Opportunity Fund featured on Mt. Shasta News 

A Program Created to Make More Loans Available for Small Business Owners

Coupling credit needs with some strategic assistance while developing a business is “the secret sauce to sustainability and prosperity,” according to Jefferson Economic Development Institute Executive Director Nancy Swift.

That recipe is at the foundation of Opportunity Fund Empowering Women, a pilot program in which Women’s Business Center at JEDI is participating with the goal of making more loans available to small business owners.

The program offers working capital loans that reward borrowers with 2% off the annual interest rate when they apply for free mentoring through the Women’s Business Center at JEDI.

Such mentoring has been shown to have a significant long-term impact on business revenue, according to research and surveys.

Loan amounts range from $5,000 up to $100,000.

A loan review will consider aspects of the borrower’s personal experience and business knowledge. Once approved, small women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs with as little as one year in business can receive funding in two to five days, according to a press release.

While the program is geared toward women, JEDI Program & Marketing Coordinator Jenny Payton said funds are available to men as well.

Opportunity Fund, described in a press release as the largest nonprofit lender to small businesses in California and a national leader for the microfinance movement, announced the Empowering Women program last week.

It describes the pilot program with Women’s Business Center at JEDI as an effort “to educate, mentor, and provide access to affordable, responsible capital for women-owned small businesses.”

“We are so thrilled to be part of this innovative approach to getting more women the credit they deserve and need to grow their businesses,” Swift states in the release. “We applaud the discount that the Opportunity Fund is giving to those women who couple their credit need with some strategic assistance to develop their business. This is the secret sauce to sustainability and prosperity. We know more women in the CA North State need capital for their businesses and we are pleased to be partners with the Opportunity Fund in providing that capital and assistance to truly thrive.”

“By ensuring that women have equal opportunity to succeed as business founders and owners we help strengthen communities, families and local economies,” said Luz Urrutia, CEO, Opportunity Fund. “When I was an entrepreneur, I remember being denied credit and the long path to growing and scaling businesses. Our mission is to address inequities in access to transparent, affordable credit that limit opportunities for hardworking women.”

The press release points to this “Women-owned Small Business Snapshot:”

‒ One in three small businesses is woman-owned and 99 percent of women-owned businesses are small businesses.

‒ Women-owned businesses account for 39% of all U.S. firms, but receive only 16% of all traditional business loans.

‒ Women of color lead four out of ten small businesses.

‒ Latina owned businesses have grown 137% since 2006.

“Access to responsible capital is the lifeblood of a business, and the systematic barriers to affordable credit for women must be honestly addressed and confronted,” added Gwendy Donaker Brown, Vice President of Research and Policy. “Opportunity Fund has a long history of seeking policy change that supports equity and economic opportunity. This campaign puts that effort into practice on a deeper level.”

OFEW is part of a broad initiative by Opportunity Fund to build a community and develop resources to support women’s economic empowerment, according to the press release. “Currently in development, Opportunity Fund’s CEO Luz Urrutia is building a group of advisors to assess the landscape on what Opportunity Fund can do to deepen its support for women entrepreneurs by developing our own financial products and services and identifying partners in the community to provide complimentary support services.”

For more information or to apply for a loan through Opportunity Fund Empowering Women, contact Women’s Business Center at JEDI at info@e-jedi.org call (530) 926-6670, or visitwww.e-jedi.org.

Opportunity Fund featured on Siskiyou Daily  News

JEDI Partners with Opportunity Fund

Opportunity Fund, the largest nonprofit lender to small businesses in California and national leader for the microfinance movement, announced recently the Opportunity Fund Empowering Women, a pilot program with Women’s Business Center at Jefferson Economic Development Institute to educate, mentor and provide access to affordable, responsible capital for women-owned small businesses.

Opportunity Fund, the largest nonprofit lender to small businesses in California and national leader for the microfinance movement, announced recently the Opportunity Fund Empowering Women, a pilot program with Women’s Business Center at Jefferson Economic Development Institute to educate, mentor and provide access to affordable, responsible capital for women-owned small businesses.

The program offers working capital loans that rewards borrowers with 2 percent off the annual interest rate when they apply for free mentoring through JEDI, which is shown to have a significant long-term impact on business revenue, stated a recent press release from JEDI.

