Supporting Innovation in Education

Over $600,000 in seed funding will be awarded through A for Arizona’s Expansion and Innovation Fund, including the Pima IDA’s gift, empowering innovative school and community leaders, teachers, and families to implement their bold ideas for reimagining learning models, creating and scaling more student-focused programs, and developing better teaching and learning educational approaches. Applications are being accepted for this grant funding June 3 – July 8 at noon.

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StartupTucson IdeaFunding Award Winners

Idea Funding

IdeaFunding, led by our friends at Startup Tucson & Arizona Commerce Authority, was held on April 15, 2021. It was a day-long digital entrepreneurial experience including Southern Arizona’s largest pitch competition, inspirational community Resiliency Awards, and powerful thought-leaders.

Adelante Award

CIC was honored to sponsor the Adelante Award. An award that supports diverse founders, such as women-owned and BIPOC-owned companies.

Originally intended to be one $5,000 award, CIC was so impressed by two founders’ pitches that we just had to support both! 

Learn more and support these powerhouse entrepreneurs:


Obánj is a monthly subscription service that lets you borrow designer and artisan jewelry from designers like Oscar de la Renta and Balenciaga. Depending on your Membership Plan, you can borrow one, two, or three pieces of jewelry per month.

Ku' Panda Skincare

Ku’Panda is a high quality experience with affordable prices. Herbs, Actives and Potent Botanicals hydrate, brighten and treat skin. Our products are kissed by Tucson with wildcrafted herbs sourced by local herbalists. Active ingredients are strategically used to guarantee you results backed by science.

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Kiva Tucson Making an Impact

The rate that entrepreneurs are starting new businesses in the US has been flat for almost 20 years. While there are many factors, lack of access to capital is a barrier that is difficult for many would-be business owners to overcome. This trend of stagnant new business growth is fueled by the reality that a significant portion of the population – women, people of color and rural entrepreneursface significant hurdles finding funding necessary to start and grow a new business.

This is problematic because entrepreneurs – not big businesses – are fueling all new net job creation (Kaufman, Start Us Up).

“Supporting and expanding entrepreneurship increases jobs, innovation, and productivity.” Wendy Guillies, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation. This is going to be crucial for the recovery we face in the wake of the pandemic.

At CIC, we’ve been building platforms to offer more options to entrepreneurs to access capital, in many cases creating the first rung on the capital access ladder for small business owners. 

One such platform we’ve activated in partnership with Growth Partners Arizona and the City of Tucson is Kiva – a community backed lending platform for small business owners, offering 0%, zero fee micro loans from $1,000 – $15,000. Since the launch of Kiva Tucson, 23 local business owners have raised nearly $200,000 in funding to grow and develop their business during one of the toughest times for small business, many of which have been drastically impacted by COVID-19.

Another fascinating statistic that confirms the findings of the Kauffman Foundation, these 23 small businesses have added a total of 44 new jobs since July 2020. 

“Without the loan I was able to raise through Kiva, I would never have been able to further develop my business helping to place nurses in healthcare facilities. I’ve been able to hire 15 healthcare workers who rely on my business to connect them where the need is greatest.” Philemon Prescoss, CEO, 3Twelves.

As a restaurant owner during this time, Gada Ghotmi, owner of Med Cuisine, has known the challenges first hand across many fronts. She and her husband were both hospitalized with COVID-19, but she was determined to build her business back, and with the help of a Kiva loan to provide the funding she needed to restock and hire help, she’s been able to hire 6 people since July 2020. “Kiva was the lifeline we needed. No bank was willing to loan money to a restaurant owner in the middle of the pandemic.”

CIC is committed to continued innovation for entrepreneurs to access the capital needed to build and grow business for the community to accelerate recovery, and ensure the US economy has the fuel it needs to grow sustainably.

BIPOC Community Manage Loan Fund ANNOUNCED

A new resource for BIPOC entrepreneurs and business owners in all stages of business.

UPDATE: Program details announced June, 30, 2021: 

This loan fund is the brainchild of Community Investment Corporation (CIC) staff who wanted to take action in the wake of recent and ongoing national tragedies and calls for racial equity and justice. In partnership and with the support of BLAX Friday and Startup Tucson, CIC will shift decision-making to the community itself about where (geographically), to whom (communities of color underserved by financial institutions and systems), and under what circumstances (measures of risk) capital flows.

Traditional economic structures and capital access mechanisms have deprived too many BIPOC individuals, families, and entrepreneurs of essential financial empowerment tools for too long. We are proposing a new approach and solution to promote holistic societal and economic equity and health.

Purpose: To offer 0% interest loan funding to early stage BIPOC identifying entrepreneurs in the first 5 years of formalized business ownership. This funding will come from an established revolving loan fund” housed and managed by CIC Revolving loan funds are self-replenishing pools of money, typically utilizing interest and principal payments from existing loans to issue new ones. Because the initial loans from this fund will be originated at zero interest, the fund in its nascency will rely on financial and in-kind support from CIC. Funding for the inaugural BIPOC loan has been generated by CIC with all current staff making personal contributions. CIC is also actively fundraising to grow the pool of available funds with an initial goal of raising $100,000 for distribution in 2021. All repayment of loans will be reinvested in the fund – these funds may be loaned out with nominal interest in the future to help offset administrative costs of managing the fund. 

