How Starbucks Is Helping Small Businesses Create Jobs

May 14, 2012

Remember how Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, was going to overhaul the jobs market, or at least invest in small business?

He’s made good on his promise. In November, Starbucks teamed up with the Opportunity Finance Network, a membership network of more than 180 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that provides loans and counseling to community businesses on the Create Jobs for USA Fund. Since November 2011 the fund raised about $2 million, helping to create or retain more than 2,300 jobs, many in poor communities.

The Create Jobs for USA program also provides capital grants to select CDFIs. These groups, in turn, provide loans to underserved community businesses like microenterprises, nonprofit organizations, commercial real estate ventures and affordable housing firms. The goal of Create Jobs for USA is to bring people and communities together to create and sustain jobs throughout America.

Leslie Benoliel, the executive director of Entreprenur Works, a microenterprise development organization in Philadelphia, was one of these grant recipients.

I met Benoliel when she was on the planning committee for our Make Mine a Million Dollar Business event in Philadelphia last year. Through her work, she helps underserved people create their own jobs through business ownership or self-employment. Since its inception in 1989, Entrepreneur Works has served over 3,000 small business and entrepreneurs, providing them with loans, training, business counseling and guidance. About 55 percent of their clients are women, and 90 percent are African-American. The companies they help run the gamut–from restaurants, caterers, neighborhood grocery stores to graphic artists, massage therapists, taxi cab drivers and truckers.

In November, Benoliel applied for a Create Jobs for USA award and in January her organization received a $20,000 grant. Since that time she has made eleven new small business loans totaling just over $88,000 which means that in just three months, the $20,000 has helped make available an additional $68,000+ in other funds to finance other businesses.

And here’s the best news: She doesn’t have to repay it. The only provision is that the money be used to make loans.

“Their message aligns with our mission: We’re all in this together,” says Benoliel.

In early April, Entrepreneur Works made a $25,000 loan to Truly Custom Cakery LLC which started out as two separate, home-based, custom cake businesses owned by Stacey Hill and Suzy Vanhoose. The two women are merging their businesses and moving into a commercial space, which will allow them to ramp up their production and grow their business. It will also give them a storefront, giving people the opportunity to walk in and buy baked goods right off the shelf.

“By both moving from part-time to full-time, Stacey and Suzy have already created one full-time-equivalent job for themselves,” she says. And since the women plan to hire one part-time employee in the next 3-4 months and a full-time employee within 12 months, they’ll have created the equivalent of 2.5 new jobs within one year.

So how can you get in on this great new resource? While the Opportunity Finance Network doesn’t work directly with or provide loans to small businesses or individuals, their member CDFIs in various states might be able to help you. And you never know what might happen, as Benoliel found out.

“We all have to help. I tell this to my funders all the time,” says Benoliel. “There’s so much finger-pointing at the political level. But the truth is we’ve all got to do our part. We’re all in this together.”

Neil Merlino
Open Forum