An OFEW loan review considers certain aspects of the borrower’s personal experience and business knowledge. Small women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs with as little as one year in business can receive funding in two to five days, once approved, the release said. Loan amounts range from $5,000 up to $100,000.

Opportunity Fund has partnered with LURN, and several like-minded partners throughout the state including Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation and Leadership for Urban Renewal in Southern California to pilot Opportunity Fund Empowering Women by providing mentoring and technical assistance to borrowers.

“We are so thrilled to be part of this innovative approach to getting more women the credit they deserve and need to grow their businesses,” states Nancy Swift, JEDI executive director and host to the Women’s Business Center. “We applaud the discount that the Opportunity Fund is giving to those women who couple their credit need with some strategic assistance to develop their business. This is the secret sauce to sustainability and prosperity. We know more women in the CA North State need capital for their businesses and we are pleased to be partners with the Opportunity Fund in providing that capital and assistance to truly thrive.”

“By ensuring that women have equal opportunity to succeed as business founders and owners we help strengthen communities, families and local economies,” said Luz Urrutia, CEO, Opportunity Fund. “When I was an entrepreneur, I remember being denied credit and the long path to growing and scaling businesses. Our mission is to address inequities in access to transparent, affordable credit that limit opportunities for hardworking women.”

Women-owned Small Business Snapshot:

‒ One in three small businesses is woman-owned and 99 percent of women-owned businesses are small businesses.

‒ Women-owned businesses account for 39 percent of all U.S. firms, but receive only 16 percent of all traditional business loans.

‒ Women of color lead four out of ten small businesses.

‒ Latina owned businesses have grown 137 percent since 2006.

“Access to responsible capital is the lifeblood of a business, and the systematic barriers to affordable credit for women must be honestly addressed and confronted,” added Gwendy Donaker Brown, vice president of Research and Policy. “Opportunity Fund has a long history of seeking policy change that supports equity and economic opportunity. This campaign puts that effort into practice on a deeper level.”

OFEW is part of a broad initiative by Opportunity Fund to build a community and develop resources to support women’s economic empowerment. Currently in development, Opportunity Fund’s CEO Luz Urrutia is building a group of advisors to assess the landscape on what Opportunity Fund can do to deepen its support for women entrepreneurs by developing our own financial products and services and identifying partners in the community to provide complimentary support services.

For more information or to apply for a loan through Opportunity Fund Empowering Women, contact Women’s Business Center at JEDI at info@e-jedi.org, call (530) 926-6670 or visit www.e-jedi.org.

All loan applications are subject to credit review; 2 percent discount applies when applicants sign up for JEDI’s program. Opportunity Fund is an Equal Opportunity Lender and is a California licensed lender #6050609.

JEDI is committed to increasing the economic well-being of people and communities through business development and local wealth creation. Operating in the far northern regions of California for the past 21 years, JEDI has assisted thousands of women and men start and grow business and get the capital they need. JEDI celebrates the growth of small businesses as an economic revival tool for people, families and the communities they live and operate in.

Opportunity Fund believes that small amounts of money and financial advice can help people make permanent and lasting change in their own lives, driving economic mobility and building stronger communities. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. As the nation’s largest nonprofit CDFI supporting small businesses, Opportunity Fund provided more than 2,000 loans to underserved small businesses owners last year, totaling $65 million in investments that created and sustained 6,300 jobs. www.OpportunityFundLoan.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OPPORTUNITY FUND, THE NATION’S LEADING NONPROFIT SMALL BUSINESS LENDER, AND WOMEN’S BUSINESS CENTER AT JEDI ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP TO INCREASE ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WOMEN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS 

Mt. Shasta, CA – Opportunity Fund, the largest nonprofit lender to small businesses in California and national leader for the microfinance movement, today announced Opportunity Fund Empowering Women (OFEW), a pilot program with Women’s Business Center at Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI) to educate, mentor, and provide access to affordable, responsible capital for women-owned small businesses. 

The program offers working capital loans that rewards borrowers with 2%*off the annual interest rate when they apply for free mentoring through JEDI, which is shown to have a significant long-term impact on business revenue. 

An OFEW loan review considers certain aspects of the borrower’s personal experience and business knowledge. Small women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs with as little as one year in business can receive funding in two to five days, once approved. Loan amounts range from $5,000 up to $100,000. 

