Building Healthy Communities by Empowering Entrepreneurs
Recent data shows that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting people of color — in LA County alone, while only being 8% of the population, people of color have made up 12.5% of Covid deaths. Longstanding systemic health and social inequities got us here and COVID-19 serves as a reminder that long before we need medical care, the foundation for health begins in our homes, at our schools, with our jobs and in our neighborhoods. It is well documented that factors like access to employment, safe and affordable housing, quality education, health care, fresh food, and social support — also known as the Social Determinants of Health — drive the majority of health outcomes. In order to improve communities of color's ability to thrive and be well, we have to be able to work collaboratively to combat these disparities.
Through the Kiva Accelerator Fund, LISC LA is ramping up funding for local food businesses in order to preserve food access options in low-income communities of color during “Safer at Home.” Kiva is a 0% interest no-fee crowdfunding platform that provides small businesses with micro-loans up to $15,000. LISC LA’s Kiva Accelerator Fund matches select small businesses $1 for $1 in their Kiva campaign, allowing them to reach their goals quicker and easier. The loan uses an innovative social underwriting approach in their lending. LISC LA works with our partner organizations, our Kiva Trustees, to endorse loans and vouch for a business owner's character. To date, the LISC LA and Kiva collaboration has provided 39 businesses with over $260k of capital. Our most recent loan to Ata Nabawi, founder and business owner of Prism Juice Bar, demonstrates the value that equitable access to resources like business capital and healthy food can have on an individual and a community.
While growing up in Compton, Ata Nabawi says he developed a habit of asking neighbors for fruit from their trees in his area. Five years ago while taking a permaculture class, Ata suddenly made the connection, he would source fruit from his neighborhood and launch his own business, Prism Juice Bar. Starting with a pop-up shop selling orange juice and lemonade, Ata circulated his juice cart around Koreatown and Venice Beach. Before long his product was getting praise from Angelenos and gaining traction, and Ata was beginning to accumulate his own returning clientele.
Ata Nabawi with a Prism Juice Bar customer
Ata Nabawi’s vision has never been small. His long-term dream is to build an all-natural food company and grocery store chain. After having taken classes in permaculture, he has faith that his practices in sustainable agriculture will allow his vision to grow, and he imagines that in the future Prism Juice Bar will be expanded into a produce section, just a small part of a grander vision for promoting well-being and healthy living in his community.
“If you have a vibrant and colorful diet, you will have a vibrant and colorful life.”
Late last year, Ata took a large step towards building that vision, he enrolled in South LA-based Best Accelerator. Best Accelerator is a community-based micro-enterprise development program, focusing on giving emerging business owners the support they need to see their businesses take off. Best Accelerator is based on Frank Stokes’ earlier, successful accelerators but this time financially-accessible and community based; in fact, most participants find it through word of mouth, as did Ata, earlier last year. After getting on the phone with Founder and Program Director Frank Stokes, Frank and Ata knew Prism Juice Bar would be a great fit.
Prism Juice Bar stand
Frank Stokes worked with Ata to develop his business plan, and ultimately connected Ata to LISC LA and the Kiva Accelerator Fund to fund and take his business to the next level. Less than 48 hours of launching the Kiva campaign, Prism Juice Bar had already reached its funding goal of $6,500. The funding from Kiva and LISC is just part of a larger funding campaign as Ata is carefully executing the business plan for his venture and has prospects of someday moving on to a brick and mortar store. Frank Stokes says that without a doubt that “Ata is on the path to success,” and that the dollar-a-dollar match from LISC LA will have a role to play.
“LISC is a force in its community... It is a blessing to have an organization like LISC that knows the pulse of the community and have their hand on the pulse. They are actually doing things to make a better community.”
Moving forward, LISC LA is excited to fund many more great enterprises like Prism Juice Bar that are locally founded and locally serving. Businesses like Prism Juice Bar are in a unique position to contribute to a thriving business environment and create healthy options for Angelenos. Frank says that Best Accelerator will soon be launching a Kiva campaign for another venture, a coffee company. We hope our community will join us in empowering these emerging entrepreneurs and funding their vision.
LISC LA extends our thanks to Bank of the West for funding our Kiva Accelerator Fund. If you want to join us and our sponsors in supporting small businesses, lend to our latest campaign here.