More than 45% of families in LA County live below the self-sufficiency standard. In LA, it takes more than three full-time, minimum wage jobs for a typical family to pay for necessities. To bridge the income gap, many–in particular minorities and immigrants–turn to entrepreneurship as a path to economic security, a strategy that also stimulates job creation in their communities.
A 2012 CNN report noted, “[Small and medium enterprises] in the U.S. create over 85% of all jobs." If one in three microenterprises hired an additional person, the U.S. would return to full employment. Yet 50% of small businesses fail, often due to an inability to access affordable and responsible capital needed for growth because of language and cultural barriers, limited assets, and poor/insufficient credit.
Opportunity Fund's small business program is an investment in address this daunting economic indicator and reaching all small business owners to provide them with sound capital with which to build their enterprises.
Opportunity Fund is California's largest nonprofit microlender. Our innovative microlending model enables Los Angeles' underserved small business owners access so they can build vibrant enterprises, and a brighter future for themselves, their families and their communities. We provide loans from $2,600 to $250,000, at affordable, fixed interest rates to disadvantaged entrepreneurs. Our model balances technology, efficiency, market knowledge, and impact measurement to remove barriers to credit that many of our borrowers face when declined by banks.
We use a variety of innovative marketing strategies to reach small business owners including our street team of loan officers, bank referrals, online presence, and a first-of-its kind partnership with Lending Club, the nation's largest online lender. Last year, we launched our Community Partners Program in LA to provide multiple layers of microenterprise assistance, leverage each other's strengths and have a deeper reach.
Through Opportunity Fund's Community Partners Program, we've worked closely with community organizations like MCS BusinessSource Center which shares Opportunity Fund's core value of helping small business owners gain access to responsible and transparent lending. By working with MCS BusinessSource Center, Opportunity Fund has created a consistent referral channel for microbusiness, thereby generating new loan volume.
Through our ten LA community partners, including two signed in 2017, we have originated 32 loans for a loan volume of $353,751, creating/sustaining nearly 100 new jobs, and generating nearly $690,000 in new economic activity through new wages, spending and taxes. Building the framework to support our partners—such as product training, collateral marketing material, processes and communication channels, designing and writing a monthly partner-directed newsletter, and developing “how to" sessions with partners offered to small business clients—has demanded more time than originally anticipated. Going forward, with a strong system in place for our existing partners, Opportunity Fund's staff is anticipating being able to dedicate more time to adding more partners to the program, and originating new lending through that channel that creates stronger small businesses, economic mobility for our clients and their families, and employees.
With the support of the LA2050 My Grants Challenge, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary's University recently launched its new Empowering Girls & Creating a Gender-Balanced Media Landscape program. This program provides scholarships for 50 girls from across Los Angeles to attend the Institute's See Jane Salon series, quarterly events that engage entertainment industry professionals and corporate influencers in discussions on achieving greater gender equity in media. In addition to attending the salons, scholarship recipients will also have the chance to take part in other special mentoring programs and opportunities over the course of one year.
The Institute partnered with local peer organizations, including the Fulfillment Fund, Urban Fitness 911, DIY Girls, LA Makerspace, and Steamcoders, to help spread the word and reach a diverse group of young woman.
The program's first salon, “The Easiest Way to Add Female Characters: It Starts With A Script!" was held at Fullscreen Media in Playa Vista on June 5, 2017. Program panelists included Geena Davis; Craig Gerber, Creator & Executive Producer of Disney's Elena of Avalor; Daron Nefcy, Creator & Executive Producer of Disney's Star vs. The Forces of Evil; and Rebecca Rusch, professional athlete and creator and star of the film Blood Road. Alex Cohen, KPCC's Morning Edition Host, moderated the discussion, which centered on ways to improve female representation in media that start in the writers' room.
As the Empowering Girls & Creating a Gender-Balanced Media Landscape program progresses, three more salons are planned for August, November, and February. Additionally, a program featuring a speed mentoring session with a range of entertainment industry professionals is scheduled for early September.
At the program's conclusion, the Institute will survey scholarship recipients to assess the quality of the program and its impact on their knowledge and interest in gender equity in media. The Institute will also evaluate the program's influence on inspiring the participants to pursue their own careers in the entertainment industry, and will track the number of participants who go on to attain internships and jobs in the industry or start their own creative endeavors or businesses.
SXSW's community panel picker gives YOU the opportunity to shape the sessions on the most innovative ideas, solutions, and thought leaders shaping issue ranging from education to the digital economy. No surprise that there are tons of great panel ideas submitted from LA. Here's a selection of awesome sessions from LA-based organizations and companies. Read on and vote on your favorites to help LA get on the SXSW stage!
This session will examine how an in-district, public-private management model is transforming 18 of the highest needs K-12 traditional public schools in Los Angeles - the nation's second largest school district. The panel will feature Joan Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a former My LA2050 grantee.
Be inspired by young founders of unique emerging concepts in the hospitality industry. Learn how they are successfully disrupting the status quo. Hear from Elvina Beck, the founder of PodShare, a revolutionary co-living concept ranked #1 on TripAdvisor in Los Angeles.
