Farmers & Merchants (F&M) Bank of Long Beach, CA has awarded $60,000 to 22 local micro and small businesses since 2020. In the first year of the program, F&M Bank had 84 applicants. In the second year, more than 600. Recipients say these grants have come at the perfect time to help with challenges sometimes made even greater by the ongoing pandemic.
(Farmers & Merchants Segment appears at 28:37)
“There were a lot of small businesses in our community struggling, that were having to rethink how they do business and how to adapt to circumstances well beyond their control,” said Andrea Carlson, Vice President at F&M Bank.
“We were able to help more than 6,000 businesses through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but we still saw a gap in assistance for businesses that didn’t meet the criteria [for that program],” she said.
Applicants did not have to be members or clients of F&M Bank to be eligible to receive the grants. To qualify, a business had to have existed for at least two years, have fewer than 20 employees, be in the bank’s geographical service area, and have less than $1 million in revenue.
Microbusinesses Fall Through the Cracks
“F&M Bank is really a jewel for small businesses. People tend to forget about these microbusinesses, that make less than $2 million a year, have less than 20 employees. But there are a lot of us like that, we are a growing part of the greater economy, but we are so often overlooked,” said Omar Hernandez, a disabled veteran and owner of Global Urban Strategies, a PR firm for municipalities.
“Because of the pandemic, everything really just stopped. So our cash flow just stopped. So we worked off our cash reserves, and then our savings. For me, our employees are the most important component of my business. We have to invest in our people. This grant was so important to us, because we were able to keep getting everyone paid on time.”
Hernandez says he plans to become a customer of F&M Bank now. “The way I see it is, they invested in me, so why not go and do the same thing and do business with them?”
Tatiana Pacheco owns Andrea’s Healthy Kitchen, a juice bar in Rosemeade, CA. Just as sales began slowing down at the beginning of the pandemic, her business location suffered a colossal fire. “It took us one year to reopen. Even though December is our slowest month, we were able to keep our employees paid for that month. This grant came at just the right time,” Pacheco said.
Black-Owned Businesses Disproportionately Harmed by Pandemic
A study1 from the early months of the pandemic showed 41% of Black-owned businesses closing their doors. Thirty-two percent of Latinx-owned businesses closed. Compared to about 17% of white-owned businesses. So F&M Bank gave priority to grant applicants whose businesses serve underprivileged neighborhoods, and/or are owned by people of color.
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial is an attorney and financial and estate planner on a mission to close the racial wealth gap. She started her business prior to the pandemic offering financial education and estate planning to business owners and families.
“For me, these funds are going to build infrastructure and software to help me continue to serve my clients virtually. So online scheduling software, client management systems, even paying the annual fees to be an LLC,” Eaton said. “There is a big disparity—40% of Black businesses went out of business last year, because of COVID and lack of access to resources and money. That’s why I’m so passionate about talking to my community about money and being strategic with it.”
Eaton said she’s also planning on hiring her first employee this year.
F&M Bank was founded in 1907 on the principles of honesty, integrity, the home, the church, and service above self. Each year F&M Bank gives away more than $1 million to charities, non-profit organizations, and religious entities within the communities they serve.
Find them on social media, and learn more about the other extraordinary entrepreneurs who received grants as part of this program. And thanks to Farmers and Merchant’s Bank for investing in the community.
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