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SF Small Business Week. Celebrate Small Business.

Main Street Launch: Empowering Entrepreneurs with Capital, Education, and Relationships

#SFSBW2018 asked some of our small business resources to share insights, best practices, and examples of how they help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from Karla De Leon, Vice President of Economic and Business Development at Main Street Launch.

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What are some of Main Street Launch’s accomplishments that demonstrate how you have helped the small business community?

Since 1979, Main Street Launch (formerly OBDC Small Business Finance), has provided capital, education, and relationships to aspiring and existing small business owners. In the last five years, we have provided 389 companies with over $40 million in loan capital. These companies have created and sustained 2900 jobs in our communities.

Our portfolio is diverse and reflects the communities we serve in Oakland and San Francisco, as well as veteran-owned businesses across California. In the last five years, 56% of the businesses we support operate in a low-to-moderate income neighborhood, creating jobs and bringing essential goods and services where they are needed most. 55% of our clients are new businesses, 49% are owned by women, and 51% are owned by people of color.


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?

Main Street Launch provides access to capital to entrepreneurs, helping launch new and existing businesses to the next level. In addition, each client works one-on-one with an experienced loan officer to help ensure the viability of their business plan and goals. After they receive the loan, our doors are always open for one-on-one advising, to attend one of our workshops, or to connect with resources in our network.

We offer a variety of loan products to meet the needs of diverse business owners. Our loans range from $10,000-$250,000. We also have specialized programs for the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development’s Invest in Neighborhoods that feature a special low interest loan program for businesses in those targeted neighborhoods.


San Francisco has been experiencing quite the transformation. What is Main Street Launch doing to attract and support new and younger small business owners? What resources do you offer to entrepreneurs and small businesses to get started?

Main Street Launch is proud to partner with the City of San Francisco, administering the City’s Emerging Business Loan Fund and Revolving Loan Fund. Through this partnership, we offer small business loans from $10,000 to $250,000 to entrepreneurs who want to start a new business or grow their existing business. In the last five years, half of our San Francisco clients have been new businesses. We work with our clients to help them secure the right loan amount and set realistic goals. After they receive the loan, our doors are always open to provide additional growth funding and business advising. We also offer a connection to a network of organizations in the San Francisco Economic Development Alliance (SFEDA) to support their growth and business management needs.


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?

Main Street Launch has been particularly focused in doing outreach to small businesses operating in the Invest In Neighborhoods. In our outreach we try to learn about the business and their needs and challenges and provide resources and referrals to help them achieve their goals. We know that small businesses are a big part of what makes San Francisco an amazing place to live and work. We work to ensure business owners know what resources exist that can help them sustain and grow their businesses.


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What words of advice or wisdom would you like to share with small business owners?

Ask for help. Running a small business is very challenging, and business owners don’t have to do it alone. There are so many free or low-cost resources available to help you learn about what you don’t know, and build strategies to support your business’ future.

One thing nearly all of our clients told us is that you always need more money than you think. By having additional working capital in the bank, you can make decisions for the long-term, instead of compromise because of a lack of available money. A loan is an investment in your business’ growth and provides you security when you face challenges.


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