In 2016-17, the Los Angeles County Arts Ed Collective collected data about the quality, quantity and equity of arts education from schools and school districts across LA County. Matthew Agustin, Research Associate, Los Angeles County Arts Commission will focus on findings from the commission's analysis and what it reveals about the distribution of arts instruction in LA County.
In order for communities to thrive in the digital economy, they need to be cultivated locally. This means businesses that are designed to sustain the surrounding community. Silicon Varrios cultivate relevant events and creative thinking to solve the needs that are unique to our neighborhoods. This dual presentation will explore this concept with two people that are shaping the digital economy from the barrios of Los Angeles. Featuring Leo Este, Creative Director, Small Green Door and Cisco Pinedo, Founder and CEO, Cisco Home
This panel of experts, from the left and the right, will address when, and how, governments can wake up to the digital demands of modern citizens. Ted Ross, CIO at City of Los Angeles, will be talking about what's happening locally.
There is huge financial value in pro teams developing youth programs to get kids into their system, but teams are just now unlocking the tremendous social value of youth initiatives as well. We'll look at some best practices in sports of reaching youth communities, and explore the work that still needs to be done to provide further opportunities. Featuring Nichol Whiteman, Executive Director, Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.
The Triforium Project is a group dedicated to the restoration and revival of an unusual piece of public art in Downtown Los Angeles, The Triforium. Built in 1975, The Triforium was a groundbreaking, technology-driven, interactive musical instrument designed to synchronize light and music in “polyphonoptic" compositions for all to enjoy. Unfortunately, it never quite worked as designed, and suffered a number of technological, financial, and political setbacks over its lifetime. Once a beacon of light, music, and color downtown, it has stood mute and dark for many years.
Because of the large-scale nature of the artwork—six stories!—its interrelated technological components, and the fact that The Triforium is part of the City of Los Angeles' public art collection, progress on restoring the Triforium has not been immediate. This is the nature of the beast.
Still, over the last six months, we've moved from planning conversations to concrete delegations in close partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA):
While the conservator's report is underway, we have made progress by doubling down on outreach, hosting site visits of the Triforium and its Control Room to interested parties and groups.
The last six months of working towards our goal of a musical, illuminated Triforium have been a crash-course in city politics, art conservation, public outreach, and historical research. Without the support of LA2050, we may well have walked away from this project, feeling daunted by its complex considerations. But the initial support of LA2050 has catalyzed us, legitimized us, and encouraged other funders to get on the Triforium bandwagon. Now the momentum is so great that we can't stop—and we can finally see the Triforium lights on the horizon!
Since January, we've received exciting press coverage that mirrors the excitement and momentum that has built around the Triforium:
Back in 2016, the Sierra Club launched an effort with friends and allies to move Los Angeles to 100 percent clean energy. Los Angeles has long been plagued with dirty air, and is at increasing risk from climate change. Our dependence on fossil fuels is by far the biggest driver of these two problems.
On the flip side, Los Angeles has everything to gain from the transition to clean energy. Los Angeles is home to more than 115,000 clean energy jobs, even though less than 30 percent of our energy comes from renewables and just a fraction of cars are electric. Given the threats posed by fossil fuels and the benefits of the transition to clean energy, there's no time like the present to organize for 100 percent clean energy.
However, while threats to our environment, health, families, neighbors, and way of life continue, our best defense in Los Angeles has been a good offense. Sierra Club has been buoyed by the progress in the last six months to confront the dominance of the fossil fuel industry and turn a page towards 100 percent clean energy. We have three exciting updates to share:
Looking ahead, we still have a lot of work to do, but the future is bright. Up next? Los Angeles Metro's Board will consider a policy to accelerate the transition the 100 percent electric by 2030 in July. Through the summer and fall, our local utility will continue to chart its course towards 100 percent clean energy (no doubt with a few bumps along the way). All the while, the people of Los Angeles will continue to fight for a future defined not by who we aren't and what we're against, but by who we are, our values, and our vision for the future.
Two years ago, Long Beach based barber Gabe Torres suffered a life-threatening brain injury, and thought that he may never cut hair again. But, with a second chance at life, Gabe dreamed up the idea of a barber college for young people to learn the skills of a career that would change their lives, and would be a vehicle to provide dignity and care for those less fortunate in the community.
Cue Covenant House California, a nonprofit youth homeless shelter, who believed in Gabe's vision to create real career opportunities, teach entrepreneurial skills, and, most importantly, inspire a spirit of community service to their teenage clients.
Since receiving the My LA2050 grant, Gabe and Covenant House California have been hard at work pushing the barber college forward. However, they have also faced the tedious, bureaucratic process of state licensing, city permits, building leases and and renovations.
The good news is that while the school awaits accreditation by the State of California's Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), the Precise team is hard at work!
And things are looking good! Check out these photos of the project:
The floors are in, the furniture has arrived, and the team is hard at work, focusing on the plumbing, electrical and technology necessary to make the space function.
LAUSD is the second largest school district in the nation and it faces a mounting energy bill. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is helping the District with a grant for piloting new technologies as part of an effort to mitigate the rising costs of water and energy.
