Portfolio Partner Profile
Accion Opportunity Fund
Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF), the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, works to create an inclusive, healthy financial system that supports the nation’s small business owners by connecting entrepreneurs to affordable capital, educational resources, coaching, and networks. Through innovative partnerships and outreach strategies, they reach entrepreneurs of color, underfunded entrepreneurs, and women, who often lack access to the financial services they need to build and grow their businesses. For over 25 years, AOF has served a client base that is nearly 90% women, people of color, or immigrants. Their clients’ businesses have historically had a 96% survival rate, compared to the national small business survival rate of 50%. AOF’s work has supported or created more than 50,000 jobs and generated $1 billion in economic activity.
In 2020, Accion Opportunity Fund was formed as Accion U.S. Network and Opportunity Fund came together. Together, they fight for an inclusive and accessible financial system so small business owners of all identities can thrive. While this loan is our first loan to the Accion Opportunity Fund, we have made loans to both Accion USA and Opportunity Fund since 1996.
Featured Impact Story
Lia Hirtz, owner of World Empanadas
A first-time entrepreneur at 55 years young, Lia wanted to share an Argentinian tradition with Southern California. Her goal was to provide customers with the best empanadas in town! Even throughout COVID-19, her family-owned small business found a way to continue to share sweet and savory versions of this amazing dish.
Lia was facing more than just a freezer dilemma. Her business was also tied up in aggressive merchant cash advance loans that helped finance their move into their new space and other improvements like installing a hood for the stove. She had some capital thanks to personal loans from friends and family, but World Empanadas needed help to get the freezer unit that could make their business really take off.
Lia’s loan officer, Robert, offered Lia a $15,000 Accion Opportunity Fund loan, which helped World Empanadas purchase the walk-in freezer unit. “I couldn't believe it,” Lia said. “Within a few weeks Robert called me and told me I could pick up our check. It was just like that.”
Valonne Smith, owner of Natural Do
“I met an Opportunity Fund staff member in 2017, a couple of years after I started Natural Do. Opportunity Fund wasn’t giving assistance to start-ups, but I kept his card. In 2018, we ran into a tax issue, so I called him and applied for a loan. The process was simple and I was able to get the working capital right away. Opportunity Fund saved the day. This spring, I received a $5,000 COVID relief grant from Accion Opportunity Fund, through Small Business Live...and the first thing I did with that was finish paying off my Opportunity Fund loan!”
Tania Torres, Vanidad Beauty Salon
Tania Torres has been doing hair since 1996, and she hashad some customers for 24 years. She does notsee them as customers; she sees them as family.
Originally from Nicaragua, sheloves the flexibility of setting her own hours for herself and her customers. She can take appointments at 7am to help customers who need to work early; sometimes she can work from 2pm and work until 10pm. When you set your own schedule, you feel freer—and then you are happy to put in the work for yourself.
Mayra, Tania's loan officer at Accion Opportunity Fund, connected Tania with a $2,500 loan to build her credit. In July, Mayra referred Tania to a federal savings account that will be returned in one year. Not long after, Tania followed San Jose’s shelter-in-place orders and closed the salon from March through September 2020, then from December through February 2021. Recently, so much of her work has been fixing “pandemic hair;” and catching up with her customers who have been waiting for her.
She has been spending a lot of money and time sanitizing the salon. She has all her health notifications in English and Spanish, bought an air filter that she leaves on overnight, and has available for customers. Tania has some ladies who are 75 or 85 years old who want her to do their hair, so she takes all the precautions. When people do not want to wear masks, she provides masks for them. She tells them the city requires them and then changes the topic quickly—maybe to a mole recipe because her husband is from Mexico! She loves cooking, so she always asks her clients about that.