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Interview with PathStone Corporation

Javier Zapata, President / Executive Director of PathStone Enterprise Center

How do you feel Open4’s funding is making an impact on your organization, and what does the funding mean to you?

Javier: Open4’s assistance and funding has been extremely important to the direct success of many small businesses and clients throughout the region. As an organization, we provide term loans to underserved small businesses, but that alone does not guarantee that the small business is going to have a successful and profitable business. Small businesses crave to learn more on how to better manage their businesses, how to be more efficient, how to better understand their financials in order to make better informed decisions. That’s what Open4’s funding has provided. Because of Open4’s support we were able to create technical assistance training sessions that have assisted hundreds of small businesses during the pandemic.

What do you think are the most common barriers for small business owners, especially women and minority-owned?

Javier: Mainly two things: one is access to capital, and the second is access to high quality and free of charge education opportunities. Many minority-owned businesses struggle to get financing from traditional lenders because of systemic barriers that have long impacted the sector. We can think many decades ago of redlining, but in reality, and although many mechanism have been put in place to make sure that the system provides for the sector, there is still much work to be done.

Minority-owned businesses are not asking for handouts, nor are they asking for special treatment. But at the same time, they are the most negatively impacted business after major events like the pandemic, and disproportionately so. The sector needs more capital/investments/loan opportunities to level the playing field as well as the resources to continue learning and improving their operations and execution to maximize their opportunities of success.

How do you think infusing capital into small businesses in our region will enhance the local community and its economy?

Javier: Small businesses are the backbone of the economy. As long as we keep providing an influx of capital and strengthen the core operations of small businesses, we will see a domino effect in the quality of life of those around it, especially in communities that have been hard hit and are struggling with systemic barriers. One example of this is that small business owners, and especially minority-owned businesses, have struggled with building assets over time to pass onto future generations. A small business that can continue generating value and revenue for a family, will replicate through time and provide more value and more economy for not only that one family, but little by little, to the community.

What do you think will be the priorities for small businesses moving forward in the next couple of years? What do they really need to focus on in order to succeed?

Javier: Resiliency and adapting to ever-changing circumstances. Small business owners are being tested in both, and with their resolve and entrepreneurial spirit, along with support services like Open4, other CDFIs and PathStone, we will maximize their chances of success even in the most trying of times. We’ve seen many businesses close, but many more survive and many more are starting up. There is a lot of positive energy out there in spite of all going on, and we should focus on them and provide all the support they need, but also deserve.