Announcing the Marin Loan Fund, Round 2!

Working Solutions Business Lending Associate Roberto Hernandez with Tongbu Wellness Center Owner Heide Nielsen

Working Solutions Business Lending Associate Roberto Hernandez with Tongbu Wellness Center Owner Heide Nielsen

Working Solutions, a Bay Area nonprofit microlender, today announces the second round of funding for its Marin Loan Fund for small businesses. The fund, initially launched in June 2014 with an investment of $200,000, will be extended with an additional $190,000 thanks to the generous support of the Marin financial community.

The Marin Loan Fund is a collaborative partnership between the Marin Economic Forum, a nonprofit focused on improving Marin’s economic vitality and social equity, Working Solutions, and Marin financial institutions. Seven local financial institutions contributed to both rounds of the fund: Bank of Marin, First Community Bank, First Bank, Opus Bank, Presidio Bank, Redwood Credit Union, and Wells Fargo Bank.

“We were able to fund eight low-income entrepreneurs in five months of the fund’s first round,” Working Solutions CEO Emily Gasner said. “That’s a true testament to the need for affordable financing in the Marin small business community.” Gasner said 63 percent of the funded businesses are owned by women, and half are start-ups with less than two years in business. “More than a year into their loan terms, all eight businesses are thriving and have created or retained 26 jobs in the Marin community.”

According to Dr. Rob Eyler, chief economist of the Marin Economic Forum, every dollar of revenue generated by a Working Solutions borrower creates an estimated $2.16 in the local economy through local taxes, wages, and other spending.

Tongbu Wellness Center, a community alternative healthcare center in Novato, is one of the businesses funded by the Marin Loan Fund. Owner Heide Nielsen launched her business in 2014, but her start-up status made bank funding difficult to find. The Marin Economic Forum and Bank of Marin referred Heide to Working Solutions, where she received a loan from the Marin Loan Fund along with post-loan services like consulting on her marketing plan and financial mentorship from a Redwood Credit Union employee. A year later, Tongbu Wellness Center has created seven jobs in Marin.


Laurie O’Hara, Working Solutions’ Director of Business Development, hopes that the Marin Loan Fund can serve as a model for similar programs in other Bay Area counties. “What we’ve built here is a partnership between nonprofits and banks to create a program that understands the local context and is bolstering the economy in a sustainable way. We’re thrilled to have the support of our bank partners as we expand the Marin Loan Fund to double the impact of the program.”

To learn more about Working Solutions' lending and business consulting programs, please see our Loan Overview page. 

Laurie O'Hara, Working Solutions Business Development Director

Laurie O'Hara, Working Solutions Business Development Director

Meeting the Winners of the Whole Foods Small Producer Grant Program

The 2015 Whole Foods Grantwinners at Working Solutions on June 30, 2015 Photo by Luke George Photography

The 2015 Whole Foods Grantwinners at Working Solutions on June 30, 2015
Photo by Luke George Photography

Working Solutions was thrilled last week to be joined for a party by 25 of the local producers who are winners of the Whole Foods Small Producer Grant program!  

Whole Foods' Harv Singh Addresses the Grantwinners Photo by Luke George Photography

Whole Foods' Harv Singh Addresses the Grantwinners
Photo by Luke George Photography

Kimberli of Fairyella Ice Pops receives her grant check from Working Solutions' Laura Hoover Photo by Luke George Photography

Kimberli of Fairyella Ice Pops receives her grant check from Working Solutions' Laura Hoover
Photo by Luke George Photography

The grant winners traveled from as far as Santa Barbara, Sacramento, and Tracy to meet one another, share resources, and learn about Working Solutions' services for small businesses. We were also thrilled to host Harv Singh, Whole Foods' Local Forager in Northern California, who spoke about his hopes for the future growth of the program.

For the grantwinners, the small grants of about $5,500 each can represent significant steps forward for their businesses: many planned to use the funds to gain important certifications like non-GMO, gluten-free, and organic, that will increase the marketability of their products. Others planned to invest in new equipment to scale up their production. 

Learn more about the 2015 grant program and current and past winners here

 

Small Producer Grant Program Raises $200k+ for Local Producers!

Grantwinner Eduardo of Morell's Bread and Working Solutions Chief Development Officer Laura with Whole Foods Shift Leader Robin at Whole Foods in Berkeley

Grantwinner Eduardo of Morell's Bread and Working Solutions Chief Development Officer Laura with Whole Foods Shift Leader Robin at Whole Foods in Berkeley

We're proud to announce that this year's partnership between Whole Foods and Working Solutions raised $200,000 for 36 small business owners in Northern California and Reno! On June 10, 5% of the revenue from each Whole Foods Market in the region was pooled to be given as grants, which will be distributed by Working Solutions to the program finalists.

The 36 grantwinners were voted on by the community, and many of them set up demonstrations at their local Whole Foods stores on 5% Day to encourage shoppers to learn more about local foodmakers and support the program. Working Solutions staff visited stores in the Bay Area to support the grant winners and raise awareness about our small business financing and consulting services. 

