(BOSTON) July 10, 2017 – The Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF), which provides financing and development assistance to cooperatives and social purpose ventures that create and save jobs for low-income people, announced today that it is receiving $800,000 from Wells Fargo & Company to support diverse small business owners in Dorchester, Roxbury and East Boston.
Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh spoke at the announcement event, which was held at the Roxbury Innovation Center. “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,” said Mayor Walsh. “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 is receiving $200,000 in grant funds and $600,000 in lending capital. These funds will provide critical technical assistance and funding opportunities to aid diverse small business owners in starting, growing and stabilizing their businesses. LEAF also will hold workshops throughout the year to address common issues facing diverse small businesses.
LEAF works with businesses in a variety of industries, particularly retail, catering and food production. Since 2015, LEAF has worked with local partners CommonWealth Kitchen, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and Project Hope to provide support services for local low-income food businesses in Dorchester. One such company, Cozinha All Natural Food, is a baked products company owned by a Brazilian woman entrepreneur that makes high-quality cheese rolls. Cozinha and her partners sought guidance from LEAF on financing the expansion of their production capacity. LEAF reviewed their expansion plan and recommended a sales strategy based on targeted reach-out to distributors and buyers. The company has since received purchase commitments well in excess of its original expansion plan and is already evaluating offers for national distribution.
“The demand for the type of technical assistance provided to Cozinha is immense, and the transformational effect on small companies for this type of work is huge,” said Gerardo Espinoza, executive director of LEAF, “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.”
LEAF has partnered with the City through its On-Site Technical Assistance Program, run through the Office of Economic Development. This program connects small businesses with Technical Assistance providers that meet their needs and hosts a variety of workshops aimed at the small business community.
“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,” said Greg O’Brien, executive vice president and division manager for Wells Fargo New England Commercial Bank. “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 one of 14 groups nationwide to receive funds as part of Wells Fargo’s Diverse Community Capital program.
About Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF)
The Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), whose mission is to promote human and economic development through providing financing to cooperatives and social purpose ventures throughout the country. In addition, in the Greater Boston area, LEAF offers a Technical Assistance Program (L-TAP), which provides 1-on-1 coaching and mentorship to dozens of low-income and diverse entrepreneurs as well as small business financing. For more information, visit www.leaffund.org.