Opportunity Fund has partnered with JEDI, and several like-minded community partners throughout the state including Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation and Leadership for Urban Renewal in Southern California to pilot Opportunity Fund Empowering Women by providing mentoring and technical assistance to borrowers. 

“We are so thrilled to be part of this innovative approach to getting more women the credit they deserve and need to grow their businesses” states Nancy Swift, JEDI Executive Director and host to the Women’s Business Center.  “We applaud the discount that the Opportunity Fund is giving to those women who couple their credit need with some strategic assistance to develop their business.  This is the secret sauce to sustainability and prosperity.  We know more women in the CA North State need capital for their businesses and we are pleased to be partners with the Opportunity Fund in providing that capital and assistance to truly thrive.”

 “By ensuring that women have equal opportunity to succeed as business founders and owners we help strengthen communities, families and local economies,” said Luz Urrutia, CEO, Opportunity Fund. “When I was an entrepreneur, I remember being denied credit and the long path to growing and scaling businesses. Our mission is to address inequities in access to transparent, affordable credit that limit opportunities for hardworking women.” 

Women-owned Small Business Snapshot: 

  • One in three small businesses is woman-owned and ninety-nine percent of women-owned businesses are small businesses. 
  • Women-owned businesses account for 39% of all U.S. firms, but receive only 16% of all traditional business loans.
  • Women of color lead four out of ten small businesses. 
  • Latina owned businesses have grown 137% since 2006. 

“Access to responsible capital is the lifeblood of a business, and the systematic barriers to affordable credit for women must be honestly addressed and confronted,” added Gwendy Donaker Brown, Vice President of Research and Policy.  “Opportunity Fund has a long history of seeking policy change that supports equity and economic opportunity. This campaign puts that effort into practice on a deeper level.”

OFEW is part of a broad initiative by Opportunity Fund to build a community and develop resources to support women’s economic empowerment. Currently in development, Opportunity Fund’s CEO Luz Urrutia is building a group of advisors to assess what Opportunity Fund can do to deepen its support for women entrepreneurs by developing financial products and services and identifying partners in the community to provide complimentary support services.

For more information or to apply for a loan through Opportunity Fund Empowering Women, contact Women’s Business Center at JEDI at info@e-jedi.org call (530) 926-6670, or visit www.e-jedi.org. 

*All loan applications are subject to credit review.  2% discount applies when applicants sign up for JEDI’s program. Opportunity Fund is an Equal Opportunity Lender and is a California licensed lender #6050609.

JEDI is committed to increasing the economic well-being of people and communities through business development and local wealth creation.  Operating in the far northern regions of CA for the past 21 years, JEDI has assisted thousands of women and men start and grow business and get the capital they need.  We celebrate the growth of small businesses as an economic revival tool for people, families and the communities they live and operate in. www.e-jedi.org. 

Opportunity Fund believes that small amounts of money and financial advice can help people make permanent and lasting change in their own lives, driving economic mobility and building stronger communities. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. As the nation’s largest nonprofit CDFI supporting small businesses, Opportunity Fund provided more than 2,000 loans to underserved small businesses owners last year, totaling $65 million in investments that created and sustained 6,300 jobs. www.OpportunityFundLoan.org.

Download the Press Release PDF

For Immediate Release

Contact: Marika Rose, marikarose@surewest.net 916-601-9737

OPPORTUNITY FUND, THE NATION’S LEADING NONPROFIT SMALL BUSINESS LENDER, AND FRESNO AREA HISPANIC FOUNDATION ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP TO INCREASE ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR CENTRAL VALLEY WOMEN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS 

Fresno, CA – Opportunity Fund, the largest nonprofit lender to small businesses in California and national leader for the microfinance movement, today announced Opportunity Fund Empowering Women (OFEW), a pilot program with Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation (FAHF) to educate, mentor, and provide access to affordable, responsible capital for women-owned small businesses. 

The program offers working capital loans that rewards borrowers with 2%* off the annual interest rate when they apply for free mentoring through FAHF, which is shown to have a significant long-term impact on business revenue.

An OFEW loan review considers certain aspects of the borrower’s personal experience and business knowledge. Small women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs with as little as one year in business can receive funding in two to five days, once approved. Loan amounts range from $5,000 up to $100,000. 