Each grant winner will receive a grant of about $5,500- enough to get organic certification, update product packaging, or purchase additional inventory. We're very excited to be a part of this exciting program for the second year-- for more about last year's program and winners, click here

For a full list of grantwinners, click here.

Grantwinner Jeff of Striker's Coffee at Whole Foods in San Ramon

Grantwinner Jeff of Striker's Coffee at Whole Foods in San Ramon

T-We Tea wins Micro-enterprise of the Year!

Christopher Coccagna with Working Solutions CEO Emily Gasner

Christopher Coccagna with Working Solutions CEO Emily Gasner

Delectable tea blends from T-we Tea

Delectable tea blends from T-we Tea

Congrats are in order for entrepreneur and tea maven Christopher Coccagna, owner of T-we Tea! T-we, a two-time Working Solutions loan client, was honored with the San Francisco Economic Development Alliance's Micro-enterprise of the Year Award for his incredible growth! 

Christopher is a graduate of Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center's Business Planning class, and received his first loan from Working Solutions in 2011 to expand his home-based tea business by purchasing inventory, equipment, and developing his website. He opened a shop in San Francisco's Crocker Galleria in 2013, and has since expanded into a larger space in the galleria and begun selling his products at Urban Outfitters! Christopher hand-blends his artisanal teas, whose unique flavors are reflected by their whimsical names, like 'Chai Hard', 'Flailing Princess', and 'Earl Grary Cray'. 

Working Solutions' Business Consulting Director Lorena Roman nominated Christopher for the annual award, saying "Christopher is  a great example of an entrepreneur taking advantage of the many resources available to local businesses, and using them to develop a sustainable growth strategy."

Christopher received his second loan from Working Solutions in 2014 to acquire more inventory for his larger retail space, and he is thriving in the new location!  Since 2011, Christopher has taken advantage of Working Solutions' Entrepreneur Connect services, including the mentorship program, holiday gift fair and legal resources,  and has created 2 jobs! 

Small Business Week(s)

It's that time of year-- time to celebrate your local economy with Small Business Week events around the Bay! 

 

May 4-8 is Oakland's inaugural Small Business Week!


Working Solutions attended the Mayor's Small Business Reception on May 4 and Access to Capital: Lender Panel & Resource Fair on May 7!

Check here for a list of all Oakland Small Business Week Events!

Lending Associate Roberto at the Access to Capital Panel in Oakland

Lending Associate Roberto at the Access to Capital Panel in Oakland

San Francisco Small Business Week is May 16-22

Join Working Solutions staff at:

And be sure to check out: 

  • This interview with Working Solutions client and recent Invest in Dreams Honoree Patty Rodriguez of SF Parking!
  • The full schedule of San Francisco Small Business Week events
Working Solutions Outreach & Business Development Director Sandy Mackovich at Flavors of San Francisco 2015

Working Solutions Outreach & Business Development Director Sandy Mackovich at Flavors of San Francisco 2015





Mother's Day Gift Guide

One of the best ways to support small local retailers is also the easiest-- shop! 
This Mother's Day (or any day) get the special people in your life a gift from a local business. Working Solutions' clients are leveraging funding and consulting from Working Solutions to create thriving livelihoods for their families, employees, and communities. To see a full list of Working Solutions' clients in your neighborhood, check out our Client Directory!

Gift Guide w #s.png
  1. Amethyst Yoga Mat from Magic Carpet Yoga Mats. Sweat in style with yoga mats handpainted by artist and yoga enthusiast Sophie Leininger, and produced in Oakland!
  2. Art from Secession Art & Design. Visit this gallery and boutique in Bernal Heights representing over 50 independent artists (and they're having a Mother's Day pop-up on May 12th!)
  3. Patina Clock from Little Paper Planes. Check out Little Paper Planes' online store and shop in the Mission featuring crafts, stationery, and an artists' residency program.
  4. Chocolate from Firefly Chocolate, sourced in Belize and produced in Sonoma. Taste all eight mouthwatering flavors of these cacao bars- and know you're supporting a company that's helping the environment and their local partners. 
  5. Merlot from Vinca Minor wines. Drink up the 2013 vintage from this Napa-based winery. 
  6. iPhone case from Le Petit Collage. San Francisco-based Lorena Siminovich mostly creates toys and art for kids-- but we're glad she branched out with these adorable cases.
  7. Chevron cuff from Kris Nations Jewlery. Sisters Kim and Kris make delicate designs out of precious metals in Half Moon Bay.  

Working Solutions is San Rafael's Small Business of the Year

ROberto Hernandez, Laurie O'Hara and Sara Razavi of Working Solutions were thrilled to receive the award on behalf of Working Solutions' staff and Board of Directors

ROberto Hernandez, Laurie O'Hara and Sara Razavi of Working Solutions were thrilled to receive the award on behalf of Working Solutions' staff and Board of Directors

We are thrilled to announce that Working Solutions is the 2015 recipient of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year award! We opened an office in the Renaissance Center in San Rafael in 2012 and have felt truly welcomed into the vibrant and diverse community! Since opening our satellite office, we've been able to lend more than $1 million to over 50 businesses in the North Bay- including San Rafael businesses like LOKL, Lily Luv Boutique and Morton Microphone Systems. (See a complete list of businesses we've funded in our client directory).

