RDF Listens & Continues to Build Trust with Small Business Owners
The Raza Development Fund listens to our small business clients and strives to continue to support them. Last May, RDF hosted a series of Focus Groups with COVID-19 Hope Fund grantees and PPP loan recipients where we took the time to listen to their needs and learned from them.
In 2020, we realized early on that we had a responsibility to support immigrant and minority business owners overcome the challenges of the pandemic. To meet the need, our Small Business Initiative (SBI) went from a two-person team to a seven-person team in the matter of less than twelve months.
After supporting 111 small businesses with RDF’s COVID-19 Hope Fund grant, this team of seven led the disbursement of over 9 million dollars to 489 businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and provided technical assistance to over 800 businesses providing firsthand one-on-one support to navigate technology and access available resources. Our bilingual team spent countless hours working with business owners resulting in personal, trusting relationships.
RDF built on this trust by hosting five Focus Groups back in May with clients from our PPP lending and COVID-19 Hope Fund to ensure that we would continue providing long term services to our clients. The Focus Groups were a continuation of constant communication and data collection with our small business clients that included weekly calls and meetings with our SBI team, baseline intake forms, and three-month surveys. These tools complement each over and provide a constant stream of information that our team then implements in their daily work and department strategy to ensure that we are responding to our clients’ needs.
In our three-month survey, most participants reported that they were able to keep their businesses open or keep working on their businesses during COVID-19 but doing so required first supporting basic business functions and commitments. Therefore, RDF decided to stay committed to these businesses and continue providing products and services that would support them in the long run.
Transforming Client Feedback into action
Through these lines of constant communication, RDF noticed certain trends that would strengthen the opportunities for business owners to remain open and to grow their business post pandemic. This included expanding their businesses by learning more about the technological tools available to them, expanding knowledge of finance and accounting resources to strengthen their businesses, and support with marketing and capturing new clients.
Some of the immediate actions RDF is taking in response to these needs are:
Expansion and learning of technological tools: RDF has spent a significant amount of their time assisting business owners with technological challenges and ensuring that they are learning skills to support them if they are interested in having a stronger online presence / continue with their retail shops through an online platform.
One participant expressed an interest in attending a workshop to get all the tools needed to successfully create an online platform for their business. As a response, through partnerships with local organizations such as South Central Mercado, and website/ IT professionals, RDF is finding ways to provide workshops that will offer continued support to local businesses.
Expanding knowledge of finance and accounting resources to strengthen their businesses: RDF’s Small Business Initiative team provides technical assistance through a commitment to helping businesses learn and become independent.
During the Focus Groups, clients confirmed that they need / want more information regarding accounting, finances, HR, legal aspects of owning a business such as liability and workers’ compensation.
“People open a business for a lot of reasons, but they do it the wrong way sometimes because they don’t know,” said Joseph Munoz, Co-Founder / CEO of the South Central Mercado.
As a response, RDF has not only provided direct technical assistance to our clients, but we made connections with local partners such as MariSol Credit Union to provide resources on how to strengthen their understanding of their business financials. Additionally, RDF is currently hosting webinars in both English and Spanish to build on the education of our clients and ensure that they have the right tools to understand what they will need to do to secure forgiveness of their PPP loans.
Support with marketing and capturing new clients: RDF’s Communications team has been increasing our business clients’ social media exposure by featuring them on our channels and connecting them with RDF partners and investors to further feature the work that they are doing.
RDF’s small business clients have demonstrated the strength, hope, and commitment that reflects the true spirit of small business owners by doing all they can to keep their businesses open.
These business owners have trusted RDF’s Small Business Initiatives team to help them become more resilient in these trying times. CDFI’s like RDF have proved to be committed community partners that will support business owners and equip them with the appropriate resources to achieve their business goals.
As businesses continue to drive out the difficulties brought by these last 18+ months, RDF, along with its investors and partners, is committed to continue innovating with products and services to provide opportunities for small business owners.
Learn more about the Focus Groups in a previous blog.