Opportunity Fund’s expansion isn’t just national, we are also expanding our reach to new areas of California. Opportunity Fund began in the Bay Area in 1994, opened an office in Los Angeles in 2012, and last year, placed loan officers in Sacramento, Fresno, and San Diego.
Over half of Opportunity Fund’s lending takes place in Southern California, mostly in the Los Angeles area. Breaking into a new market like San Diego presents challenges: “There are still a lot of predatory lenders in San Diego, and it can be difficult to gain business owners’ trust and help them understand Opportunity Fund is a responsible lender,” said Byron Escobar, Opportunity Fund’s loan officer in San Diego.
Byron worked as Opportunity Fund’s loan officer in the Inland Empire before helping to establish our presence in San Diego. Last year, we invested in 75 small businesses in the San Diego region, investing $400,000 that will spur $800,000 in new wages, spending, and tax revenue each year. Opportunity Fund’s lending so far supports 210 jobs.
“Most of the businesses are very small and many are family-run – either with a stall at the Farmers’ Market or a swap meet,” said Byron.
Meet Javier, owner of San Diego’s premier Colombian restaurant
“I’m thankful for my business. We can pay the bills and rent, and we can put some money aside to travel to Colombia.”
Javier came to the United States from Colombia to study business at San Diego City College. After working in the hospitality and restaurant management industry for over 20 years, Javier decided it was time for him to focus more on his family and start his own business: “I didn’t want to work for someone else. I wanted time for my family and to set my own schedule.”
In 2011, Javier opened Antojitos Colombianos—the first Colombian restaurant in San Diego. Initially, his restaurant was only known amongst the Colombian community, but it quickly became a popular neighborhood spot and was awarded two Small Business of the Year awards by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. Javier runs his restaurant almost entirely with his family, including his wife, children, cousins, and nephews.
To keep up with the growth of his restaurant, Javier needed capital to buy equipment and merchandise. After banks turned him away for financing, Javier was relieved when his friend introduced him to Opportunity Fund, which provided him with the $10,000 loan he needed.
Now, Javier gives back to the small business community by hosting meetings at his restaurant for local entrepreneurs. He invites his Opportunity Fund loan officer, Byron, to help answer their questions about financing: “It makes me happy to see that Byron is willing to offer the same opportunity to other business owners that he offered to me.”