This award inspires us to continue our work empowering small businesses in the Marin community, and is very close to our heart-- two of our staff members call San Rafael home.

A huge thank you to the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce and our North Bay Advisory Board and Loan Committee for helping us expand our impact in this wonderful city!

Whole Foods Small Producer Grant Partnership

We're excited to announce the second year of the Small Producer Grant program, in partnership with Whole Foods! Last year the program distributed over $200,000 to 40 small businesses. Those grantwinners did some pretty incredible things with the money-- from fixing up the truck that they use to make deliveries to finding a new copacker for their jam or putting down a deposit on a brick & mortar location for their store!

The 2015 grantwinners have been announced! Congrats to the winners-- we're looking forward to working with you soon! Everyone else-- get ready to shop on June 10th!

 

How it works: Small Businesses

Local food or body product makers  in Northern California and Reno  appliedto participate  in the progra  at their local Whole Foods Market locations, and two at each store were selected as finalists. The local community voted for the winner at each store.  Then, on June 10th, Whole Foods' 5% Day, 5% of the sales from the Northern California Whole Food stores will be divided evenly among the grantwinners! 


 

How it works: Shoppers & Local Food Lovers

Voting is now closed- but there's still an opportunity to get involved!

On June 10th, get out there and shop at your local Whole Foods, knowing 5% of what you spend will go straight to a local producer!

El Mercado Gift Fair

 

Join Working Solutions and our community partners this weekend, December 6-7, for our annual Gift Fair. 

Come for tasty food from local producers, live music, and amazing gifts from Working Solutions' small business clients. 

Working Solutions' client participants include:

  • Kika's Treats: Brazilian sweets
  • Heliotrope: Bath & body products
  • IDBeadz: Electronics accessories
  • Love a Bee: Artisan honey
  • T-we Tea: Unique tea blends
  • Indosole: Ecofriendly apparel and accessories
  • Scorpion Sisters: Fine jewelry

Mentorship Stories: 4505 Meats' Ryan Farr

And check out our blast from the past interview with Ryan from 2012!

In 2012, Working Solutions client Ryan Farr, Founder of 4505 Meats, sought advice from a Working Solutions mentor for his rapidly expanding business. Ryan was matched with Sean Hutchinson, Founder of Strategic Value Advisors and Working Solutions Financial Mentor. Two years later, Ryan has graduated from his Working Solutions loan, obtained conventional financing, and opened a new barbecue restaurant in San Francisco!  Between his many endeavors (packaged food sold in Whole Foods, his butcher shop, and the new restaurant), Ryan had created a whopping 70 jobs in San Francisco and plans to keep on growing!

We recently caught up with Ryan and Sean to talk about their experience:

Ryan: The first meeting with Sean was like a smack in the face. Sean’s point of view from outsider looking in was an eye-opening experience.

Sean: From when we first met, Ryan is well on his way to a 4-5X increase in revenue and a dramatic increase in profit. All the fundamentals are there now.  It’s a great story – and it’s because of Ryan’s willingness to listen, lead, and act.  My advice may have helped – but he did all the work.

Sean: Going into the meeting, I knew that Ryan and 4505 Meats had a terrific following and very loyal customers. There was a lot to like about the company and Ryan’s leadership.  The business was growing fast – a good sign – but the growth was causing some challenges. We talked in detail about those challenges and the need to streamline the business.

Ryan: By taking Sean’s advice I realized that as a leader I needed to grow and focus on my skill set as a manager. I needed to focus on specific areas instead of trying to do it all.

Sean: Getting an honest assessment from a relative stranger helped him focus.  I think much of what I suggested simply reinforced what he already knew.  

Ryan: Last time Sean and I worked together was roughly a month ago when he introduced us to one of his peers that can help us plan our future at a higher level. I plan on staying in touch with Sean as long as I can. He has been a great resource and friend. We are just getting started.

Hanging out with Ryan at his new restaurant, 4505 Burgers & BBQ!

Hanging out with Ryan at his new restaurant, 4505 Burgers & BBQ!

If you’d like to work with Sean or another Working Solutions advisor, please visit our Business Advising page to find out how.

http://www.workingsolutions.org/advising/

Napa Earthquake Relief

The earthquake that hit Napa last month was the worst the Bay Area has seen in decades. While the North Bay's infrastructure begins to recover with help from state and federal assistance, many small businesses are still assessing the damage, and lack the access to capital to help them recover from it. 

Working Solutions is committed to helping small business owners get back on their feet after the earthquake. Through October, we are offering business owners who were affected by the quake an expedited loan application process and no application fee to get critical financing to you as quickly and affordably as possible. In addition, new clients will have access to Working Solutions' full suite of services-- including mentorship, business coaching, and legal advice. 

Check out our eligibility page and call (415) 852-8499 to learn more today. 

Click here for more resources for earthquake-affected business owners.