Tucson Helping Tucson (THT) Movement to benefit CIC creating a “Pay it Back to Pay it Forward” Small Business Emergency Fund


April 16, 2020

Danny Knee, Executive Director

Community Investment Corporation




Tucson Helping Tucson (THT) Movement to benefit Community Investment Corporation (CIC) 

Local Movement creating a “Pay it Back to Pay it Forward” Small Business Emergency Fund

[Tucson, Arizona]: A grassroots, local community movement, Tucson Helping Tucson, is teaming up with local nonprofit lender, Community Investment Corporation (CIC), to raise emergency loan and grant funds to support Tucson’s small business and creative communities through the devastating impact of closures related to COVID-19 in Tucson and surrounding areas. THT is a diverse group of local professionals, business owners, musicians, and creatives who immediately saw the financial sacrifices businesses were making in the wake of restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 and wanted to do something to help.

THT created a fundraiser in the form of a weekly variety show called THT TV that streams live on Facebook every Saturday night from 7-8:30 p.m. Locally inspired, locally driven and locally produced, the show features local musicians, artists, and other creatives as well as local business owners.

The funds raised will go to a revolving loan and grant fund housed at the Community Investment Corporation. CIC is a nonprofit economic development organization dedicated to the prosperity of Pima County and the surrounding area since 1996. Funds raised will provide critical and nimble support to local entities through zero-interest loans and small grants.

“Tucson’s identity and our economic prosperity are tied so closely to our local small businesses,” said Danny Knee, Executive Director of CIC. With published estimates that as many as 50% of all small businesses could close depending on the duration of containment efforts required for public safety, Knee explained that “the goal is to get funds into the hands of businesses as quickly as possible to keep them afloat.”

The idea for THT was originally conceived by Tom Heath of The Heath Team at Nova Home Loans. “Tucson just wouldn’t be Tucson without the local small business and creative communities. They are our local flavor and what makes us special,” Heath said. “Our goal is to provide local creatives paid opportunities to share newly created digital content and to build a significant fund to support small businesses with loans and grants, all while bringing the community together for some homegrown entertainment and connection.”

The loans THT is raising funds for will be zero interest, nonrecourse loans. “They are more pledges, than loans,” remarked Heath. “Our idea is that when businesses are ready and making money again, they would use a small percentage of their revenues to pay our loan back so that we can help another business in need.”

“We call it ‘paying it back to pay it forward,’” said Knee, adding that it is the idea behind many of the community-oriented revolving loan funds his organization manages. All of the funds raised and repaid by businesses will be used to create an ongoing emergency loan fund for future community uses beyond COVID-19.

CIC committed $200,000 of funding for COVID-19 relief loans which THT is now working to match and surpass through its community fundraising efforts.

To date, the partnership has already helped six small businesses including Five Points Market, Dish for Dosha and BK Promotional Solutions, Inc.  Two of the loans were completed through what CIC calls a “community backed loan program partnership” with Kiva US and Tucson Kiva Hub, Growth Partners Arizona. These particular loans were funded by individual community members who were able to loan their own money with a minimum investment of just $25 to the COVID-19 affected businesses.

“The community’s generosity is incredible,” said Carie Davis, CIC’s Director of Alternative Business Funding. “We’re hoping this unique approach of allowing people to either donate to our fund or lend directly to the businesses will create a bigger pool of funding to help.”

When safety permits, THT plans to produce a major three-day virtual event for the community to celebrate all that we are and all that we have overcome. THT partners include, Brink Media, Local First Arizona, Tucson Metro Chamber, Hotel Congress, Roux Events, Keri Silvyn, the Comic Bookmobile and many more.

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, homeownership 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! CICTucson.org

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Snowbird Pasties

The first CIC sponsored microloan recipient was Sue Ann Hockman, whose business, Snowbird Pasties, sells meat, vegetable, and vegan portable pot pies, known as pasties (PAST-eez).

The idea for her business came about while sitting around the kitchen table with family.  Pasties were a tradition in Hockman’s home, as they are in many “Yooper” households.  “Yoopers” are the nickname commonly given to those living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is where this Tucson transplant was born and raised.  Pasties were popular in this region because of the large population of miners that often took pasties down the mine shafts with them.  Since the food was portable and could be reheated on their lanterns, pasties were a common mining treat!

Organizational Mission:

Hockman’s mission with Snowbird Pasties is to spread the love of pasties throughout the Southwest and bring a taste of home to her fellow “Yoopers”.

