A Source for Affordable Capital to Aid Small Business Growth

California Capital and other Community Development Financial Institutions in low-income communities across the U.S. serve as an economic lifeline for local residents and small businesses in need of financing.
Jul 30, 2019 9:00 AM ET

When Jameka Smith saw an opportunity in 2017 to shift her career from veterinary pharmaceutical sales to owning her own animal hospital, she knew she would need access to affordable capital to buy the business. Traditional financing, however, was something that proved harder to obtain than she had anticipated.

“Although banks are often willing to lend to veterinarians, I am not a veterinarian, so I was finding it impossible to find funding for my new veterinary business,” said Smith, who had spent 17 years in the animal health industry as a sales representative. “California Capital stepped up in a big way.” Visit Wells Fargo Stories to read the full story at: https://stories.wf.com/source-affordable-capital-aid-small-business-growth

California Capital, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supported by Wells Fargo, provided Smith with a $20,000 loan and one-on-one counseling and business planning through its Women’s Business Center.

California Capital is one of the more than 1,000 certified Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, in the U.S. that serve traditionally underserved populations by providing financial resources and training.

CDFIs in 2018 made over 280,000 loans or investments totaling over $11 billion, including loans to nearly 15,000 small businesses, according to a report from the CDFI Coalition (PDF). In addition to offering access to affordable financing, CDFIs often focus on helping their clients gain a better understanding of how to plan and manage their finances.

“Small and microenterprise businesses that seek the services offered by CDFIs are poised to gain access to resources, such as loan readiness counseling, business education workshops, and technical assistance,” said Deborah Lowe Muramoto, president and CEO of Sacramento-based California Capital. “As a CDFI, our programs are targeted to meet the needs of women-owned businesses, entrepreneurs of color, and other underserved populations seeking to start or grow existing businesses that don’t meet the traditional lending criteria.”

Today, Smith is the hospital director and co-owner of Venetian Pet Hospital in Stockton, California, and recently opened a second veterinary hospital in Sacramento. She credits her success in part to having found a community partner in California Capital that was willing to believe in her vision and find a way to help her make it a reality.

“I think perseverance was the key to our success — everything I’ve done over the years prepared me for that moment — that’s how I felt when I was applying for the loans,” said Smith. “I was so ready, and I knew I could have a very successful veterinary business. All I needed was someone to believe in me and provide the loan I needed, and that’s what Wells Fargo and California Capital did.” 

Revitalizing and reinvesting in America’s distressed communities

Wells Fargo and California Capital have worked together since 1999 — developing a microenterprise loan program, helping to support the development of Bilingual Business Success Forums, and supporting access to capital programs that serve more than 3,000 entrepreneurs every year.

A unique component to CDFIs is our ability to guide new or existing business owners to properly prepare a comprehensive business plan that will serve as a roadmap to success and assist them in building the foundation to become a successful loan recipient,” Muramoto said. “If the business is not loan-ready, a business counselor will work closely with the entrepreneur, guiding them through the necessary steps to ensure maximum success.” 

Wells Fargo’s financial support of California Capital and other CDFIs connects to the bank’s goal to be the financial services leader in corporate citizenship by advancing opportunities for low- and moderate-income communities and diverse groups, specifically in the areas of financial health and small business growth, said Pedar Bruce of Wells Fargo Community Relations.

“Many times, businesses are too new to meet traditional business loan requirements, or they may have leveraged personal credit too heavily without starting their business credit history,” said Bruce. “While traditional lending may not be able to serve some small businesses directly, a CDFI like California Capital can offer loan guarantees or loan funds designed to be more flexible.”

In 2018, Wells Fargo awarded California Capital $250,000 in grant funding as part of the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business®: Diverse Community Capital program.

Since its launch in 2015, Diverse Community Capital program awardees have already made loans to more than 16,000 diverse small businesses in 37 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The DCC program is on track to invest more than $175 million in diverse small businesses growth across the U.S. through 2020, helping thousands of entrepreneurs like Smith make their small business dreams become a reality.

“By investing directly in California Capital, Wells Fargo has been able to support segments of Sacramento’s business community that may not have been successful without this partnership,” Bruce said.