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El Planeta & Boston Business Journal, "Mill Cities launches its business equity investment fund"

Patricia Jorge first came to Mill Cities Community Investments (MCCI) in January 2019 and shared her dream of opening a one-of-a-kind restaurant showcasing an authentic blend of Latino flavors in a fun and modern setting in Lawrence. MCCI helped Patricia refine her business plan and financial projections to qualify her for a $70,000 MCCI Lawrence Venture Fund loan to purchase equipment, outfit a space, and launch Joy Empanadas. Erasmo Núñez, Patricia's husband and business partner, also played a vital role in the start-up and has worked extensively with MCCI

Equity investments for underserved entrepreneurs are 'beacon of hope for minority businesses in Massachusetts

By Marcos Porra - El Planeta Media

May 31, 2023

This article is available in Spanish in partnership with El Planeta Media. Este informe está disponible en español, en alianza con El Planeta Media.

Established in 2008 by Latino leaders, Mill Cities Community Investments (MCCI) has made significant strides in bridging the capital-access gap for low-to-moderate-income and under-resourced communities.

Headquartered in Lawrence, MCCI has a statewide reach, historically serving populations across the Merrimack Valley and recently expanding across the state. As a community development financial institution (CDFI), MCCI is a financing and lending alternative for businesses and homeowners, specializing in identifying and providing innovative solutions for capital needs with a flexible underwriting process.

In 2022, the Foundation for Business Equity (FBE), a Boston-based organization known for its work scaling businesses of color, merged with MCCI, marking a significant step towards expanding opportunities for accessing growth capital and advancing capacity to create stronger economic mobility in target communities.

Now, in a groundbreaking initiative aimed at fostering economic growth and addressing the wealth disparity in historically disinvested communities, MCCI announces the launch of its Business Equity Investment Fund. This fund is set to provide patient, longer-term financing capital to entrepreneurs in Massachusetts, especially those from the Black and Latino communities.

MCCI, the first Black-led community development financing institution in Massachusetts, has a rich history of close collaborations with community leaders and clients. They work tirelessly to develop innovative ways to deliver financial services, loans, and investments. With the launch of the Business Equity Investment Fund, they plan to bridge a significant gap in the market - accessibility of equity investment for minority and women entrepreneurs.

A Strategic Approach: Combining Capital and Advisory Services

In a recent interview with El Planeta, Anthony Rust, the director of MCCI's Business Equity Finance Ecosystem and manager for the fund, and Diana Ubiñas, MCCI's director of marketing and projects, discussed their vision for the fund's impact and their strategy to engage both businesses and investors in the region.

Rust explained the unique approach of MCCI, saying, "What we're trying to do first and foremost, is make businesses aware that we have more patient capital, we have equity financing that we're looking to put to work, which may be more favorable to them in terms of this structure...we take a much more optimistic view of the businesses thinking that there's a lot of untapped potential in these businesses and that if we finance their growth, that we can help them really achieve their full potential."

Targeted Outreach: Engaging the Latino Community

Ubiñas shed light on MCCI's plan to communicate and promote the business equity investment firm to entrepreneurs, specifically in the Latino and underserved communities in Massachusetts. She emphasized the organization's long-standing relationship within the communities they serve and highlighted their recent success stories.

She stated, "We have a long-standing relationship within the communities that we serve, working with black, Latino and other underserved small-business owners for a number of years. We are proud to have closed our first Business Equity Investment Fund deal in February of this year. And there is a pipeline of other interested businesses."

Building Success Stories: A Two-way Street for Investment

Attracting investors to support the Business Equity Investment Fund is a key aspect of MCCI's strategy. Rust highlighted the importance of recognizing the value of domestic emerging markets. He explained, "The more companies we invest into the more success stories we have, the easier it becomes to raise capital, but you have to have the capital in order to make the investments."

Looking Ahead: A Comprehensive Solution for Exponential Growth

When asked about their future aspirations for the Business Equity Investment Fund, Rust emphasized MCCI's comprehensive approach, offering not only capital but also strategic advisory services to businesses. This blend of financial and strategic support is part of MCCI's vision to provide a holistic solution to businesses, especially Latino-owned businesses in Massachusetts.

"Our flagship advisory program, the Business Equity Initiative, was founded by the Foundation for Business Equity," Rust said. "Now, under one umbrella at MCCI, this program not only provides capital access to Latino- and Black-owned businesses but also brings strategic advisory services, really adding that extra value that you just can't get with just capital."

The anticipated impact of this comprehensive approach is expected to resonate broadly, stimulating economic growth across Massachusetts, and specifically within the Latino community. By providing these strategic advisory services on top of capital investment, MCCI aims to facilitate exponential growth for these businesses.

"We think that not only is this a good measure for mitigating our risk on the capital side, but we also believe that bringing this resource of strategic advisory service in operations and business development on top of capital is going to play a role in contributing to exponential growth for these businesses," Rust concluded.

As we look towards a future where every entrepreneur, regardless of their background, has access to the resources they need to succeed, MCCI's Business Equity Investment Fund represents a significant step forward. By providing equity investment and strategic business support to underserved businesses, MCCI is playing a vital role in fostering inclusive economic growth across Massachusetts.


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