Responsible Business Lending Coalition Honored with Community Heroes Award

The Responsible Business Lending Coalition (RBLC), a group of non-profit and for-profit leaders and small business advocates, joined together in 2015 to protect main street from irresponsible small business lending. On May 2nd, the group was honored by the California Reinvestment Coalition in Oakland with a Community Heroes Award.

Left to right: Gabriel Villarreal of Opportunity Fund, Heidi Pickman of CAMEO, Kurt Chilcott of CDC Small Business, Louis Caditz-Peck of LendingClub, Brian Pifer of Small Business Majority, Gwendy Brown of Opportunity Fund, Paulina Gonzalez of California Reinvestment Coalition.

The RBLC was recognized for successfully leading an effort last year to pass California’s SB 1235, the nation’s first truth-in-lending law for small business financing. Gabriel, our Senior Policy Advocate, accepted the award alongside Heidi Pickman of CAMEO; here are his remarks in full:

Good evening everybody. My name is Gabriel Villarreal, Policy Advocate at Opportunity Fund, and I am honored to accept this award on behalf of the Responsible Business Lending Coalition.

The RBLC is a group of private sector and not for profit lenders and advocates who all believe that small business owners deserve access to responsible, affordable capital.

Our coalition includes Opportunity Fund, Accion, the Aspen Institute, LendingClub, Funding Circle, Community Investment Management, and Small Business Majority.

SB-1235, the Small Business Truth in Lending Act, that we and many of the people gathered here helped pass, represents a monumental step forward in the protections available to small business owners in CA who need capital to run and grow their businesses.

We know that small business ownership can be a path to economic security for many underserved communities, but what often doesn’t get talked about is the why. Running a business is hard, so why do people do it?

The answer, more often than not, is economic necessity. This is what people need to do in order to provide for their families.

Policy can often be viewed as monolithic and unrelatable, so allow me to provide some context.

My grandfather, Roberto Villarreal, immigrated to the US from Mexico in the late 1940’s at the age of eighteen and settled in San Diego. He used to tell me that he came here with no language and no connections, only a desire to support his family.

That desire led him and my grandmother to become two of the first Latino franchise owners in the US, owning and operating a Jack-In-the-Box just feet from the San Diego-Tijuana border.

Owning that Jack-In-the-Box established a degree of economic stability for my family that has echoed across generations. It made my father’s and, later, my education possible.

Running a business requires perseverance, yes, but it also requires capital. For families without vast amounts of material wealth, this capital is often acquired from outside sources. In the US, being poor is expensive and it means you often only have access to high-cost financial products.

Everyday, small business owners like my grandparents access financing from lenders who seek to obscure the cost of their products and take advantage of the urgency of small business owners’ capital needs.

At the most basic level, borrowers, like my grandfather, deserve to know how expensive their financing options are.

Because of SB-1235, these disclosures, for the first time ever in the history of the United States, now exist in California.

This bill has ignited a movement across the United States from the Golden State all the way to New York and DC. California was step number one. Many of you here including the CRC team played a key part in making this bill possible. Thank you.

RBLC members alongside community partners who played major roles in helping to pass SB-1235.

Press release.