To help respond, Cleantech 2 Edtech is bringing high school students from diverse backgrounds into the world of cleantech startups and seeding new career directions in Los Angeles. A program of Caltech's Resnick Sustainability Institute, Cleantech 2 Edtech's mission is to engage young people in environmental entrepreneurship by providing opportunities to work with new companies piloting energy saving technologies with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Students from participating schools will work with companies that will help the schools pinpoint their energy hot spots, and manage energy use better.
With the support of LA2050, Cleantech 2 Edtech is exploring new clean energy and water technologies with LAUSD while offering education and internship opportunities for high school students. To implement the program, Caltech has:
Cleantech 2 Edtech will contribute to LA2050's goals of making Los Angeles the best place to create and learn by: 1) nurturing the next generation of cleantech innovators and job creators; 2) helping schools secure cleaner energy and use water more efficiently; and 3) promoting a culture of energy awareness in schools.
Over the next six months, Caltech will track all program participants – students, teachers, companies - to assess their engagement and program satisfaction. Caltech also see if these technologies can be more widely adopted throughout LAUSD. If successful, Cleantech 2 Edtech could become a valued adjunct to entrepreneurial curriculum across the whole District.
Kids are learning. Seniors are finding valued relationships. The homeless are being fed. People are having their needs met by volunteers at more than 130 nonprofits throughout Los Angeles.
These acts of service are the work of more than 600 adults with significant developmental disabilities. Have you seen them around town? Maybe not, but chances are, you've seen the impact they're making.
As part of Tierra del Sol Foundation's Pathways to Employment through Professional Volunteerism services, adults with disabilities - such as Autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy - are overcoming stereotypes and societal barriers to find their passion, connect with others, serve their community, enhance their skills, and prepare for careers.
Since Tierra partnered with LA2050, 45 participants started new volunteer jobs and 90% improved their skills. In the past six months, Tierra has welcomed 23 new nonprofit volunteer sites. While this project increases rates of volunteerism, it also impacts many of the other LA2050 CONNECT metrics:
There is still more to be done! Summer is a key time for college students to volunteer, including the 144 students in Tierra's NEXUS College to Career program. However, it is often hard to find a position that meets each person's career goals and schedule. Tierra is working with the Summer Youth program, run by the City of Los Angeles and Mayor Garcetti, to create short-term paid opportunities for these students.
By the end of 2017, almost 600 adults will either gain a volunteer position or continue providing value to their volunteer site. Fifty of these people will obtain a new position, finding their voice and being recognized for their contributions.
What does this journey look like? Watch Meagan and Nuvia's stories here. Or read how volunteerism was the key step between Rocio's college education and her career. As Rocio describes it, “My journey has been so incredible. I never thought I would end up here…" (page 7).
AltaSea and its network of STEM educators are helping make Los Angeles the best place to learn, working with young Angelenos to underscore the importance of our oceans in building sustainable lives for us all. AltaSea has assembled a dynamic and diverse group of partner organizations that have delivered ocean-based STEM lessons to more than 350 LAUSD students, with exciting programs including and not limited to: the Ocean Exploration Trust, Catalina Sea Ranch, Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI), and Blue Robotics.
Altasea's STEM Network on the LA Waterfront is delivering hands-on ocean exploration, providing young minds with thrilling and eye-opening experiences with cutting-edge science and technology. Students hear from accomplished scientists, tech innovators and entrepreneurs in Blue Tech, experiences that can shape lives and career choices.
Thus far, AltaSea has:
Later in the year:
AltaSea's initial efforts have spawned new partnerships and programs that will further expand our network, such as:
This ambitious array of STEM-related ocean education and experiences will, of course, ultimately be evaluated against a range of metrics to ensure it effectively delivers on its promise to the students, families, educators and others affected. Altasea is conducting student surveys before and after workshops to define success measures, and is developing a tracking system to keep students involved with our network. Our best success measure will be years in the making, as we educate and inspire students to become champions for a sustainable ocean and planet, to take more STEM classes, and to pursue careers that can help sustain our oceans and indeed, our planet.
Lost Angels Children's Project (LACP) youth development and training organization that provides at-risk and foster youth with career-related skills training through classic car restoration and customization. LACP provides a safe space for youth in the Lancaster area aged 13-19 to work on automobiles and channel their creativity to make unique works of art using the tools and skills learned in the workshops. Through the program, students are taught how to safely and properly use tools, equipment and machinery necessary for working on automobiles in an environment that provides them with important life skills and a healthy meal after school. LACP's strength is that the program is built on promoting critical thinking and offering a positive outlet for self-expression.
Receiving the My LA2050 Grants Challenge grant to make LA the best place to LEARN has made a tremendous impact on LACP.
Right now, LACP students and staff are working hard to complete the 2017 automobile build — a 1958 Chevrolet Apache Pick Up — in time for the September 2nd Ventura Nationals. The main event of the year, this Labor Day Weekend, LACP will present and raffle off the completed customized truck. Tickets are on sale NOW and proceeds from the raffle will be used to implement Lost Angels Children's Project programming for another year.