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Richmond event gives female entrepreneurs advice on funding their businesses

on October 31, 2019

Female entrepreneurs from across the Bay Area came to Richmond to attend “Finance Your Business! for Women Entrepreneurs,” free evening workshop on October 28. The event was hosted by the Richmond Main Street Initiative in partnership with the Mission Economic Develop Agency (MEDA), a San Francisco-based organization which helps provide resources for low-to-moderate income families, particularly Latinos, in the Bay Area.

Representatives from Wells Fargo Bank, the City of Richmond, Pacific Community Ventures, San Pablo Economic Development Corporation, the nonprofit KIVA, and the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) gave tips on how female entrepreneurs could obtain capital for their businesses. Richmond Main Street plans to host two more female entrepreneur-centered events in November.

The female entrepreneurs in attendance at Monday evening’s event, mostly women of color, gave brief background information about their current businesses, or ones they are planning to start. Their business concepts included online retail stores, an aqua fitness initiative, bakeries, a kids’ barber shop, and a maker of nutritious drinks.

Businesswomen of color represent a growing sector of the American economy. From 2014-2019, women-owned businesses grew by 21% according to a report commissioned by American Express from Ventureneer,  a company focused on research into entrepreneurship and diversity. The report found that women of color made up half of all female-owned businesses.

Attendee Rasheeda Gaines discussing her business concept.

Rasheeda Gaines, a San Francisco native turned Richmonder, launched her Neteru Nutrition and Juices LLC last year, and said her experience as an entrepreneur has been empowering.  “I’ve learned more and more about myself because I’m pushing my limits,” she said. “I’m growing something. Nothing is planned out, so [if] I want to get that brick and mortar across the street, I’m going to have to work for it.”

Alicia Gallo, the programs and communications manager for Richmond Main Street, said that the idea for the event started when the nonprofit recognized a growing number of businesses participating in its events were run by women. Gallo also noted that a lot of women were registering for Richmond Main Street’s workshops. “We kind of saw . . . that there was a market of budding women entrepreneurs who were interested in doing business and were hungry for the resources to make them successful,” she said. “So we decided to focus some of our programming on . . . the women entrepreneur community in Richmond.”

Richmond Main Street Communications Manager Alicia Gallo speaking to panelists.

The two-hour event allowed attendees to ask about how to obtain capital needed for their business, whether through conventional borrowing or crowdfunded loans such as those arranged through nonprofit organizations like KIVA.

 “KIVA wants to support . . . mainly women, minorities and people who are not ready for capital through [a] CDFI or a bank,” said Anne Lufkin-Riaño, a manager of Pacific and Mountain regions for KIVA U.S. The international 501 (C)3 nonprofit, based in San Francisco, helps underserved borrowers to obtain crowdfunded loans. “We’re kind of the first step on the capital ladder, so we want to be able to help those folks who are just starting their business who may not qualify for credit for somewhere else,”Lufkin-Riaño said.

Tracey Angelo, one of the female entrepreneurs in attendance, acknowledged the struggle she’s faced in obtaining funding for her small business.  “Most [lenders] said that, ‘Oh yeah, you need to have seven to eight thousand dollars in income before you can qualify for a loan,’” Angelo said. She came to the event to learn how to get the financing for her Kid’s Carousel barbershop business in Vacaville, which she said she would eventually like to franchise and bring to Richmond.

 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are also ways to help small business owners obtain loans, said Hyder Shuja, a credit analyst for Pacific Community Ventures, one such Oakland-based nonprofit. “Oftentimes we see entrepreneurs, especially entrepreneurs of color, women, have a lot of limited access to capital,” he told Richmond Confidential.  “So, we are essentially focused on community development, focused on creating jobs in low-to-moderate income areas, providing capital to business owners who don’t have access to it, so that then they can effectively create jobs on the ground.”

Wells Fargo representative Cinthia Jiminez-Rios giving attendees advice on lending options for their businesses.

For some women looking to grow or start a business, one of the biggest obstacles they face is not knowing where to start according to Cinthia Jimenez-Rios, a business banking specialist from Wells Fargo. “I surprisingly don’t see that many [women] come and sit down with me. It’s very men-dominated,” she said. “A lot of [women entrepreneurs] are sometimes unsure of where to start . . . or even . . .  how to start building a business plan, so I like to go ahead and assist them as much as I possibly can so they feel confident in what they’re doing.”

Richmond native and rising entrepreneur, Michelle Cooper, saw the event as an opportunity to network. “It was nice to see that there are more entrepreneurs in Richmond,” she said. “Sometimes, when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re kind of working in your own little silo, so when you see other people it’s like, ‘Oh, this person’s doing that. Well maybe I’ll contact them and network with them down the line.’” Cooper, who owns an online vintage retail business, is looking to bring her business to a brick and mortar site. “I’m trying to find out about access to capital to either purchase a building or get the money to cover some of my overhead getting started.”  

Janet Johnson, an economic development administrator for the City of Richmond, stressed the importance of building good credit for budding entrepreneurs. “If you’re going to look for financing, you need to make sure you have good credit because everyone is going to run your credit for various reasons,” she said. “Who you are, your character, do you pay your bills, can we rely on you to pay us?”

Overall, Johnson welcomes bringing new businesses to Richmond. “It’s a lot of need here. We need a lot of retailers. We need a lot of food business . . . [T]his is just a good opportunity to start a business in Richmond.”

4 Comments

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  4. Dennis Chambers on November 3, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    This is great news for those of us who have aspirations to open a business

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