Organizational Partnership Success StoriesMeet our partner organizations who are helping us make a positive impact in our community.
In 2016, Community Investment Corporation (CIC) wanted to expand its impact beyond its current client base of small business owners that were referred over to us by banks and other lending institutions that were unable to give them loans. CIC saw an opportunity to bring its financial expertise and resources, as well as, its long and successful history as a small business lender to bear on the problems and issues other social service organizations in our community faced.
CIC finalized its first partnership to help another nonprofit organization with its direct service efforts in November of that year. In conjunction with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, CIC launched a microloan program which provides low-interest, short-term loans to entrepreneurial clients whose business goals complement the broader mission of the Food Bank. The loans range from $500 to $5,000, with competitive, below-market interest rates.
The first recipients of a loan from the Community Food Bank 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. Bajo Tierra uses locally-grown, organic ingredients, and was borne out of a passion for preserving excess produce that would otherwise go to waste.
“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.”
The loan capital allowed Bajo Tierra to rent a commercial kitchen and purchase the equipment necessary to expand their operation.
“We’re excited to be able to support our local food community in a new way,” said Michael McDonald, CEO of the Community Food Bank. “It’s inspiring to see local entrepreneurs working to promote healthy food and reduce food waste.”
In addition to servicing the loans and assisting with underwriting, skills which the Community Food Bank didn’t possess, CIC provides an equal match in loan funds. The Community Food Bank, meanwhile conducts the outreach for the partnership and helps ensures applicants are aligned with their mission of “building a healthy, hunger-free tomorrow.” By bringing two organizations’ vastly different skillsets together, the partnership is having a far greater impact than if either had gone it alone.
The Community Food Bank is still accepting applications for microloans from local food entrepreneurs. Prospective loan recipients whose small businesses support the Community Food Bank’s mission can learn more and apply at communityfoodbank.org/microloans.