Wells Fargo & Co. announced earlier this week that it will provide $800,000 to the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF), the mission of which is to promote human and economic development by providing financing and development assistance to cooperatives and social purpose ventures that create and save jobs for low-income people. LEAF is receiving $200,000 in grant funds and $600,000 in lending capital to help diverse small business owners in Dorchester, Roxbury and East Boston.
The funds will support LEAF’s technical assistance and lending to diverse small business owners, helping to build their capacity to run and grow their company and introduce business owners to sources of capital. Additionally, LEAF will hold workshops throughout the year to touch on common issues facing the diverse small business community.
“Small businesses are job creators in Boston, which is why it’s important to support them with the technical assistance needed to refine their expertise, grow and add more jobs,” Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement. “I thank Wells Fargo for their contributions to our shared goal of making small businesses and worker co-ops stronger in neighborhoods across Boston, so that together we can create a more equitable city.”
LEAF began working with local partners CommonWealth Kitchen, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and Project Hope to provide support services for local low-income food businesses in Dorchester in 2015. One such company, Jamaica Mi Hungry, is a Caribbean-owned catering business that obtained assistance from LEAF to expand to a new brick and mortar kitchen facility. LEAF was able to review the expansion business plans, help revise the financial projections and connect Jamaica Mi Hungry with legal counsel to advise them on partnership structure and lease terms.
“The demand for the type of technical assistance provided to Jamaica Mi Hungry is immense and the transformational effect on small companies for this type of work is huge,” Gerardo Espinoza, executive director of LEAF, said in a statement. “We are grateful to Wells Fargo because these funds will allow us to continue to expand the work we are doing in coordination with the city of Boston to support small businesses, particularly in communities of color.”
“Small businesses are engines of economic growth and their success is directly linked to improvements in jobs, wealth creation and social change in communities around the country including here in Boston,” Greg O’Brien, executive vice president and division manager for Wells Fargo New England Commercial Banking, said in a statement. “LEAF is embarking on a critical effort to address income inequality throughout Boston by lending to and providing comprehensive support to diverse-owned small businesses, helping them make an even larger impact in their neighborhoods and beyond.”
LEAF is among 14 CDFIs selected for round three of the six-round Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Diverse Community Capital program. Through the program, Wells Fargo will distribute $75 million over three years to CDFIs – private, nonprofit financial institutions that assist underserved populations. Since DCC’s 2015 launch, Wells Fargo has distributed more than $48 million to 44 CDFIs.