 “Building on our existing and successful partnership to provide micro-loans through Opportunity Fund, this initiative helps us ramp up our efforts to help women small business owners access affordable and responsible credit to grow their businesses,” said Dora Westerlund, CEO, Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation and Downtown Business Hub. “Coupled with our robust women’s business mentoring programs, like Mujeres Hablando de Business, this loan program allows women entrepreneurs to realize their dreams of achieving economic growth and mobility.” 

“By ensuring that women have equal opportunity to succeed as business founders and owners we help strengthen communities, families and local economies,” said Luz Urrutia, CEO, Opportunity Fund. “When I was an entrepreneur, I remember being denied credit and the long path to growing and scaling businesses. Our mission is to address inequities in access to transparent, affordable credit that limit opportunities for hardworking women.”

Women-owned Small Business Snapshot: 

  • One in three small businesses is woman-owned and ninety-nine percent of women-owned businesses are small businesses. 
  • Women-owned businesses account for 39% of all U.S. firms, but receive only 16% of all traditional business loans.
  • Women of color lead four out of ten small businesses. 
  • Latina owned businesses have grown 137% since 2006. 

“Access to responsible capital is the lifeblood of a business, and the systematic barriers to affordable credit for women must be honestly addressed and confronted,” added Gwendy Donaker Brown, Vice President of Research and Policy.  “Opportunity Fund has a long history of seeking policy change that supports equity and economic opportunity. This campaign puts that effort into practice on a deeper level.”

OFEW is part of a broad initiative by Opportunity Fund to build a community and develop resources to support women’s economic empowerment. Currently in development, Opportunity Fund’s CEO Luz Urrutia is building a group of advisors to assess what Opportunity Fund can do to deepen its support for women entrepreneurs by developing financial products and services and identifying partners in the community to provide complimentary support services.

For more information or to apply for a loan through Opportunity Fund Empowering Women, contact Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation at hola@fresnoahf.org, call (559) 222-8705 or visit www.fresnoahf.org. 

*All loan applications are subject to credit review.  2% discount applies when applicants sign up for FAHF’s program. Opportunity Fund is an Equal Opportunity Lender and is a California licensed lender #6050609.

Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation was founded in 2004 to meet the needs of the growing Fresno area Hispanic business community. Through its Downtown Business Hub incubator, FAHF provides mentoring and technical assistance, micro loan programs, and a one-stop service center for small businesses. www.fresnoahf.org.

Opportunity Fund believes that small amounts of money and financial advice can help people make permanent and lasting change in their own lives, driving economic mobility and building stronger communities. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. As the nation’s largest nonprofit CDFI supporting small businesses, Opportunity Fund provided more than 2,000 loans to underserved small businesses owners last year, totaling $65 million in investments that created and sustained 6,300 jobs. www.OpportunityFundLoan.org.

 

Download the Press Release PDF

For Immediate Release

OPPORTUNITY FUND, THE NATION’S LEADING NONPROFIT SMALL BUSINESS LENDER, AND LEADERSHIP FOR URBAN RENEWAL NETWORK ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP TO INCREASE ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR WOMEN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS IN CALIFORNIA

Los Angeles, CA – Opportunity Fund, the largest nonprofit lender to small businesses in California and national leader for the microfinance movement, today announced Opportunity Fund Empowering Women (OFEW), a pilot program with Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN) to educate, mentor, and provide access to affordable, responsible capital for women-owned small businesses. 

The program offers working capital loans that rewards borrowers with 2%* off the annual interest rate when they apply for free business coaching through LURN, which is shown to have a significant long-term impact on business revenue. 

An OFEW loan review considers certain aspects of the borrower’s personal experience and business knowledge. Small women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs with as little as one year in business can receive funding in two to five days, once approved. Loan amounts range from $5,000 up to $100,000. 

Opportunity Fund has partnered with LURN, and several like-minded community partners throughout the state including Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation and Women’s Business Center at Jefferson Economic Development Institute to pilot Opportunity Fund Empowering Women by providing mentoring and technical assistance to borrowers. 

“We are excited to support Opportunity Fund’s OFEW campaign. LURN is committed to supporting the State’s most vulnerable entrepreneurs to ensure they have equitable access to resources to flourish their businesses, said Azusena Favela, Director of Programs, LURN.  

