Greenline Access Capital fills financing and networking gaps for the city’s small businesses.
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When Juan Placencia opened a ghost kitchen in Philadelphia in late 2020, the experience wasn’t what he expected. Even with his impressive credentials – he graduated from the Culinary Institute of Arts and has experience in Michelin-starred restaurants and worked with James Beard Award winner Christina Martinez – he struggled to make his restaurant’s food to achieve success.
“The investment required to participate in this type of system was much higher than a brick-and-mortar business, but it wasn’t advertised that way,” he says. “Since then, I started looking for a restaurant space.”
Placencia finally found the right establishment on South Street in Philadelphia. With a $10,000 loan for startup expenses from new CDFI Greenline Access Capital, Placenia opened Brazas BBQ Chicken.
Placencia, a Peruvian immigrant, founded Greenline through her involvement in Philadelphia’s small business associations. “Clients want to work with us because we have a reputation for helping small businesses in the community,” says Kersy Azocar, president and CEO of Greenline Access Capital.
Although there are 13 CDFIs in Philadelphia, Greenline is unique in that it serves Latino and immigrant entrepreneurs. There is a growing need for equitable and culturally responsive financial services for Latino entrepreneurs across the country: Number of Latino-owned businesses in the United States increased by 34% between 2007 and 2019.
Greenline was founded in 2021 and, in its first year of operation, provided technical assistance to more than 100 clients and helped secure 45 grants and loans from federal and state programs, as well as local CDFIs, to a total of more than $2.9 million. The funder also provided microloans worth $62,000 through its own loan fund.
Greenline also offers culturally relevant financial services, technical assistance and business workshops. They partner with other organizations, building community and providing social capital to their customers, and work to eliminate barriers that distinctly affect Latino and immigrant entrepreneurs, such as language barriers and lack of trust in banks.
“About 90% of our customers speak Spanish,” says Azocar. “You may know English superficially, but once I start asking for a financial statement, it seems unusual and makes people fear financing. » For this reason, Greenline has a fully bilingual staff.
Greenline also focuses on working with small and micro businesses, like Placenia Restaurant. In 2021, nearly 8 million small businesses in the United States have fewer than 20 employees, and 57% of all businesses in the United States have fewer than 5 employees.
“There is so much need, even though Philadelphia has more than 13 CDFIs,” Azocar says. “They are not all bilingual. Not all of them are aimed at small businesses. We really work with clients that no one else works with.
Greenline’s approach, both in terms of financing and supporting social capital building, appealed to Placencia.
“Having the opportunity to obtain financing in a less conventional way resonated with me,” Placencia says. “When you apply for a loan from a regular bank, they charge a lot more, and at the time I didn’t have all the qualifications to get that type of financing. »
Greenline invited Placencia to showcase his restaurant at different events, helped him apply for grants from other funding sources, and featured him on social media. They also connected him with a 12-week business course with one of their partners.
Seeing how much he could benefit from collaborating with organizations inspired him to integrate his business into a community. One of the deciding criteria for the restaurant’s location “was finding a space large enough to share with members of the community.”
He is a partner of Mercado de Latinas, a network of vendors from Mexico and Central America who sell artisanal products. They started during the pandemic and combined in-person and online opportunities to sell their products.
“We’re going to welcome them as residents of the restaurant, where they can sell and showcase some of their crafts and products that they currently sell,” he said. “This could be the start of creating an incubator for future business owners. »
This story is part of our CDFI Futures series, which explores the community development finance sector through the lens of equity, public policy, and inclusive community development. The series is generously supported by Partners for the Common Good. Subscribe to PCG’s CapNexus newsletter at capnexus.org.
Bianca Gonzalez (she/they) is a writer committed to using words as a tool for social change. She is a solutions journalist for Next City, a case study writer for Community Solutionsand daily editor for Biometric update. As a queer and Latina brain cancer survivor, she believes justice is fundamentally intersectional.