Starting a small business is the ideal way to create a family generational asset. Many Latino newcomers to this country bring business ideas from home. They offer handmade jewelry. They sell soccer jerseys emblazoned with flags of Latin American countries. They open a restaurant with a menu featuring fondly remembered recipes from their abuelita.
The truth is that starting or scaling such ventures offers a combination of exhilaration and challenge, with the latter compounded for immigrants. After all, there’s the need to learn the rules of money and business protocols in the United States. Add a pandemic to the mix and things can seem downright daunting. That’s why there is a critical need for culturally relevant technical assistance.
For almost five decades, MEDA has filled that need for free technical assistance to help entrepreneurs start up, grow or expand their ventures. This mission aligns with that of Wells Fargo, which has a decade-long legacy of funding MEDA’s community-development work. The most recent funding was $1.5 million for small business lending and microenterprise development technical assistance services – awarded via the Open for Business (OFB) CDFI Program grant and the OFB Technical Assistance Program grant – to assist the low-income Latino and immigrant community of San Francisco.
Thanks to OFB, which is a roughly $420 million small business recovery effort across the nation, MEDA’s Business Development team has been able to provide hundreds of local Latino small business owners with the technical assistance to guide them through, and help them emerge from, the ravages of the pandemic.
A tale of three businesses
Take the case of Mixcoatl Handicrafts & Jewelry, which sells arts and crafts created by indigenous artisans from all over Latin America. Located along the Mission’s Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, the shop’s offerings range from silver jewelry to colorful masks to yarn paintings. The venture has received MEDA technical assistance since 2020. During the pandemic, MEDA provided constant support to Mixcoatl as it applied for a 0%-interest loan from the San Francisco Hardship Emergency Loan Program (SF HELP), which was financed by the City of San Francisco and managed by MEDA’s certified CDFI, Fondo Adelante (Mission Community Loan Fund LLC). Mixcoatl ended up receiving a loan of $31,000 from this program.
MEDA also supported Mixcoatl in applying for the San Francisco Rent Relief Grant for Small Business, walking them through the process. The owner of Mixcoatl, Concepción Rivera, is now receiving coaching to submit an application to MEDA’s San Francisco Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund, a collaboration with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) of the Mayor’s office. The Fund provides mini-grants of up to $5,000 to San Francisco women-owned small businesses for projects and upgrades that will have a transformative impact on the business’ ability to grow. Mixcoatl’s story underscores the importance of supporting businesses not just to survive, but thrive.
MEDA also successfully offered application assistance and made a connection to District Supervisor Hillary Ronen so family-owned Latin Jewelers would be nominated for and granted legacy-business status by the City of San Francisco, recognizing them as part of a diverse group of businesses that make up the cultural fabric of the city. The registry is a tool for providing educational and promotional assistance to legacy businesses to foster their continued viability and success. Latin Jewelers has been serving the community since way back in 1976, well-positioned for foot traffic along the bustling Mission Street commercial corridor.
Then there’s Tio Chilo’s Grill (photo), also on Calle 24. Filled with hope for coming out of the pandemic, they remodeled the brick-and-mortar space housing their Mexican-food eatery. That dream is now potentially imperiled, with the building owner putting the property on the market. While this is a story TBD, rest assured that MEDA and our partners will stand alongside the owner throughout the process, seeking creative solutions to keep this business in place.
Recognition of entrepreneurial resilience
The exciting news is that the uplifting stories of this trio of businesses are all being recognized tonight at a “San Francisco Small Business Week Latino Event” to be held at 724 Valencia St. The much-deserved awards are as follows:
- Mixcoatl Handicrafts & Jewelry: “Latino Small Business Community Leader Award”
- Latin Jewelers: “Latino Legacy Business”
- Tio Chilo’s Grill: “Latino Innovative Business of the Year”
“MEDA is excited to see these small businesses being recognized for their resilience, plus their longtime standing in our community,” says Edwin Rodriguez, MEDA’s Associate Director of Business Development Programming. “Wells Fargo’s OFB technical assistance grant has helped us work with hundreds of small businesses in our community during the pandemic, which disproportionately affected San Francisco’s Latino community.”
“We are thrilled of our continued partnership with MEDA to support the next generation of small business owners in our community,” says Lorenzo Cordova, Senior Social Impact and Sustainability Specialist for Wells Fargo.
MEDA looks forward to giving out many more such awards in the future. Thanks to Wells Fargo’s OFB TA grant to our nonprofit, we know this will definitely be the case.