“By ensuring that women have equal opportunity to succeed as business founders and owners we strengthen communities, families and local economies,” said Luz Urrutia, CEO, Opportunity Fund. “When I was an entrepreneur, I remember being denied credit and the long path to growing and scaling businesses. Our mission is to address inequities in access to transparent, affordable credit that limit opportunities for hardworking women business owners and entrepreneurs.”

 Women-owned Small Business Snapshot: 

  • One in three small businesses is woman-owned and ninety-nine percent of women-owned businesses are small businesses. 
  • Women-owned businesses account for 39% of all U.S. firms, but receive only 16% of all traditional business loans.
  • Women of color lead four out of ten small businesses. 
  • Latina owned businesses have grown 137% since 2006. 

“Access to responsible capital is the lifeblood of a business, and the systematic barriers to affordable credit for women must be honestly addressed and confronted,” added Gwendy Donaker Brown, Vice President of Research and Policy.  “Opportunity Fund has a long history of seeking policy change that supports equity and economic opportunity. This campaign puts that effort into practice on a deeper level.”

OFEW is part of a broad initiative by Opportunity Fund to build a community and develop resources to support women’s economic empowerment. Currently in development, Opportunity Fund’s CEO Luz Urrutia is building a group of advisors to assess what Opportunity Fund can do to deepen its support for women entrepreneurs by developing financial products and services and identifying partners in the community to provide complimentary support services.

For more information or to apply for a loan through Opportunity Fund Empowering Women, contact LURN at SemiaFund@lurnetwork.org or call (323) 604-9765.

*All loan applications are subject to credit review.  2% discount applies when applicants sign up for LURN’s program. Opportunity Fund is an Equal Opportunity Lender and is a California licensed lender #6050609.

Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN) is a non-profit organization focused on policy, advocacy, and economic development initiatives in undervalued communities. Our loan fund and technical assistance program was shaped by the needs of micro-entrepreneurs in the City of Los Angeles. We believe that micro-entrepreneurs are the critical to any thriving community and should have equitable access to resources. www.lurnetwork.org.

Opportunity Fund believes that small amounts of money and financial advice can help people make permanent and lasting change in their own lives, driving economic mobility and building stronger communities. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. As the nation’s largest nonprofit CDFI supporting small businesses, Opportunity Fund provided more than 2,000 loans to underserved small businesses owners last year, totaling $65 million in investments that created and sustained 6,300 jobs. www.OpportunityFundLoan.org.

 

Download the Press Release PDF

Originally published in LA OPINIÓN
Luz Urrutia arrived from Venezuela at the age of 17 and finished university studies in the United States that began in Caracas. She found a job at Wachovia Bank (acquired by Wells Fargo during the great recession) in Atlanta and one of the things she did at the time was apply for a credit card. They denied it for lack of credit history. Today she runs a California institution, the Opportunity Fund, which lends to small businesses and funds community development.
The anecdote of being refused a credit card, repeated in countless cases of immigrants, was a difficult and decisive lesson “180%” to guide the mission of her work, she explains to this newspaper. She learned that banks make things very difficult for immigrants and newcomers.
“That was when I made the promise to establish, one day, a organization to offer affordable and responsible financial services that would be open to  people who did not have access to a bank.
Urrutia worked at Wachocia for 18 years ” they were wonderful but I wondered if I was having the impact I wanted to have on other peoples lives.”
To answer this question she joined other people in order to create the Bank of Our Community, based in Georgia. It’s mission was to serve the Latino population that did not have bank accounts or did not use them very often. “the immigrant spirit was inside me and along with other people we started writing the business plan and raising capital for the bank we opened in April 2001.”
We opened accounts, cashed checks, facilitated payment of bills, prepared credit  cards and loans for mortgages,” they ended up with $600 million in assets, she recalls. The bank was sold in 2013 and she went to work at Oporturn, formerly known as Progreso Financiero, and they expanded with new branches into several states.
Speaking  of the Bank Of Our Community, Urrutia explained that “it shows the great opportunity that there was in the market, at that time and that now there’s even more for banks and financial institutions like Opportunity Fund that offer responsible services with credibility that can help consumers,” she explains.

Urrutia became the CEO of Opportunity Fund in late August. It is a non-profit financial institution based in California created 25 years ago by Eric Weaver for community development. “Workers are helped to save, earn and invest in their future. The focus has been on small businesses and college students so they can finish their degree and save, “she explains.