Use of Loan Funds:

The loan capital allowed Snowbird Pasties to purchase an electric warmer, a display case, and a health department regulated hot water sink for hand washing, a requirement for selling hot food.


Without the loan from CIC, Hockman would have been unable to transition her business from frozen food sales to warmed, ready-to-eat meals.  This has helped her branch out and begin selling her product at different events across Tucson.

In addition to growing her thriving business, Hockman lends a hand to her fellow food makers through her work at the commissary kitchen, Cook Tucson.  She shares her learnings about health department regulations, licensing, permits, renting space, and getting into farmer’s markets, to give others a hand up as they embark down similar paths of starting food businesses.

For more information about Snowbird Pasties, or to place an order for food, visit


To read Sue Ann’s articles on Cook Tucson’s website, check out the following links.



Bajo Tierra Kitchen

The first recipients of a loan from the CIC and Community Food Bank lending partnership were business partners Cynthia Smith and Elianna Madril, whose business, Bajo Tierra Kitchen, sells Sonoran kimchi—the classic Korean fermented cabbage dish with a local twist

Organizational Mission:

Bajo Tierra uses locally-grown, organic ingredients, and was borne out of a passion for preserving excess produce that would otherwise go to waste.

Use of Loan Funds:

The loan capital allowed Bajo Tierra to rent a commercial kitchen and purchase the equipment necessary to expand their operation.


“It’s a chance to support local growers, create new job opportunities, and keep local food out of landfills,” said Smith of the business. “All while providing unique, local food to the community.”

While Bajo Tierra’s kimchi is already available at some local farmers’ markets, Smith and Madril have big dreams for the business and its impact on the Tucson community—and the CIC is helping to bring those dreams to life.  “We have all the plans in place,” said Smith. “We just needed a small amount of capital to get started. We’re so grateful to the Community Food Bank and Community Investment Corporation for helping us make this dream a reality.”

For more information about Bajo Tierra Kitchen, visit http://www.bajotierrakitchen.com/

5 Points Market & Restaurant

On nearly any weekend morning, seating is at a premium at the bustling 5 Points Market and Restaurant.  It is proof that Tucsonans are buying what owners Brian Haskins and Jasper Ludwig are selling – a focus on foods and ingredients sourced from local farmers. The restaurant and small grocery, which is named for the intersection on which it sits, has been an important part of the economic and physical revitalization of the Five Points area just south of Downtown Tucson.  While there may be some debate as to the exact moment the neighborhood began to rally, the renaissance has been almost a decade in the making now. The opening of 5 Points Market & Restaurant in 2014, a breakfast and lunch hot spot for those looking for a more neighborhood vibe than Tucson’s downtown revitalization offers, has been another important step to putting the Five Points area proverbially back on the map.

5 Points Market & Restaurant has the distinction of being mentioned by New York Times travel writer, Guy Trebay, as his “favorite hipster brunch spot” and being dubbed by Tucson Weekly reviewers as “what a modern neighborhood joint should be.” That’s high praise and proof that Brian and Jasper’s instincts about what Tucson wanted and needed from a local eatery were right.  Reasonably priced breakfast fare that includes huevos rancheros and a large “Make Your Own Breakfast” section at the bottom of the menu with umpteen choices of fresh, locally sourced food, has people literally lining up to eat there.  But things haven’t always been easy.

The duo got their start in the restaurant business after some struggles during the recent recession. Brian and Jasper moved from Olympia, Washington and settled in Tucson in 2010 but job opportunities were sparse for both at the time.  They had worked with at-risk youth in the northwest, but Brian and Jasper turned to their experience working in restaurants in high school and college when they couldn’t find jobs in the nonprofit sector.  He and Jasper had an existing and growing interest in food politics and “food paths” (how and how far foods travel from the places they are produced to the people who eat them).  Now, they have leveraged their interest and knowledge about the food distribution networks into a successful business that is working to become a model for what can be done within vibrant partnerships between restaurants and local growers.  Along the way, these dynamic entrepreneurs have received some help, including some recent financing that allowed Brian and Jasper to buy out a silent partner.  “It’s important that we own the business ourselves because of the direction we want to go,” Brian said.  “That’s the best part – it’s ours.”  He emphasizes the last two words as his face breaks into a smile.  

With a loan from local nonprofit lender, Community Investment Corporation, Brian and Jasper were able to secure full ownership of the business, as well as make kitchen floor repairs and to purchase a commercial food processor in preparation to expand the restaurant’s hours and serve a third meal, dinner.  