Process:  The BIPOC Community Managed Loan Fund will redefine traditional lending qualifications and decision making. CIC staff will act as educator, facilitator and guide, and will originate and service all loans and manage all monies in relation to this fund.  Decision making will however be done solely by the BIPOC CMLF members. The committee will establish and define underwriting criteria, loan application details and the process for approval, as well as make the final decisions on loan approvals. The committee will meet monthly  

Fundamentals of loan (subject to change based on committee): 

  • Up to $10,000 
  • 3 to 5-year term 
  • 0% interest 
  • No traditional collateral needs to be pledged 
  • Entrepreneur within first 5 years of formalized business ownership 

Estimated timeline and next steps:

  • Establish the Community Managed Loan Fund (CMLF) Committee
  • Educate CMLF Committee on traditional lending practices
  • CMLF Committee to create guidelines, underwriting requirements, application, and decision-making framework for loans
  • Public launch of the program including an open call for loan applicants

Questions? Want to be contacted regarding updates?

This project is made possible with the generous support of the following:

HFAC Partnership Impact Report

In mid-March, as Arizona began to implement public health and safety measures, our community’s small businesses began a long hard uncharted road that was and is difficult to navigate. The journey continues as COVID-19 mitigations are still a critical part of containing this pandemic, but we at CIC would like to take a quick pause to give incredible thanks to those who helped support our emergency response work in the first few months of this crisis. 

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COVID-19 Emergency Relief Impact Report

In mid-March, as Arizona began to implement public health and safety measures, our community’s small businesses began a long hard uncharted road that was and is difficult to navigate. The journey continues as COVID-19 mitigations are still a critical part of containing this pandemic, but we at CIC would like to take a quick pause to give incredible thanks to those who helped support our emergency response work in the first few months of this crisis. 

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Wefunder Tucson Launches Two Women-Led Equity Crowdfunding Campaigns


May 29, 2020

Danny Knee, Executive Director

Community Investment Corporation (CIC)


CIC and Wefunder Launch Two Women-Led Equity Crowdfunding Campaigns

Here at the Community Investment Corporation (CIC), we’re dedicated to expanding economic opportunities for entrepreneurs across Southern Arizona and the broader cross-border region of Sonora. We’re continuing to evolve as we discover new needs in the community and match those to better, more accessible options for funding.

Entrepreneurship, the lifeblood of our economy, is in decline

A study from The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) describes how entrepreneurial activity started slowing down 30 years ago, took a sharp hit during the economic downturn of the 2000’s and has yet to recover. “We’ve seen decent job growth but 0% new business growth” says Zach Yentzer, host of The Tipping Point podcast on KVOI The Voice. (source)

The challenge most heard from entrepreneurs is lack of access to capital. This presents a tremendous opportunity to bring new funding options to Tucson to support entrepreneurs starting and growing businesses in our community. One such option is equity crowdfunding. To raise awareness and uptake of this new-ish funding option, CIC has formed a partnership with Wefunder, an equity crowdfunding platform out of San Francisco.

What is equity crowdfunding?

The recently passed JOBS Act allowed companies to raise funding through non-accredited investors (the 97% of the population who are not high-net-worth individuals), also known as Regulation Crowdfunding. CIC has partnered with Wefunder to promote this option to local business owners and provide resources to help them be successful.

This opens up the door for Community Capital: a movement to democratize financial systems, where empowered citizen investors catalyze the growth of locally-rooted ventures creating economic opportunity for all, especially inclusion of communities and entrepreneurs historically excluded from traditional funding models.

Today we are excited to announce our first two campaigns launching on Wefunder – Fuego Fino and Stackhouse, both women-led companies.

More about Fuego Fino, Inc. and Stackhouse

 Fuego Fino, Inc:

Fuego Fino, Inc is an eco-friendly wine and spirits company headed by local Tucson native Jessica Contreras.

“My goal has always been to give back to the community in which I was born and raised by providing jobs. We are in the process of rolling out the first phase of our expansion, which will include a distribution and marketing hub based in the Tucson area,” says Fuego Fino Founder Jessica Contreras. 

Fuego Fino on WeFunder


Stackhouse is a real estate development company that seeks to make homeownership more accessible and downtown living more affordable regardless of the real estate market.

“After exploring multiple funding options, we chose WeFunder for the opportunity it provided the community to invest, and our platform will benefit Tucson by providing more affordable housing options. I feel like we’re at the forefront of a movement to expand entrepreneurship through innovative funding solutions like WeFunder and we’re excited to be a part of it.” Janelle Briggs, Founder and CEO of Stackhouse.

Stackhouse on WeFunder

“We’re excited to see that our first two Wefunder campaigns are both helmed by women founders, and it speaks to the need for alternative funding platforms to provide capital access to support more businesses owned by women.” Danny Knee, CEO, Community Investment Corporation

“Wefunder is a great platform for founders who might typically find it harder to raise capital from conventional funding sources. Last year, less than 3% of VC capital went to female-led companies. But it’s encouraging that the first two Wefunder campaigns launching in Tucson are led by women. Through our partnership with CIC, we’re hoping to fund more and more female founders, as well as entrepreneurs of color, in the Tucson community, over the coming months and years.” Jonny Price, Wefunder

“Ownership in a spirits business is typically limited to a handful of wealthy families passed  on from generation-to-generation. We are offering the opportunity for Tucsonans to participate as OWNERS while helping to build the community,” says Jessica Contreras, Founder of Fuego Fino, Inc. 

If you’re interested in investing in these businesses, check out their campaigns on Wefunder:


Fuego Fino

About CIC: Community Investment Corporation is a nonprofit economic development organization dedicated to the prosperity of Pima County and the surrounding area since 1996. Committed to expanding economic opportunities, CIC pursues three distinct program areas including support and financing for entrepreneurship/small business, home ownership and education. CIC’s goal is to promote economic inclusion for all members of southern Arizona, regardless of socioeconomic status. Specifically, CIC’s work ensures that more people in the community can get the funding they need to start, sustain, and grow their small businesses, can buy homes, and can access the education they want for their children. We fund YOUR dreams!