November 12, 2019
CEI awarded $300,000 Wells Fargo grant to finance and coach women and immigrants growing businesses in Maine
(BRUNSWICK– November 12, 2019) – Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI) is the recipient of a $300,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation to expand its financing and advice for diverse small business owners in rural Maine. CEI is one of 18 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) nation-wide participating in the Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital (DCC) program, which helps diverse entrepreneurs grow.
Wells Fargo’s DCC funds are used by CDFIs to lend to business owners who are historically underrepresented by traditional financial services, including women, immigrants, African-American, Hispanic, American Indian/Pacific Islander, Asian-American, veterans, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, and others. The funds also support initiatives that increase access to capital and resources, such as technical assistance, marketing and outreach, and help more diverse small business owners get the coaching and education resources they may need. The program also has a social capital component, building networks and sharing lessons learned among CDFIs seeking to increase lending to diverse small businesses.
For over 20 years, CEI has worked closely with women entrepreneurs and people who have immigrated to Maine from other countries who wish to start businesses. CEI’s Women’s Business Center and StartSmart program for immigrants and refugees offer business advice and financial training for approximately 1,000 entrepreneurs each year.
Adrian Espinoza Garcia, owner of the Empanada Club in Portland, moved to Maine from Bolivia four years ago with his wife, a New England native. Hoping to find a footing in Maine’s burgeoning food economy, Garcia started making empanadas after he discovered that the savory hand pies abundant in Bolivia were practically impossible to find in Maine. As demand grew for Adrian’s made-from-scratch recipes, he realized he might have the beginnings of a successful business. His next step was to open a business bank account. He recalls, “I had no idea what I was doing, or where I was going to sell.” Adrian reached out to CEI for business advice and was connected to the StartSmart program. Initial meetings with StartSmart director John Scribner gave Adrian “the confidence to go forward in launching Empanada Club.” A CEI Wicked Fast business loan helped him buy the equipment he needed to scale up production in Portland’s Fork Food Lab commercial kitchen.
Emma Thieme, the entrepreneur behind Washington County’s Maven Seats and Maven Leather, found an important source of support in her advisors from CEI’s Women’s Business Center. Thieme, who creates custom motorcycle seats and leather handbags in Maine’s most rural region, said, “I see them as allies in what often feels like a jungle. I feel so lucky, everyday, that I’m able to live in this reality where I’m working completely for myself, but it can be unpredictable and often lonely. Having someone to help guide me through is an invaluable resource.”
“CEI’s mission is to grow an economy that works for everyone,” said Betsy Biemann, CEI’s CEO. “That means making sure that entrepreneurs who have a good idea or promising skillset get the help they need to be successful. Maine’s economy is dependent on diverse small business owners and businesses, but women and immigrants have a harder time accessing business financing and advice. Thanks to Wells Fargo’s DCC program, we are here to help them launch and grow their businesses.”
“Small businesses thrive when they receive critical support like technical assistance, marketing and increased access to capital,” said Megan Teare, manager for CDFI investing at Wells Fargo. “Over the past 40 years, CEI has provided in-depth support to thousands of diverse-owned small businesses and Wells Fargo is proud to support this important work.”
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) helps to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country by integrating financing, business and industry expertise, and policy solutions. CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. More at www.ceimaine.org.