Brian describes how banks, despite the restaurant’s early success, weren’t willing to loan to them and how alternative lenders who might have been interested in their business were charging interest rates far beyond what they could afford.  Additionally, because of some contractual obligations, Brian and Jasper needed their loan on a short timeline that other lenders couldn’t meet.  “Most importantly, Community Investment Corporation was willing to make the loan,” Brian said.  “They also offered a lower interest rate in a timeframe that other SBA (Small Business Administration) lenders couldn’t meet and honestly, their staff was nice and helpful.”

For CIC Executive Director, Danny Knee, the loan was a no-brainer.  “Brian and Jasper are perfect examples of why we never underestimate the dreams of our borrowers or the economic impact of their efforts,” says Knee echoing the organization’s vision statement. “They are having a bigger impact on our local economy than just running a successful business.  They are impacting the way food travels from farm to table and they are keeping money in the region.”  In fact, all of their beef and pork comes from local ranches including the University of Arizona’s, their eggs come from Wilcox, and over 50% of their produce comes from local farmers.  

There are a lot of local efforts around food paths including Farm to Table programs.  Entrepreneurs like Brian and Jasper are the unsung heroes of our local economies.  Their drive to source food locally has benefits well beyond their own bottom line.  The direct economic impact on regional economies from spending on locally sourced food is well researched.  For example, in one study it was estimated that if North Carolina residents spent just 10% of their food dollars (roughly $1.05/day), approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy every year.  Whether or not you believe the exactitude of the much ballyhooed (and occasionally debated) statistic that produce travels an average of somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 miles from farm to plate, there is little doubt that locally sourcing food for restaurants and markets benefits local farmers, local economies, local consumers, and the environment.

“We focus on where our food comes from and we pride ourselves on the care we take in preparing it,” says Brian. “And providing steady income to local farmers is one of the most important things I can think of.” Brian and Jasper also support their community by paying their employees well and promoting from within, practices which have led to low staff turnover.  

Future plans include obtaining a liquor license so they can sell alcohol with meals and packaged beer and wine from their grocery.  As always, they’ll be looking for the local angle and trying to stock beers from local breweries.  

Success had bred growth and expansion including opening a farmers market at Cesar Chavez Park, a small pocket park next to the bricks and mortar of their restaurant and small grocery.  This has allowed farmers to deliver produce to the restaurant and sell to the public in one stop.  It has also provided patrons with something to do while they wait for a table, something that happens often during their peak season from November to March.  The farmers market is now open every Sunday from 10 a.m.  to 2 p.m.

5 Points Market & Restaurant is located at 756 S. Stone Ave and is open everyday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Pivot Produce

Pivot Produce is a produce distribution company active in the farm-to-table movement and a member of CIC’s Food Entrepreneur Loan Program with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. Founder and chef, Erik Stanford, has built a consortium of restaurants and farms which allows Tucson chefs access to the highest quality produce in the region and gives farmers access to Tucson’s top restaurants.

Organizational Mission:

The goal of Pivot Produce is twofold. The first is to provide access to wholesale markets for small scale farmers in Southern Arizona. The second is to provide local chefs with access to locally grown, organic produce.  Founder Erik Stanford bridges the gap between farmers and restaurants by purchasing local produce and delivering it directly to restaurants.

Use of Loan Funds:

Stanford was able to expand his cold storage from a two-door 90-square foot refrigerator to a 900-square foot walk-in refrigerator.  The remaining loan funds are being used to expand transportation capacity by purchasing a company vehicle.  He is also looking to hire his first part-time employee in the near future.


Stanford’s mental perception of Pivot Produce has changed as the loan helped him legitimize the business. “The loan took me from doing this as a hobby to a real business”, says Stanford.  Moreover, as a result of the loan, Pivot Produce has taken on six new farms, increased buying capacity, and has grown revenues.

For more information about Pivot Produce, visit http://www.pivotproduce.com/

Photo credit: Athene Kline

Copper Brothel Brewery

“The team at CIC was easy to work with during a time in the financing process where it was welcomed and refreshing. This is a great bridge program for rural area communities.”

Bob Jesser, Copper Brothel Brewery



“Working with Community Investment Corporation has been a great experience! From the beginning, I felt like the staff truly cared about my business and made it a comfortable process. They are always encouraging and very understanding. I definitely recommend CIC when it comes to small business loans!”

Andrea Salcido, Kettlelicious