This is the first in a six-part series spotlighting CDFIs in the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business®: Diverse Community Capital program network, funded with a $175 million commitment to help diverse small businesses grow. Every Tuesday for the next five weeks, we will publish a story and case study that highlight an innovative program or service of these CDFIs.
Crown Nine, a jewelry boutique and art gallery in Oakland, California, is known for its handmade designs and ethically sourced materials. Founded in 2011, the small business quickly became a community fixture with its welcoming storefront and online boutique. Within a few years, owner and designer Kate Ellen was ready for growth and needed help getting there.
Kate turned to BusinessAdvising.org, a free online small business mentoring platform offered by Pacific Community Ventures (PCV). Part of the Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital network, PCV is a nonprofit CDFI that serves small business—74% of the businesses it serves are women-owned and 42% are owned by people of color.
PCV pairs seasoned entrepreneurs and senior professionals from banks, consulting firms, and large corporations nationwide with small business owners seeking assistance. PCV matched Kate with advisor Greg Flood, CEO, G2D Images, a virtual reality and drone photography company.
“I’m a management consultant guy who’s helped businesses for years,” said Greg of his professional history in retail and other industries. “I believe strongly in volunteering and want to really get involved when offering my time. Working with Business Advising and PCV is a great way to share my expertise with small businesses that contribute to local economies.”
Savvy in Seeking Help
Greg started helping Kate in 2015. “From the beginning, Kate had a really strong local business with a great story behind it,” he explained. “Crown Nine is woman owned and employs mostly women. Kate is a phenomenal artist and very savvy. She knew where she needed help and sought it.”
They first consulted on management issues. “Kate had hired three new employees and was struggling to establish communication protocols,” Greg said. “We set up systems and processes using an easy to integrate and learn Google platform.”
Since then, he has helped Kate open a new space for Crown Nine, prepare the business for her maternity leave, and plan strategically for longer-term growth.
Being part of PCV’s Business Advising program and having Greg’s help has “made the quality of my life… so much better,” Kate told PCV. “It’s also helped me support my staff and provide meaningful and rewarding employment to them… Greg has given me so much to work with to reconfigure how I was doing things so that I am now working smarter. It was a serendipitous connection to begin with, and [PCV] has given me so much strength and confidence.”
From Login to Mentoring: How it Works
PCV’s BusinessAdvising.org platform is available nationwide for small businesses in operation for at least a year, with an annual revenue of around $100,000 or more, and one or more employees.
Businesses and advisors sign up to participate in the program on the site. PCV staff match advisor and advisee based on numerous variables, including availability, expertise, and geography. Before doing so, they screen each advisor and business by phone.
“We go through extensive vetting of our advisors and businesses,” said Bob Porter, Managing Director, PCV Small Business Services. “It’s important that the match work, and we look at personalities as much as anything else. If we have a chatty business owner, we want a chatty advisor. These are personal relationships and the people should work well together. We also want to see that potential advisors understand our mission.”
Advisors help with anything the small business owner needs: marketing, operations, sales, information technology, financing, and more.
Better Businesses Make Stronger Communities
“With PCV’s BusinessAdvising.org platform, we’re helping small ‘Main Street’ business owners build their businesses by giving them access to skills and experience through mentorship,” Bob said. “As a result of working with advisors, these businesses grow stronger and become even better employers and better neighborhood partners.”
Today, PCV’s network of more than 1,000 advisors are registered to work with small businesses across all 50 states. In 2018, these advisors volunteered 4,729 hours, providing more than $709,369 worth of free advice and coaching
About Wells Fargo Works for Small Business®: Diverse Community Capital program
The Wells Fargo Works for Small Business®: Diverse Community Capital program (DCC) will deliver $175 million in capital to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that serve diverse small businesses. Since program launch, DCC has awarded $94.8 million in grants and capital to CDFIs to grow their lending and services to diverse small businesses.