March 29, 2024

First Community Capital helps small businesses, underserved communities in Inland Empire

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Financial intuitions are not immune to economic challenges, however, this organization is seeing an upswing.

As a recent recipient of a grant from the Black Equity Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation, First Community Capital in Riverside now has an opportunity to expand and continue offering its services with more ease. The organization provides loans to small businesses and underserved communities, mostly low-income individuals, and entrepreneurs, but Founder Member, President and CEO, T. Jay Diallo, shares details about a recent hurdle the organization faced.

“We have been struggling with the technical aspect related to the front-end underwriting process,” Diallo said. “We did not have the capital to address that, but because of this grant, now we’re getting closer to getting a technology that would allow us to process our loans online, so customers don’t have to fill out paperwork.

“Everything can be done online — from origination, all the way to closing of the loan,” he said.

The organization places a strong emphasis on businesses owned by BIPOC individuals, including women, veterans, refugees, immigrants, and those impacted by the justice system.

The African Immigrant Empowerment Cohort, from left, Jay Diallo, Fatimoh Muhammed, Rahmat Adeniji in 2023. (Courtesy of First Community Capital)

The grant also helped First Community Capital provide another unique way to assist small businesses.

“There are a lot of organizations that provide business counseling and such, but we deal with a lot of low-income individuals that may not have resources available out there, so we work with them directly, providing technical assistance,” Diallo said. “That’s everything from credit education to financial literacy.

“The funding we received allows us to cover some of the costs,” he said, “because usually we do the services at no cost to our clients or people in the community. It now allows us to cover the costs associated with providing that technical assistance.”

First Community Capital creation was inspired by a meeting Diallo had with Muhammad Yunus, a microfinance pioneer. Diallo and others put their dream of helping others in motion. Less than a year later, the organization emerged as an ambitious nonprofit organization which focuses on offering microloans and technical assistance.

Diallo, who was in banking for 16 years before launching First Community Capital, recalls several key components that sparked his desire to move forward on this bold new endeavor.

The First Community Capital and Riverside County Black Chamber of Commerce monthly informational mixer in September 2023. (Courtesy of First Community Capital)

“As we’ve seen time and time again, banks don’t typically do small-business lending or individual lending to low-income family or low income people,” he said. “What ends up happening is that a lot of the startup businesses, mom-and-pop businesses, home-based businesses, and even the ones that are just having a side hustle, sometimes might need help — like $2,500 or $5,000 to buy equipment or inventory, so they can supplement their regular income, and just do their business.”

As one of the few official Community Development Financial Institutions — Diallo notes 300 nationally — the organization has greater freedom to help low-income individuals who want to start their business providing loans up to $25,000.

Taking a holistic approach to financial support is key, too, Diallo said and he wants others to realize the organization wants to assist. Consumer loans come to mind — First Community Capital offers up to $2,500 on that front, he said, to help individuals build their credit.

“If they want to build their credit, they can get a loan from us,” he said. “We can report that to the credit bureau so that they can report in their payment and build their credit.”