3 Native CDFIs to Deliver Influx of Capital & Coaching to Native Small Business Owners

Theresa Desautel opened her Red Willow Café on the Colville Reservation with assistance from the CDFI Northwest Native Development Fund. (Photo by Uzoma Obasi/Northwest Area Foundation)

Relief is on the way for Native small business owners. A total of $6 million in grant funding is coming to three Native-led Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) — among the first to receive funds from Wells Fargo’s new Open for Business Fund. The grant will bring an influx of capital and coaching to Native small businesses.

First Nations Oweesta, the only Native CDFI intermediary, will receive the bulk of the funding: $5 million. Meanwhile, $500,000 will go to the Northwest Native Development Fund in Coulee Dam, Washington, and another $500,000 to Native360 in Grand Island, Nebraska. 

First Nations Oweesta will leverage the $5 million to create a dedicated capital pool to lend or re-grant to Native CDFIs that participate in small business lending. The injection of capital will strengthen the capacity of those Native CDFIs to serve Native borrowers.

“Our more tenured [Native CDFI] organizations have really built up the economic fabric within their respective Tribal communities, and Tribal members have increased their appetites to expand their personal assets,” Chrystel Cornelius (Ojibwe; Oneida), Executive Director of the Longmont, Colorado-based Oweesta, previously told Native Business.

READ MORE: Oweesta’s $10M Native CDFI Capital Pool to Fund Growth in Indian Country 

The Northwest Native Development Fund’s $500,000 will go to support small businesses including loggers, fishers and childcare providers in Washington State.

Native360 will deploy payment relief, emergency loans and technology grants to support American Indians in Nebraska, Iowa and Southeast South Dakota with the $500,000 grant. 

Wells Fargo launched the Open for Business Fund this summer as an approximately $400 million small business recovery effort across the U.S. to help entrepreneurs recover, rebuild and save jobs. 

READ MORE: Wells Fargo to Donate All PPP Fees, $400M, to Small Business Support 

“Small businesses simply cannot overcome the challenges ahead alone. The Open for Business Fund collaborates with organizations like these CDFI leaders who are experts and understand the challenges of the small business landscape and the impact of small business owners in Indian Country,” said Jenny Flores, head of small business growth philanthropy at Wells Fargo.

In addition to philanthropic funding for CDFIs, the Open for Business Fund has opened up a new grant cycle, open now through October 23, for nonprofits who provide technical expertise and mentoring to small business owners and diverse entrepreneurs, especially those hardest hit by COVID-19. Learn more here.

READ MORE: Wells Fargo Gets Real About Corporate Responsibility & Repairing Tribal Relations 




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