Small businesses are vital to local and regional economies. Local nonprofits not only recognize their contributions, but actively encourage business growth by connecting owners with financing, as well as guidance and networking opportunities.
California has a large community of nonprofit lenders, which typically work with small businesses in disadvantaged areas or entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Microlenders typically offer loans of $50,000 or less, though some provide bigger loans.
Because financing in particular is hard to come by, we’ve rounded up a list of top microlenders in the Golden State and highlighted three with strong connections to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, where startups and small businesses have been known to thrive.
The lenders below are top options for California businesses, based on 2014 data — the most recent available from the Aspen Institute’s FIELD program, which collects information from U.S. microlenders.
Top Bay Area microlenders
Microloans funded in 2014: $2.7 million
Kiva U.S. is a branch of Kiva, an international nonprofit based in San Francisco that seeks to eliminate poverty through crowdfunding programs. Kiva U.S. provides interest-free direct microloans of up to $10,000 to small businesses. To qualify, businesses must pass a “social underwriting” process, meaning they find backers in their own communities or get an endorsement from a Kiva Trustee (an organization or individual who connects borrowers to Kiva) before they are allowed on the crowdfunding site.
Microloans funded in 2014: $1.7 million
Working Solutions is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides funding to eligible entrepreneurs in all nine Bay Area counties. The organization connects borrowers with loans from $5,000 to $50,000 and prioritizes funding for low-income individuals, women and minorities. Businesses also receive five years of coaching, mentorship and resources.
Microloans funded in 2014: $1.6 million
Formally OBDC Small Business Finance, Mainstreet Launch provides small businesses in Oakland with loans from $10,000 to $250,000, and small businesses in San Francisco with loans from $25,000 to $250,000. The organization also connects business owners with education and networking opportunities to help them improve their business skills.
Top 10 microlenders in California
|Organization||Headquarters||Loan Volume in 2014||Number of Loans in 2014|
|Opportunity Fund||San Jose||$17.7 million||1,291|
|Valley Economic Development Center||Sherman Oaks||$4.4 million||325|
|Accion San Diego||San Diego||$3.1 million||324|
|Kiva U.S.||San Francisco||$2.7 million||578|
|Working Solutions||San Francisco||$1.7 million||85|
|Mainstreet Launch||Oakland||$1.6 million||45|
|CDC Small Business Finance||San Diego||$847,087||28|
|Santa Cruz Community Credit Union||Santa Cruz||$687,971||56|
|California FarmLink||Santa Cruz||$452,759||31|
Apply for Small Business Money Bootcamp in San Francisco
Join NerdWallet, Townsquared, and the San Francisco Small Business Development Center (SF SBDC) in San Francisco on Jan. 25, 2017, for the Small Business Money Bootcamp, a hands-on workshop designed to help you unlock the right capital for your business, including one-on-one sessions with local lenders for loan-ready applicants. To learn more and apply, please visit nerd.me/smallbizmoneybootcamp.
For other small-business financing, compare options on NerdWallet’s small-business loans tool page.