As part of our current strategic plan to invest $500 million in 50,000 underserved entrepreneurs, students, and working families by 2020, Opportunity Fund is expanding our reach throughout California. Opportunity Fund started in the Bay Area in 1994, expanded to Los Angeles in 2010, and this past year, has placed loan officers in San Diego, Sacramento, and now Fresno.
Because of the region’s seasonal agricultural industry and limited services, many small business owners in the Central Valley are left out of traditional financing. Opportunity Fund works with community partners in the area to connect business owners with the opportunities they need to grow and succeed. Our first boots on are the ground, and we have our sights set on big impact in the region through new partnerships and more loans.
Meet Jessica, our new loan officer in Fresno
A native of the Central Valley, Jessica spent the past few years working for a bank near Fresno. “Coming from a bank, we really drop the ball with the customers who need us the most,” said Jessica. “People go to the bank and don’t get a reason for why they’re declined, and then they go to another, and they still don’t understand. As a business owner you’re expected to understand everything, but everyone isn’t a banker.”
Seeing the opportunity to help more small business owners in the Central Valley, Jessica joined Opportunity Fund: “I was drawn to Opportunity Fund by its mission, and I am really excited to help our clients and work with our community partners in the area.”
Access to working capital is one of the biggest challenges that small business owners face in the Central Valley, especially for seasonal agricultural businesses. “It’s really difficult for the small farms and seasonal businesses to borrow the money they need to grow, and for lenders to finance them,” said Jessica.
One of Jessica’s recent clients, Bob Hill owner of B&D Holiday Center, has struggled due to the seasonality of his business. Bob’s location stays the same, but his business changes throughout the year: in October it’s a pumpkin patch, later it’s a Christmas tree lot, and other times it’s a carnival. Traditional lenders couldn’t finance Bob’s business, but when Bob came to Opportunity Fund, Jessica helped him with a $10,000 loan for inventory.
Although Jessica’s territory includes all of the Central Valley, right now she mostly works out of Fresno, thanks to the generous donation of an office space by the Fresno SBDC. “The Central Valley is a big area to cover, but I’m getting a jump start and working with our community partners. I’m excited to be the first one out here,” said Jessica.
Jessica sees the potential for Opportunity Fund to have big impact in the Central Valley, especially in helping with job creation and getting businesses the money they need to grow. As Jessica puts it, “My goal is for Opportunity Fund to be well-known name in the area. When someone is looking for a loan, I want people to say ‘Hey, have you heard of Opportunity Fund?’”