LaTwana Scott, owner of Sweet Mama T’s restaurant in El Dorado, Arkansas.

At U.S. Bank, we are focused on economic, community and workforce development as a way of investing in the future of our communities. We help empower people to succeed in the workforce, grow small businesses and gain greater financial wellness. Through our One U.S. Bank approach to communities, by the end of 2019, we had $2 billion in small business administration loans that help business owners expand businesses, start companies and create jobs. We also gave $13 million to workforce development programs across the country that provided education critical to long term economic success.

$13 milliondonated to workforce development programs.

Story:

Sweet Mama T’s

Entrepreneur gets financial assistance from community funding.

At U.S. Bank, we work with community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to provide funding to entrepreneurs in underserved communities. CDFIs play a critical role in bringing investment and resources to underserved communities, and those who may not be eligible for traditional small business financing. CDFIs help make people’s dreams possible in communities across the country, and we’re helping power their potential by providing loans, investments and donations. By the end of 2019, we provided over $400 million in capital to CDFIs.

LaTwana Scott’s love of cooking started when she was 11 years old. Her mom needed help in the kitchen and taught her how to cook. Scott immediately knew that she found her passion and, using her own allowance, she bought her first cookbook, a Berenstain Bears book.

“I used to cook for my older brother while my mom worked, and he really enjoyed my cookies and mac and cheese,” remembered Scott, now 44 years old.

Drawing inspiration from her family

In January 2018, Scott fulfilled her longtime dream of owning a restaurant, opening Sweet Mama T’s, in El Dorado, Arkansas. Her signature dishes are BBQ chicken, pot roast and meat loaf. Her customers rave about these dishes, as well as the cream cheese pound cake and caramel cake, on the restaurant’s Facebook page.(opens new window)

Scott said that one of the best parts of owning a business is working with her family members – her older brother, aunts and cousins. Her two daughters, TaSheika and Taniah, 27 and 12 years old respectively, inherited their mother’s love of cooking, and they provide helping hands and bring their own recipes to test out.

Turning a volunteer side gig into a full-time job

Before Scott opened the restaurant, she struggled to make ends meet and had two jobs – a school bus driver and dispatcher at a local police station. Her passion for cooking also led her to pursue home-based catering, an idea she started to explore while in high school. Even though she was struggling to make ends meet, she was not charging at the time; she simply enjoyed seeing people eat the food she made.

“Then a girl from church asked me to cater her 70s-themed party,” said Scott. “I was nervous, but it turned out okay.” The “girl from church” was El Dorado Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer, the first African American to be elected mayor in El Dorado.

Many entrepreneurs, especially entrepreneurs of color, struggle to obtain the credit needed to start or sustain their businesses. CDFIs provide responsible finance to help entrepreneurs open for business and keep their doors open. U.S. Bank is a longtime and strong supporter of CDFIs, and I consider them a true partner in the fight to provide increased capital for all the nation’s small business owners.

– Lisa Mensah, OFN President and CEO

Securing financing to open the restaurant

In 2017, Scott decided to pursue her love of cooking on a full-time basis. She developed a business plan on her own and made an appointment with Southern Bancorp, a local CDFI, to seek financial assistance.

Our $100,000 donation to Southern Bancorp’s Opportunity Center(opens new window) program helped make it possible to extend a small business loan to Scott to open Sweet Mama T’s. Investing in Scott was an investment in the future of the Arkansas community.

“They believed in my plan and encouraged me to dream big, I am happy that I am making a living by doing what I love the most – cooking.” said Scott.

We partner with Main Street America to help communities like Springfield, Illinois, host events such as the Art Alley Pop-Up.

Main Street America:
Supporting rural main streets

At U.S. Bank, we understand the impact of small businesses, and we believe an investment in small businesses is an investment in the future.

We began a partnership with Main Street America (MSA) in 2016. MSA is a program of National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The National Main Street Center leads a movement committed to strengthening communities through preservation-based economic development in older and historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. The national network includes more than 1,600 grassroots organizations and 40 state, city and county-level Main Street Coordinating Programs.

We support MSA through philanthropy, and employee engagement and have contributed nearly $400,000 to MSA in grants and corporate contributions over the last four years. MSA organization managers from Illinois, Iowa and Missouri were identified to partner with U.S. Bank representatives to provide opportunities to build and deepen relationships and to provide local bank expertise supporting economic vitality and capacity building in rural markets.

“Main Street America is proud to partner with U.S. Bank to support communities across the country in their efforts to strengthen local economies and support small businesses,” said Patrice Frey, President and CEO, Main Street America.

In 2020, U.S. Bank will offer educational online coursework to Main Street managers from California, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. We will provide scholarships for up to 20 MSA managers to attend the Leadership Development Workshop and will sponsor the Leadership Development Workshop at the 2020 Main Street Now conference.

Thanks to U.S. Bank’s support, we are able to provide professional development and other educational opportunities to hundreds of Main Street community leaders on critical issues including addressing financial hurdles that local entrepreneurs face when starting a small business and identifying resources local leaders can utilize to assist small businesses.

– Patrice Frey, President and CEO, Main Street America