Opportunity Fund is pleased to welcome Tina Ferguson-Riffe and Paulina Gonzalez to our Community Impact Advisory Board. “We are excited to welcome Paulina and Tina as new members of our Community Impact Advisory Board,” said Eric Weaver, CEO and Founder. “Both Tina and Paulina have worked hard to better their communities in meaningful ways, and they offer different perspectives to Opportunity Fund’s work.” Tina Ferguson-Riffe, is an “Opportunity Funded” business owner working to provide jobs to previously incarcerated and other harder-to-employ workers, and Paulina Gonzalez advocates for a more equitable financial system through policy and regulatory efforts at the state level.
Paulina Gonzalez serves as Executive Director of the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC), the largest state reinvestment coalition in the country. Under her leadership, CRC members have negotiated several multi-billion dollar bank reinvestment agreements. Through these commitments, banks increase their focus on meeting the credit needs of low-income communities and communities of color through small business lending, affordable housing financing and safe, affordable, and transparent financial services and products.
Prior to her work at CRC, Ms. Gonzalez served as Executive Director of SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy), located in South Central Los Angeles. During her tenure, SAJE’s advocacy resulted in groundbreaking, multi-million dollar Community Benefit Agreements that provided investments in affordable housing, living wage jobs, small business development, and a community health center. She is a member of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board, and also serves on the 12th District Community Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
“Small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and assets throughout California communities, and I’m excited about serving on Opportunity Fund’s Community Impact Advisory Board and participating in this important effort to better demonstrate how small businesses contribute to our local economies.”
Chef Tina is committed to helping people who have been incarcerated, on welfare, or have learning disabilities to improve their skills in a professional restaurant and catering environment. Over the last six years Chef Tina has provided jobs, training and hope for a better life to more than twenty five people who wanted to turn their lives around but could not find employment and a living wage. Chef Tina spent the first twenty years of her career running restaurants. In 2000 she graduated from the California Culinary Academy, then attended Le Cordon Bleu Paris for graduate work. After 10 years of supervising and cooking in five live kitchens in the San Francisco Design Center she opened Smoke Berkeley, her Texas BBQ and Southern Cuisine restaurant in West Berkeley. Chef Tina has won numerous awards, commendations and videos for her cooking and her work with people who can’t get employment elsewhere because of circumstances out of their control.
“I am proud to be invited to join Opportunity Fund’s Community Impact Advisory Board. Opportunity Fund helped me when I first opened Smoke Berkeley, my BBQ café and catering operation with a small business loan. All the other financial institutions that I contacted offered loans that didn’t work for me. I was able to pay off the loan in two years, one year ahead of schedule. Since then I received another loan to expand my business, which I also paid back a year early. With the help of Opportunity Fund my business has increased each year by 20% for the last five years. I would like to see more low-income and immigrant entrepreneurs learn about Opportunity Fund so they have the resources to run their own successful businesses, like I have been able to.”