Oakland Black Business Fund empowers entrepreneurs

“Open Your Own Shop; Secure Prosperity and Secure Your Freedom.”
–Madame C.J. Walker

The inspirational quote by Madame C.J. Walker, America’s first black female millionaire, and the bright smiles of Oakland entrepreneurs found on the Oakland Black Business Fund (OBBF) website tell a compelling story about the organization’s altruistic purpose.

Queen Hippie Gypsy, Oakstop, Proper Fashions, and Athenian Deli & Cafe are just a few of the businesses that have benefited from OBBF, an investment platform designed to help provide capital, technical assistance, and growth strategies to Black-owned businesses.

About Oakland Black Business Fund

Oakland Black Business Fund was founded in June 2020 by Elisse Douglass, an established real estate professional, and Trevor Parham, an experienced Oakland entrepreneur. The OBBF initially started as a crowdfunding campaign, initiated by Douglass, with the intention of raising $5,000 to support Black businesses in Oakland that were damaged in the protests following the murder of George Floyd. Within one week, the crowdfunding campaign reached $100,000, exceeding its initial goal and setting a precedent for a larger effort to support Black businesses. The community-oriented origins of the campaign influenced OBBF’s approach to supporting businesses, emphasizing the power of people, capital, and community organizing to create social impact.

The OBBF platform includes a $10M relief fund focused on helping Oakland businesses impacted by COVID-19 and a $1B investment fund to support Black entrepreneurs across the country.

This is the only Black-led fund providing business grants and larger investments that address the historical lack of access to capital and control of real estate. Its unique approach to building peer-to-peer relationships between Black business owners, Black technical assistance providers, and tech companies offers a sustainable growth model for under-funded businesses.

Source: Oakland Black Business Fund

Real Estate Ownership and Small Business Loans

Real estate has long played a foundational role in small business success and community development. From tax benefits to building equity – obtaining business real estate provides owners with operational freedom and the ability to leverage equity for future growth.

Yet, according to data from the 2018 Small Business Credit Survey, the Brookings Institute found that large banks approved 60% of loans sought by White small-business owners, compared with 29% sought by African Americans. When it comes to tapping into venture capital funds, a study conducted by RateMyInvestor and DiversityVC concluded that Black founders receive less than 1% of venture capital.

On the heels of a global pandemic, as the economy is looking to make a comeback, many business owners seek ways to grow their business or re-establish themselves. In an interview with Venturebeat Oakland Black Business Fund’s co-owner, Elisse Douglass, shared OBBF’s focus on funding and stabilizing brick-and-mortar businesses.  

“We’re especially focused on funding brick-and-mortar businesses, which anchor the Black community culturally and economically and establish a sense of place for Black communities,” said Douglass. “By stabilizing these businesses and their underlying real estate, we are taking a critical step toward creating a new economic trajectory for the Black community.”

Black Business fund leaders.
Above: Trevor Parham and Elisse Douglass want to provide both pandemic relief and investment for the Black community.
Image Credit: Oakland Black Business Fund

In an article published on the Berkeley MBA blog, Elisse Douglass talked about the prompt to get involved in helping black-owned businesses in Oakland. 

“I think my lane has always been the relationship between Black people and real estate as a means of community investment. And real estate and impact investing was my focus during my time in the full-time MBA program at Berkeley Haas. So, when the protests started, I had these visceral feelings as a Black woman and, at the same time, I had this professional knowledge and skill set that saw how our businesses were struggling.” 

With partnerships and support from The City of Oakland, The Alliance For Community Development, Oakstop, Black Cultural Zone, Bay Area Organization of Black Owned Businesses, The Town Experience, The Clorox Company, Okta, Lyft, Square, Community Bank of the Bay, and Bandcamp the Oakland Black Business Fund is empowering black businesses with capital, technical assistance, and strategy.

Getting Involved

Whether you wish to volunteer your technology, business, legal, finance, communications, media, or real estate expertise to help aid the mission of OBBF or want to donate, please visit oaklandblackbusinessfund.org to learn more about how to get involved. Follow OBBF via Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Show support and boost awareness of OBBF by hitting share across your social feeds. 

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