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“We Can’t Over-Emphasize the Value of Mentorship” #SFSBW2016 Interview: Pacific Community Ventures

#SFSBW2016 asked our business resource partners to share insights, best practices, and examples of how they help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from Pacific Community Ventures.

What is your organization’s mission?
Pacific Community Ventures is a nonprofit social enterprise that engages small businesses, investors and policymakers to build an economy that works for everyone.

What are your organization’s recent accomplishments that demonstrate how you have helped the small business community?
In 2015, we provided 237 small businesses with access to capital and pro bono mentorship. Companies working with us had 14% job growth — surpassing national (2%) and state (3%) rates — and 64% of those jobs went to workers living in low- or moderate-income communities. We also lent $943,000 to small business that couldn’t access the traditional financial system. The small businesses we worked with grew their revenues 20% and created and retained 1,700 jobs. And those jobs pay living wages! Small businesses we’ve worked with are able to pay average wages of $20 an hour.

What tools and resources has your organization created to help small businesses tap into new opportunities to reach new customers, increase their revenue, and grow their business?
PCV offers San Francisco small businesses a unique “loan plus advice” program. This program offers small businesses who are beyond the start-up phase — but don’t have a sufficient track record to qualify for bank lending — loans up to $200,000. We match each borrower with a pro bono advisor who has expertise specific to your small business’s needs – expertise in areas like marketing, legal, finance, or human resources.

We also offer that same pro bono advisor matching program to any small business who comes to us. Our platform is a “” like program that connects small businesses with pro bono expert advisors. Rather than just providing general business knowledge, or working with a retired professional, each advisor in our program is an active profession with expertise specific to the different needs of your individual small business.

San Francisco has been experiencing quite the transformation. What is your organization doing to attract and support new and younger small business owners? What resources do you offer to entrepreneurs and small businesses to get started?
In San Francisco, our economic boom has outstripped the majority of the country when it comes to creating new jobs — but those gains have gone to investors or highly-educated workers in high-paid fields. The middle class has moved out, and what you’re left with is minority of highly paid people and the low-wage workers that support them.

PCV is laser-focused on small business — as our nation’s job creators — as a major part of the solution. We work with small business owners who are creating good local jobs for working people here in San Francisco.

By offering a resource for small business owners who are turned down by their bank or the Small Business Administration (due to their more stringent guidelines) we’re filling a major gap. And, our free mentoring program doubles their chances of success. According to the Small Business Administration, only 30% of businesses make it to 10 years. But for small business owners with a mentor like ours, 70% survive to that ten-year mark, double the rate of other small businesses.

San Francisco is known for its diverse culture. How does your organization ensure that the small businesses that make this city unique are able to stay in San Francisco?
We work with small business owners who have a dream, but who don’t have big built-in networks or access to enormous sums of capital. For example, the fastest-growing group of Americans starting new ventures is African-American women. But you’d never know that based on where the money is going.

PCV is different. Almost 60% of PCV small businesses have a female owner, and 25% of PCV small businesses have a person of color as an owner. And in the coming years, we’re working to make those numbers even better. Our goal is to loan $5 million to diverse Bay Area small businesses in the next three years. If we help empower small business owners to increase their competitiveness while at the same time creating quality jobs with better wages, then every community and worker in the Bay Area benefits.

What words of advice or wisdom would you like to share with small business owners?
We can’t over-emphasize the value of mentorship. Many small business owners began their companies after early success pursuing their skills and passions: be it designing jewelry, curating a retail shop, opening a restaurant, even starting a small farm or landscaping company. They start wearing all of the hats: CEO, marketing, product development, supply chain, and sales. Then they hit their first wall: success.

The actual day-to-day needs of growing your business, and making that growth sustainable, are beyond the skills of any one person. For example, you may have made a name for yourself at farmers’ markets around the area, or maybe with a food truck or popup. But now that you’re ready to open a storefront, how do you find investors? Write a business plan? Develop a brand strategy? Navigate city permitting? And who has the time for all this?

This is where having an advisor or mentor is crucial. It means having the outside perspective of someone who’s navigated the waters that you’ve yet to dip a toe in.

Hear from other small businesses that have used Pacific Community Ventures to tap into new opportunities and grow their businesses.
We love to tell our clients’ success stories! If you’re wondering about our small business programs, you can hear learn more about some local companies we’ve worked with:

Red Bay Coffee

Equator Coffee and Teas

Three Babes Bakeshop
3-babes-bakeshop [10397013]


Benny Gold


La Plazita Preschool

Follow Pacific Community Ventures
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