Video & Transcript – REAL People’s Fund: Revolutionizing Our Economy for All Local People


[Chef Mieko, Owner, Hella Nuts, the Plant-based Eatery]
Obtaining traditional lending can be tough because you have to have a “perfect credit score” and so if you’ve had no track record of having that, almost every lender here in the Bay Area said no. If you don’t know people, you really won’t get the funding here.

[Tash Nguyen, REAL People’s Fund Board Chair Representing Restore Oakland]
Alameda and Contra Costa counties are vibrant, ethnically diverse, and resilient communities. It’s entrepreneurs of color that are the drivers of building an inclusive economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled the curtain on historically deep racial inequities that folks of color face.

[Reem Assil, Chef & Co-Owner of Reem’s California]
The challenges my businesses are facing were really the challenges before COVID. As a woman of color-run business, it’s really hard to get investors to get capital. We have to prove ourselves ten times more than our white male counterparts. [Nina Robinson, Project Director at RUNWAY] In the early stages of a business, we rely on “Friends & Family” capital to get started, and due to the racial wealth gap, communities of color don’t have access to the capital they need to fund and sustain their businesses.

[Ariana Marbley, CEO of Esscents of Flowers]
I have ideas for the business to grow. I want to be able to employ more people from my community and I want my business to remain in Oakland. Within the first week or two of the shutdowns, I lost about 90% of the upcoming projects, and trying to find funding was the hardest. I have never been told so many “no’s,” at least not to my recollection [laughs].

[Tash Nguyen, REAL People’s Fund Board Chair Representing Restore Oakland]
The REAL People’s Fund is incredibly unique because it’s community-controlled. Our goal is to build economic power and collective wealth for our communities. Activists and community organizers came together to create the REAL People’s Fund, a targeted $10 million fund that puts the decision-making power into the hands of the community. The REAL People’s Fund stands for Revolutionizing our Economy for All Local People. We are a community-controlled capital fund for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the East Bay.

[Esther Goolsby, REAL People’s Fund Board Member Representing Communities for a Better Environment]
This fund was founded by community, and it’s for community. We started the REAL People’s Fund so we can fund the people that the system hasn’t.

Nina Robinson: There is a high level of distrust and extraction that has happened at the hands of our financial and banking systems, and so we need to disrupt those industries and create new policies and a new rulebook so that capital can flow freely – and the REAL People’s Fund helps us do just that.

Tash Nguyen: We’re founded and co-governed by grassroots organizations who have been here for decades. The fund is administered through a partnership between lenders: Community Vision and RUNWAY. Loans will be paired with hands-on business support through Uptima Entrepreneur Cooperative.

Nina Robinson: The partnership between Community Vision, RUNWAY, and Uptima is absolutely magical. We’re leveraging each others’ strengths. There’s a lot of deep trust, listening, and learning, and we are stronger when we are working together.

Ariana Marbley: Without Uptima, without RUNWAY, I don’t believe Esscents of Flowers would have been as successful as it is now. Having lending and the combination of a business-accelerator program, specifically, is important for businesses because it definitely gives you a push start. It gives you funding so that you’re able to obtain your goals. Tash Nguyen: When we are able to generate collective wealth, we’re able to keep small businesses here. And that’s what’s needed to create long-term systems change.

Reem Assil: At Reem’s, we were adamant about making sure that our employees were paid livable wages and were offered career paths and ways to grow in the company.

[Luis Vasquez, Co-Owner at Reem’s California]
Una de las cosas que me emociona es el cambio porque todos escucha practica de algunos compañeros de trabajo que quieren convertirse en copropietarios porque quieren tener algo propio.
One of the things that excites me is this change we’re making. I’ve heard from co-workers that they want to become co-owners because they want to have something of their own.

Reem Assil: We need partners like Uptima and RUNWAY who see our long term vision and wealth – not just to invest in our business, but us as leaders.

Tash Nguyen: We are the folks who hire our own. We are the folks who provide quality living-wage jobs. And we build vibrancy in our neighborhoods.

Esther Goolsby: With this fund, the people who are normally locked out will be able to get the loans that they need to be able to start their business or to stay afloat. Chef Mieko When we got our funding, we were able to get all of our commercial equipment.

Tash Nguyen: It’s small businesses like Reem’s, Esscents of Flowers, and Hella Nuts that make our communities vibrant. And they need resources and access to capital to be able to thrive.

Nina Robinson: This is a really exciting opportunity to be part of a groundbreaking fund that is shifting the mold; it’s shifting the power. And it’s creating opportunities to learn and have the maximum impact possible. So the time is now. It’s your chance to use your money for good. Join us! Tash Nguyen Communities of color in the East Bay are here to stay.