2021 Grants Challenge

The Source: Economic Stability for All

The Source is an online platform where prospective entrepreneurs and career builders are connected to coaches, business and career development videos, career building events, and more. Launched in Orange County, The Source is in the early launch phase, targeting low-income people and providing virtual opportunities to advance careers and/or launch a small business. We are seeking funding to pilot The Source in LA County and build out additional content so more people can find the support they need to pursue their economic goals.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

The Source was already in development when the pandemic hit, and COVID-19 only further intensified the need for easily accessible, virtual career and business development opportunities. Many people do not have access to these resources, especially during this time of social distancing. Many have been forced to put their dreams of owning a small business or starting a new career on hold as they have struggled financially during the pandemic. Small business owners have been particularly hard hit; nearly 317,000 small businesses closed between February and September 2020 (UC Santa Cruz). And the US unemployment rate rose to almost 15% last year, worsening income inequality throughout the country. Low-income people are particularly in need of training and support to launch successful business ventures or careers, as they often have difficulty obtaining loans or accessing financial assistance due to low credit scores and poor financial history.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

The Source provides people in any community access to an experienced business/workforce coach and supplemental training services, helping to launch successful small businesses and new careers. Users are matched with advisors and other resources by topic, region, industry, spoken language, and other demographics. The Source also includes an in-app video library with webinars such as “Succeeding as an Entrepreneur;” “Mastering the Case Interview;” and “Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile.” The Source can serve anyone anywhere. This allows us to address income inequality by reaching disadvantaged communities that do not have access to other job training programs to help level the playing field in the workforce. The Source is also particularly beneficial for women and minority entrepreneurs who face discrimination, disparities, and other challenges to their success. CIELO has developed strong partnerships with many banks, including Pacific Western Bank, Union Bank, and US Bank. We plan to leverage these partnerships by asking bank employees to serve as coaches on our platform, giving banks easy volunteer opportunities for their employees. This will also provide direct access to banks for users. The Source has launched in Orange County with community partners that connect their clients to the platform, and also recruit volunteers to serve as mentors. Our goal for 2021 is to pilot The Source in LA County to help more people succeed in entrepreneurship and their careers.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 500

Indirect Impact: 1,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

By piloting The Source in LA County, LA will be home to more thriving small business start-ups and successful career builders. Our goal is to increase each user’s knowledge base and comfort level with managing their own career trajectory or launching their own business by accessing The Source’s video library and/or by connecting directly with key advisors relevant to their personal goals. These accessible online services are particularly beneficial to our target populations during the pandemic when many clients have lost their jobs or are struggling to keep their businesses profitable. We also hope to reduce income inequality across the county by empowering low-income people to stabilize their lives. By the end of the grant period, we hope to have 500 total active users and coaches, at least five local partners, and fifteen classes live and available for users.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

The idea for The Source came from over five years of serving our local low-income community and learning from our clients what would benefit them most in their pursuit of economic self-sufficiency. Based on our evaluation, our clients were most successful when they received mentorship from an expert in their field. A pilot version of The Source was launched in July 2020 and in its early launch phase, The Source has 30 mentors, four partners using the system, and two classes live for clients. We are gathering data from the OC pilot and plan to survey all participants so we can incorporate their feedback into the operational phase, which will launch later in 2021 with at least three more partners. Moving forward, we will evaluate The Source’s success based on its ability to help clients achieve their personal goals, such as obtaining a new job, launching a new business, increasing income, and other hard measures of success related to goals set by clients during coaching sessions.

Which of the CREATE metrics will you impact?​

Income inequality

Minority- and women-owned businesses

High-growth startups