Creciendo Juntos: Growing together by learning together

February 04, 2022

U.S. Bank and Mercado on Fifth partner to provide financial education to the Quad Cities’ Hispanic business community.

On Fridays during the summer, 5th Avenue in the Floreciente neighborhood in Moline, Ill., is filled with the sights, sounds and smells of a community coming together: food trucks line the street, live music fills the air, and vendors sell their goods. When winter sets in and 5th Avenue fills with snow, Mercado on Fifth’s outdoor market closes for the season and the work to support minority-owned businesses moves indoors.

“What Mercado does behind the scenes is to make sure we support these businesses so they can not only be sustained within our space but grow and move into a brick-and-mortar location,” said Anamaria Rocha, executive director of Mercado on Fifth.

Mercado on Fifth hosted its first outdoor market in 2016 with the goal of helping minority-owned businesses succeed. Since then, the organization has grown significantly and identified several hurdles facing local business owners. In the early years of the market, Rocha shared that those included identifying supports, language barriers and business owners having to drive nearly three hours to Chicago to receive their certification to sell food.

“These businesses – it's their baby, whether it has just been founded or it’s been a while,” said DJ Glasgow, the Quad Cities market president at U.S. Bank. “However, for many in this community, it may be harder to get the resources and professional guidance they need to figure out what they want to accomplish, how they want to accomplish it and address any barriers they face."

A serendipitous recommendation brought Glasgow to Mercado on Fifth in the summer of 2021. In a matter of months, and through the award of a $50,000 Market Impact Fund (MIF) grant from the U.S. Bank Foundation, Glasgow and a team of bankers from the Quad Cities area, which spans across the Illinois and Iowa border, began providing English- and Spanish-language financial education classes to Mercado on Fifth vendors through a program called Creciendo Juntos – or Growing Together. Launched in 2019, MIF grants have addressed urgent needs in communities across the 26-state footprint of U.S. Bank.

“It is rewarding to help these businesses by providing them the solutions and financial education they need to access the resources that benefit them and their business,” said Kelly McCarthy, the business banking specialist sales manager in the Quad Cities.

Working together with Rocha, the bankers began providing courses about budgeting, managing cash flow, and the basics of credit, debit and loans. Then, in December, the team began providing one-on-one sessions with businesses to help address their specific needs. One recent challenge that surfaced when Mercado on Fifth began working with businesses to apply for grants with the State of Illinois is the commingling of funds – meaning that business owners were mixing their personal finances with those of their business in the same accounts. When commingling, it becomes difficult to provide concrete, business-specific information on grant applications.

“These discussions with U.S. Bank are helping businesses understand why it is important to separate their funds, how to set up accounts and how to track funds,” said Rocha. “It’s a lot of moving parts that are complementing each other and helping build connections – and it all started from the program with U.S. Bank.”

This summer, after the snow melts and the community comes together again on 5th Avenue for Mercado on Fifth’s outdoor market, there will be new faces in the crowd as the U.S. Bank team plans to table alongside vendors.

“For us, it is huge to have U.S. Bank believe in us,” said Rocha. "The support we have received from U.S. Bank outside of the grant has been invaluable. We have been able to gain access to so much information that our knowledge base has grown immensely, and we have been able to bridge the gaps we identified when we first started.”

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