admire you for it.” The company not only survived the last year, but thrived due to the team’s temporary pivot to cloth mask fabrication and then back to preservation when work was opened up for construction companies. It is currently installing 83 stained glass panels at St. Vincent de Paul in San Francisco.
Pacific Community Ventures is proud to work with small business owners just like Ariana who are working day in and day out to create good jobs and strengthen our towns and cities.
“When COVID hit, demand for PCV’s advising and capital grew almost 10,000%. If we are going to build forward better for business owners of color, their workers, and communities, we need to meet them where their needs are,” said Pacific Community Ventures President & CEO, Bulbul Gupta. “Our partnership with Wells Fargo allows us to do that affordably and flexibly to help small business owners across the Bay Area stay open, keep their people employed in good quality jobs, and position our communities to recover stronger.”
The Open for Business grantees include six CDFIs based in the Bay Area:
- Community Vision Capital & Consulting, San Francisco: $2 million
- Feed the Hunger Fund, San Francisco: $500,000
- ICA, Oakland: $2 million
- Low Income Investment Fund, San Francisco: $3 million
- Opportunity Fund, San Jose: $3.5 million
- Pacific Community Ventures, Oakland: $2 million
Nearly half of all Americans are employed by small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. According to the Wells Fargo Q4 Small Business Index survey, small business owners see a long and arduous road ahead. Nearly 60% of small business owners say they don’t expect businesses like theirs to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic until the second half of 2021 or later.
“The Open for Business Fund enlists the expertise of CDFIs to urgently assist small business owners with capital and technical assistance so they can preserve local jobs in some of the most negatively impacted communities,” said Erica Trejo, senior vice president, Wells Fargo Social Impact and Sustainability. “By working with Bay Area CDFIs, we can ensure that minority-owned small businesses in our community receive the resources they need to keep their businesses open.”
“I am proud to join Wells Fargo in announcing much needed support for minority-owned Bay Area small businesses. The sharp decline in business and revenue caused by COVID-19 puts workers and businesses at great risk and these funds will help small businesses recover and save jobs,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
“COVID-19 devasted many small businesses in San José. Thanks to Wells Fargo’s investment, our diverse community will receive much-needed relief to help our city’s small businesses not only recover, but grow,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
“During this pandemic, our businesses have made really difficult sacrifices to support the public health of our residents. These sacrifices are disproportionately being born by our small minority owned businesses who have not had success in accessing support through traditional mechanisms,” said San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed. “That’s why this investment in our Community Development Financial Institutions is so badly needed and appreciated. These organizations with longstanding connection to our communities are the ones who can quickly fill the gaps as we work to move forward with an equitable recovery and lift our entire City up.”
Quotes from other grant recipients:
“Small businesses are the fabric of our communities and they needed our support more than ever,” said Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia. “Thanks to the support of Wells Fargo and others, we’ve been able to defer $4.8 million in over 4,000 loan payments, forgiven more than $3 million in debt for over 4,000 payments, and advised more than 10,000 small business owners who turned to Accion Opportunity Fund for expert advice. This grant will allow us to continue offering more rebuilding options to our small business community and, together, regenerate our Main Street economy.”
“Entrepreneurs of color have been hit hardest by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and have received inadequate access to financial assistance. It is imperative that our communities receive an equitable and just response, and this funding will support us in offering services to help businesses survive, recover, and grow,” said Catherine Howard, senior vice president of programs, Community Vision.
“Open For Business is a unique opportunity for Feed The Hunger Fund to provide essential low-cost capital to marginalized women, people of color and immigrants in California. Wells Fargo’s partnership with Feed The Hunger Fund will furnish 20 low-income food entrepreneurs with grants, loans and comprehensive business services. For many, this will allow them and their families to both survive and thrive,” said Feed the Hunger Fund’s CEO Patti Chang.
“In the wake of the pandemic, this generous unrestricted grant is exactly the type of support that ICA needs! With the Open for Business grant, ICA will continue to provide the coaching and capital Bay Area entrepreneurs depend on to grow resilient businesses and create wealth for themselves and their workers,” said ICA’s CEO Allison Kelly.
“The grant will allow us to immediately expand our support for critically needed home-based and center-based early care providers,” said Low Income Investment Fund’s CEO Daniel A. Nissenbaum. “These small business owners – primarily women of color – are essential workers in local communities, helping working parents get back to work, hiring local residents, and supporting childcare and development.”