A talented cook with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, Cecilia started own business selling homemade tacos in her backyard in Oakland, California. Today she runs a full-time restaurant known for its authentic food from her hometown of Zacatecas, Mexico.
“Both of my parents were entrepreneurs,” she said. “They owned a farm in Mexico and every Sunday, they went to the local farmer’s market to sell milk, cheese and vegetables. My mother always motivated me to be an entrepreneur and has taught me everything I know about cooking.”
Cecilia turned those skills into a vocation in 2015 with the backyard venture she co-founded with her sister. The business immediately began to grow, and a year later a friend connected her to Grameen America, a nonprofit microfinance organization that provides loans, financial education and other support to low-income women interested in starting businesses. With support from Grameen, Cecilia in 2016 signed a lease to open her own restaurant. Her business is thriving, and the single mother of two daughters is not only on a path to support her family but also has seen improvements in her credit score.
“I use Grameen America loans to pay insurance, rent, and restaurant permits,” she said. “My daughter is an amazing cook and helps me create new recipes at the restaurant. I hope she’ll eventually take over the restaurant.”
Grameen is one of the community development financial institution (CDFI) partners U.S. Bank is working with as part of U.S. Bank Access Fund, which aims to support more than 30,000 women of color who own microbusinesses..
Microbusinesses, defined as having 10 or fewer employees, that are led by women of color are some of the fastest growing in the country, yet face tremendous barriers. This fund aims to help sustain and create new job opportunities and provide access to capital, technical assistance and networking opportunities. At year-end 2022, the fund deployed $13 million in capital to 10 CDFIs that will lend directly to business owners.
“The U.S. Bank Access Fund was designed to recognize the economic power women business owners represent to their communities and to the economy,” said Reba Dominski, senior executive vice president and chief social responsibility officer at U.S. Bank. “This fund works to break down structural barriers for women-of-color business owners and focuses on the smallest, but most common type of businesses – microbusinesses. Investing in these women and their businesses will not only help build wealth but will have a multiplier effect on their communities.”
Cecilia has already benefitted from classes offered by Grameen on how to run a successful restaurant, along with working with Grameen and other loan recipients to host pop-up events to sell products and market their products.
“My Grameen America Center supports and lifts each other up,” she said.
Read more about Cecilia’s story here.
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