Bay Area minority small business owners can get capital and advice to stay afloat following a tough year of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wells Fargo officials announced Wednesday.
The San Francisco-based financial services company gave $13 million to six Bay Area Community Development Financial Institutions, private financial institutions that help increase available credit and provide other financial services.
The six institutions are Community Vision Capital and Consulting in San Francisco; Feed the Hunger Fund in San Francisco; ICA in Oakland, Low Income Investment Fund in San Francisco; Opportunity Fund, the lending arm of Accion Opportunity Fund in San Jose; and Pacific Community Ventures in Oakland.
“It literally is a lifeline for the whole community,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf of the money, which can help small businesses such as food trucks on International Boulevard in her city.
Small businesses are being urged to get in touch with the CDFIs, which can provide grants, loans, technical assistance, and business coaching to help businesses get back on their feet.
Almost half of Americans are employed in small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Food trucks in Oakland will have access to help from Feed the Hunger Fund, CEO Patti Chang said. Food truck businesses in the Central Valley will also be able to benefit, Chang said.
Ariana Makau, owner of Oakland-based Nzilani Glass Conservation, which preserves and creates new glass works, turned to Pacific Community Ventures in Oakland for help when her business had to shut down due to the pandemic.
“We can’t take our work home,” Makau said.
She said she wanted to take care of her employees so they were still around after the pandemic.
Bulbul Gupta, president and CEO of Pacific Community Ventures, said that when the pandemic hit, her company saw a nearly 10,000 percent increase in demand for advising and capital.
“We are the equivalent of economic first responders,” Gupta said.
Gupta said the partnership with Wells Fargo will allow them to help small businesses flexibly and affordably.
Gupta added that during the pandemic, businesses have been looking for capital to preserve jobs and for e-commerce, which has been a way some businesses pivoted to stay afloat.