Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses Thrive Through Microfinance

Bank of the West charitable investments support job creation, financial training in underserved neighborhoods

Jun 12, 2012, 11:00 ET from Bank of the West

SAN FRANCISCO, June 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Bank of the West today announced that three nonprofits have received a total of $150,000 in charitable investments from the Bank of the West Charitable Foundation to support micro-entrepreneurial efforts in underserved communities.  The three nonprofit organizations are:

  • Mission Asset Fund of San Francisco. MAF's Lending Circle and Micro Business Loan Programs provide low-income and immigrant entrepreneurs with access to low-cost loans, helping to simultaneously build credit scores and gain access to affordable financial products. MAF received $75,000 from the Bank of the West Charitable Foundation.
  • Community Financial Resource Center of Los Angeles. CFRC's Access to Capital Program provides a special loan fund to meet the equipment and licensing fees of certified vending carts. CFRC received $30,000 from the Bank of the West Charitable Foundation.
  • Rocky Mountain Microfinance Institute of Denver. RMMFI's Business Launch Boot Camp 12-week intensive program brings qualifying entrepreneurs from idea to launch, through a learning, lending and coaching curriculum. RMMFI received $50,000 from the Bank of the West Charitable Foundation.

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"Small business is big at Bank of the West," said Rebeca Rangel, senior vice president of Community Affairs at Bank of the West. "Recognizing that small businesses are a cornerstone of vibrant communities, we have made access to credit for small business owners a focus of our lending and community support, especially in under-resourced neighborhoods."

According to the SBA and U.S. Department of Commerce studies have shown the importance of small-dollar loans to business formation and growth in underserved communities.

"Many entrepreneurs and small business owners across the country have enormous potential to drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs in their local communities, but too often face barriers in fulfilling that potential," said Catherine Hughes, chair of the SBA's Advisory Council on Underserved Communities.

The three nonprofit recipients offer local micro-lending programs with small business financial training, business development and planning, and asset development as part of their curriculum, and recently published case studies highlighting successful programs:

San Francisco:  One year later, house cleaner without a car or bank account starts business and hires first employee
Self-employed house cleaner Jessica wanted to build a house cleaning business but had no idea how to do it. She did not have a checking or savings account, or even a car. At Mission Asset Fund (MAF), she opened a savings account, took financial management training classes, and joined Lending Circles (a social loan program). With the loan, she bought new cleaning equipment and marketed her business. She also applied for a credit card at a local credit union, and later a car loan. Within a year, Jessica had a checking account, credit card, car loan and a credit score of 703. She also had hired her first employee.

Los Angeles:   Street vendor takes home-grown business to the next level
For 20 years Caridad sold her amazing posole, tostadas and tacos via a mobile cart on the streets of her neighborhood. She took pride in using traditional ingredients like huitlacoche and preparing her food grilled, not fried. In 2012 she came to CFRC to learn how to legally sell her products so she could grow her business. Through CFRC's Capital Partners program, she received business training, technical assistance and is now in the process of applying for a micro-loan.  She plans to buy a health department certified cart and invest in new equipment, which will enable her to sell at a new farmers market in her community.

Denver:   Out of prison and determined to succeed, woman turns jewelry-making talent into a business
Rocky Mountain Microfinance Institute's (RMMFI) Boot Camp helped Rachell learn how to turn her skills as a jewelry maker into a business. Rachell, who had spent time in prison, came to RMMI determined to make a better life for herself and her young son, and wanting to earn an income without having to spend long hours away from her son. At Boot Camp, Rachell learned to develop a business plan. She also received a small loan to buy inventory. On her first day in business she made a profit of $700.

In addition to Bank of the West's Charitable Foundation Program Related Investments, Bank of the West supports small business through additional grants and lending opportunities.  In 2011, Bank of the West grew direct small business lending by 85 percent and SBA loans increased by 57 percent. Bank of the West, along with its Foundation and team members donated $7 million in total charitable contributions bank-wide.

About Bank of the West
Founded in 1874, $62.4 billion-asset Bank of the West (www.bankofthewest.com), member FDIC and equal housing lender, offers a wide range of personal, commercial, wealth management and international banking services. The bank operates more than 700 retail and commercial banking locations in 19 Western and Midwestern states. Bank of the West is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, which has a presence in 80 countries with nearly 200,000 employees.

SOURCE Bank of the West