Clients are not necessarily Hispanic but as their business is focused in California, many of the small businesses they have served are. The profile of our client is a company that has little credit history or do not have collateral and that a bank has rejected their loan application. “We have a somewhat more expansive credit application methodology [than traditional banking], with alternative data that improves credit score and which are not always seen on a credit report.”
Among its clients, it lists, there are businesses with few assets, sole proprietorships that need $ 25,000 or $ 30,000 and small established companies that need a bigger financial push but do not meet the requirements that a regular bank would ask of them.
And they also work with food trucks. They work directly with the manufacturers to be able to finance them.
Urrutia’s goal as the head of Opportunity Fund is to solidify aspects of the strategic plan for 2017 to 2020. One is to make commercial loans of about $ 500 million that directly impact about 50,000 people. Most of this $ 400 million capital will be devoted to just over 9,000 small businesses, the rest going to infrastructure projects in communities and education for college students.
A couple of years ago Opportunity Fund realized that the need for its products is greater than just California and they are expanding through partnerships. The first has been with Lending Club through which they are making loans in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, North Carolina, Ohio, Washington and New York.
“New York is a wonderful market for our model because it has many small businesses and there not many financial products aimed at micro-businesses,” she explains.
The reality of the partnership with Lending Club is shown by the fact that if they deny a loan, but it falls within the parameters of Opportunity Fund, they will automatically review the pre-screened applicants and then fund qualifying loans..
Urrutia says that in addition to working on that strategic plan and managing a healthy and responsible loan portfolio, she wants to better understand her customers, “the products we offer can expand entrepreneurs ability to improve their cash flow.”

To the entrepreneurs who have difficulty getting funded Urrutia tells them not to give up. “There are opportunities and institutions that can help them grow with technical assistance and financial advice”.

She admits that many times the founders of small businesses think they have no options and resort to loans and predatory firms that charge very high rates. “It is important that microentrepreneurs do their homework before taking money and that they do not work with companies that can destroy their credit.”
Multiplier Effect
“with each loan we make we create three jobs and for every dollar invested, two in economic activity.” Luz Urrutia

Listen Here

Opportunity Fund loan consultant Osbaldo Velazquez and Opportunity Fund small business borrower David Anderson sit down with Tammy Trujillo of KLAA Community Cares to discuss small business lending and what Opportunity Fund can do for your small business.

OAKLAND — A Bay Area health center is getting help from the U.S. government to help nail salons throughout the region overhaul products and practices that many health experts have deemed hazardous.

Oakland-based Asian Health Services received a $120,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pilot a microloan program for nail salons in Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties that want to achieve the status of “Healthy Nail Salon” — a designation established by the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative for salons that avoid certain toxic ingredients and commit to certain requirements.

The microloan program will help nail salons get no-interest, no-fee loans to buy nail products without toxic ingredients (including what health experts call “the toxic trio”: dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde) and to purchase equipment to better ventilate their spaces.

The goal of the program, said Matthew Tejada, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, is to increase the number of Bay Area salons using healthier workplace practices and reduce exposure to toxic chemicals by both employees and customers.

“I want to keep employees, customers and myself healthy,” said Lan-Anh Truong, owner of Leann’s Nails in Alameda, the first nail salon recognized with the official “Healthy Nail Salon” designation in Alameda County. Truong, who has owned Leann’s for about 20 years, got rid of products like polish removers that use ethyl and butyl acetate and implemented better ventilating practices, such as leaving the door open during nail services and buying a ventilation unit, to meet the program criteria.

Van Nguyen, who owns New York Nails in San Francisco, made similar changes at her salon after feeling the effects of nail products herself and seeing effects in her workers. She said via a translator that the most common symptoms were breathing problems and coughing, and opening certain products sometimes made her manicurists feel nauseous.

Asian Health Services has been working on improving health conditions at nail salons for more than a decade. It was back in 2004 that it started outreach efforts to local nail salons to determine what health issues nail salon employees were experiencing, said Julia Liou, director of programs and development at Asian Health Services.

Many workers had developed acute symptoms like chronic asthma, dermatitis and memory loss, and a significant number experienced reproductive health issues and chronic illnesses, including cancer. In 2005, the health center helped develop the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative to promote healthier practices. The group is now a statewide coalition of more than 20 organizations, researchers and salon workers across the state.

