The U.S. Bank Access Fund exists to help entrepreneurs like Joanna

September 07, 2021

The owner of a growing dessert catering business has received financing from U.S. Bank partner Grameen America. 

*monster truck vrooming noise*

On a recent Sunday (…SunDAY, SUNDAY), Joanna put the finishing touches on a custom Jell-O cake for a Monster Jam-themed party. It was one of more than a dozen cakes she made that weekend – a typical workload.

In 2015, the married mom of four in Oakland, Calif., decided that she needed to find a way to make money from home. Just six years later, Joanna’s Sweet Creations has grown to the point at which Joanna is hoping to hire an employee in the near future to help with her lineup of made-to-order Jell-O cakes and pops, chocoflan and much more.

“Whatever you ask me for, I can do it,” said Joanna. “And every dessert is made with all my love.”

That passion laid the foundation for her business. Growth has come from word-of-mouth recommendations by friends and microloan financing from nonprofit Grameen America to buy ingredients, molds and prints.

Grameen America is one of three organizations receiving support from the U.S. Bank Access Fund, through which the bank is deploying $25 million over three years to fund 30,000 women of color-owned microbusinesses. The fund is part of U.S. Bank Access Commitment, the bank’s long-term approach to expanding access in diverse communities.

“The U.S. Bank Access Fund recognizes the economic power women business owners represent to their communities and to the economy,” said Greg Cunningham, chief diversity officer for U.S. Bank. “This fund is different because it 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 the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Joanna, who saw a dip in sales in the past year as weddings and quinceañeras were sidelined, is optimistic about the future as the economy recovers and life goes back to normal. And looking ahead a few years, “I see my business in some place special for me,” she said adding, “I want to have my own store and to hire someone… to give someone a job.”

With four children including two sons ages 1 and 9 and two daughters ages 7 and 18, she also hopes to serve as a model for how, as she says, “women can do it all.”

“I want them to see that their mother is a hard-working woman,” she said. “You have to work for whatever you want, because nobody is going to give you stuff for free.”

She continued, smiling, “Sometimes my little one asks why I work so much. I say, ‘because you ask for so much!’”

It’s not always been easy for Joanna to balance work and life (previously, she worked steady hours as a cashier at a grocery store). She’s learned to set rules for her time, like being done baking by noon on weekend days to spend time with family. Like many entrepreneurs, she recognizes that she’s learning along the way.

“I didn’t even see this in my dreams – and now I can look back,” she said, leaving a message for other aspiring entrepreneurs: “You can do whatever you want as long as you can work for it.

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