Last month, three members of the Ventures program team – Laura Gomez, Amy Hollander, and Christian Morales – represented Ventures at the National Conference of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) in Orlando, Florida. The NALCAB conference is where many of the nation’s leaders in asset building, affordable housing, small business investment and financial empowerment in Latino communities come together to engage, network and learn.
NALCAB represents and serves a geographically and ethnically diverse group of more than 100 non-profit community development and asset-building organizations that are anchor institutions in our nation’s Latino communities. Their mission is to build assets for Latino families, communities, and organizations, with a focus on advancing economic mobility for low and moderate income communities.
Ventures has had a very strong relationship with NALCAB for many years, and our partnership has done so much to help Ventures staff access professional development opportunities, learn from our peers and so much more that allows us to better serve our community. Currently, we are partnering on programs through the SBA Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs (PRIME) as well as in our federal advocacy work in support of community and economic development programs. We are also very proud that Christian Morales, Ventures’ Program Coordinator, was one of eighteen leaders from around the country who was selected as a fellow for the 2018 Pete Garcia Fellowship!
Our team learned so much from the conference, and it could not have come at a better time as Ventures begins to explore the world of policy advocacy.
One main theme at the conference was access to capital for small business owners. Participants learned about the different ways that we can help small businesses owned by the Latino community and people of color in the U.S. and identified some of the struggles these communities have obtaining loans from banks. For Latinos, this has mainly been due to their immigration status, their non-existent credit history and access to collateral. We also discussed access to technology for loan training, which can be an asset for microlenders to improve the outcomes of their lending and help entrepreneurs.
Another important theme at the conference was how organizations can support low-income communities and communities of color as affordable housing and retail space disappear and access to responsible capital becomes increasingly limited in our cities. The direct effect of rapid population growth and gentrification on displacement in Seattle is astonishingly clear, and has had a clear impact on the ability of low-income entrepreneurs to start and maintain a thriving business in Seattle.
As an organization that focuses on supporting those entrepreneurs, Ventures has a responsibility to understand the full spectrum of impact these changes have on low-income individuals starting businesses. Although we focus on our entrepreneurs as business owners, we must also acknowledge their personal needs. For us, the themes from the conference served as an important reminder that we need to keep this in mind as the personal can – and does – affect the professional.
If a business owner can’t access affordable housing for themselves and their family, how can they expect to find affordable retail or office space for their business? Ensuring clients have access to these personal needs ties directly into building successful businesses. Moving forward, Ventures will strive to play an even bigger role in this by ensuring clients know about and are able to access capital for their businesses.
But even if we can identify these challenges, how can we work together to better serve our clients? The answer may lie in other overarching themes of the conference, one that has been at the tops of many of our minds recently: advocacy and grassroots organizing.
For Ventures, these issues – access to capital, gentrification that leads to displacement, access to basic services and basic needs – all have an impact on an individual’s ability to run a business. Across the nation, organizations in NALCAB’s network are working with their constituents to build out advocacy programs, host community meetings to hear from the people we serve, educate and inform the communities on actions that you can take, share strategies on how to acknowledge your voice and power, and work to cultivate new leaders. Just this year, Ventures launched its own advocacy program with the support of NALCAB and our partners at the Northwest Area Foundation, and we are working closely with our community to build out our policy agenda to decide what topics to address as an organization.
In this process, we realize that allowing all stakeholders – clients, staff, volunteers and community members – to have a seat at the table is crucial to the success of the program. In the same realm using the data collected and individual conversations with clients on the issues that matter most to them will inform our path.
Later this summer, we will roll out several exciting initiatives in response to the needs of our community. We have already hosted several community meetings and created a Policy and Advocacy Task Force, and we will soon have opportunities for Ventures entrepreneurs to receive civic leadership training so they can play an active role in our advocacy work.
Want to get involved in this work? We invite you to reach out to our Director of Advocacy and Communications, Will von Geldern at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas. We’ll also be sending out more updates on the program soon – and you can sign up to receive those updates here.
Together with NALCAB, we are advocating for the next generation of micro and small business owners in our community and across the nation. We want to empower and inspire our community to drive change beyond coaching, training and small business consulting – because we believe that when people are given a voice and empowered with strategies for creating solutions, that creates an opportunity for change.