The microloan program will be funded by a collection of banks, counties and microlenders,  including San Francisco nonprofit microlender Working Solutions; Opportunity Fund; the Federal Reserve Bank; and San Mateo, San Francisco and Alameda counties.

The project follows a law passed in California that will take effect next year to promote more “Healthy Nail Salons” throughout the state. The bill, authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, requires the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to create official guidelines for local governments that want to implement Healthy Nail Salon Recognition programs.

Hai Nguyen, who has worked at Leann’s Nails in Alameda for four years, said through a translator that she’s grateful to have the healthier practices in place to protect her health.

“What’s most important is my health and the environment I’m working in,” Nguyen said. “I’m very happy to be working here.”

View the article 

Before a chance meeting in 2013 with Accion, a nonprofit microlender, Kris Schoenberger pulled in $20,000 to $30,000 annually through his mobile catering company, BBQ’d Productions. Catering was his side gig at the time.

A little more than a year later, Schoenberger’s business in Third Lake, Illinois, north of Chicago, had grown to include a full-service restaurant. His revenue from July 2014 to July 2015, the first year of business for the restaurant, soared to $2 million.

Schoenberger gives a lot of the credit to Accion, which lent him about $7,500 to help upgrade his catering operation from a grill in the back of his truck to a fully equipped catering trailer. He says an Accion loan officer helped him save nearly $6,000 on the trailer.

‘They also teach you’

“Not only do they give you the money,” Schoenberger says, “they also teach you how to make the most out of that money. I would not be where I’m at today if it weren’t for them. Any time I have a problem or question, I can always call them.”

This type of financial and business education is central to the mission of most nonprofit microlenders. Rather than lending money and leaving borrowers to fend for themselves, microlenders provide counseling and mentoring to help entrepreneurs succeed.

Nonprofit microfinance organizations also help people in underprivileged and underrepresented communities access the capital they need to start businesses, buy homes or build credit, often when they can’t get financing through a traditional bank.

In recent years, microlenders have become more visible as traditional lenders, such as banks, pulled back on small-business lending during and after the recession.

Microlending has been growing in the U.S., according to the latest information from the Aspen Institute, whose FIELD program collects data on microlenders across the country. Total microloans disbursed in the U.S. jumped to $209 million in 2014, up 47% from $142 million the previous year. The total number of microloans rose to 56,351, a gain of 49% from 37,927.

Germaine Seufert took out an $18,000 loan from Accion, after being declined by a bank, to buy a bus to help expand her organization’s summer camp. Seufert is the director of Consultants for Children, a Colorado company that provides in-home and small-group services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Before approving the loan, Accion made a site visit, called business references and looked over the organization’s books. The whole process took about four weeks, Seufert says.

When she went to Accion to refinance the loan to buy a second bus, the process went much more quickly.

‘They immediately approved’

“It took more time for me to pick out the vehicle,” she says. “But once we had the appraisal done, they immediately approved the loan.”

Founded in 1961, the global nonprofit Accion helps millions of people in more than 20 countries secure financing. Among those countries: the United States.

The organization offers microloans and general small-business loans in the U.S. in amounts ranging from $200 to $750,000. Accion offers loans to help businesses in specific industries — including child care, food and beverage, spa and salon — as well as those that are in the nonprofit sector or aiming to go green. Accion’s lending activity in the U.S. is committed to helping underserved entrepreneurs, including women, veterans, people with disabilities, Native Americans and other minority business owners.

Many nonprofit lenders are local, serving specific regions or communities. California-based Opportunity Fund is one. The microlender has been serving residents of the state since 1994, with more than $100 million in microloans.

Laura Hanson, a co-owner of Watershed Nursery in Point Richmond, California, was one of those people. In 2008, Hanson borrowed $10,000 from Opportunity Fund to expand the nursery, which she and her co-owner started in the backyard.

‘They were there to help’

“They were offering better rates. It felt more attractive and straightforward and helpful,” Hanson says. “We had a person who was on our account who was accessible and answered questions. I felt like they were there to help us.”

In addition to microloans to small businesses, Opportunity Fund also promotes microsavings. This program matches every dollar saved by low-income clients with $1 from Opportunity Fund and $1 from donors.

Opportunity Fund doesn’t simply give money, though. The organization provides basic financial literacy education to clients to help them learn to budget, save and spend wisely.

Opportunity Fund. Working Capital for Working People. opportunityfund.org