On the surface, a grocery co-op and a staffing firm may not seem to have much in common. But East Aurora Cooperative Market and First Step Staffing were both funded by the same inspiring CDFI: Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF).
Financing plays a critical role in building and sustaining strong communities. LEAF funds social enterprises working for their community, providing financing and development assistance to cooperatives and social purpose ventures that create and save jobs for low-income people.
Since its founding over 30 years ago, LEAF has invested and leveraged over $98 million, resulting in the creation or retention of more than 7,650 jobs.
LEAF is a non-profit community development financial institution, and one of only three in the country that focus on cooperatives. One of LEAF’s clients, Fairbanks Co-op Market (pictured) received $200,000 in financing from LEAF.
LEAF lends nationally. If you’re seeking social enterprise funding, see if one of LEAF’s focus areas fits your business.
LEAF shared updates on their inspiring community work:
East Aurora Cooperative Market was founded in 2010 in response to the lack of local, healthy food options in a Western New York farming area. The community has shown great support for the co-op, investing over $875,000 in member loans and preferred shares. The co-op now has almost 1,200 members and is in the middle of construction on its future store. LEAF, along with Shared Capital Cooperative (formerly NCDF), is happy to help make this store a reality, which along with offering more healthy food options, will also provide the community with fifty-two new jobs over the next ten years.
First Step Staffing, Inc. (FSS) is a staffing firm in Atlanta,GA, that provides companies with a socially responsible alternative to typical staffing agencies, while offering meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment, including the homeless, veterans, the disabled and those with criminal backgrounds. Along with job placements, FSS also provides supportive services such as transportation, coaching, and uniforms. FSS currently places 220 people in job assignments each day. LEAF’s new loan will help them to expand their services to provide over 1,000 assignments per day, having a much greater impact on reducing homelessness in the Atlanta area.
EAF’s executive director, Gerardo Espinoza, was recently asked to join the board of the Food Co-op Initiative (FCI). For over ten years, FCI has helped hundreds of communities across the country who want to start food co-ops by providing information, training and technical assistance, and seed capital. LEAF and FCI have worked together for many years in their shared mission to provide healthy food to more people and introduce communities to the power of cooperatives. Gerardo looks forward to being even more involved with this great organization as a member of its board.