Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program Finds Success in Southern Arizona

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The Fuerza Local business accelerator program is a six-month program under Local First Arizona Foundation, designed to teach underserved micro-entrepreneurs important basics for financial literacy and business development. Participants attend weekly classes on a variety of topics, including marketing, business planning, cash flow management, and many more. Participants also gain critically important financial literacy by participating in a lending circle, which requires them to make on-time payments every month they are in the program. These payments are reported to Experian, and help the small business owners building a credit history, often for the first time. Their savings is then matched by a scholarship from the Local First Arizona Foundation. Each graduate is offered the opportunity to access credit at fair market rates through partnering financial institutions in lieu of any previous credit history.

Through a grant to YWCA of Southern Arizona by the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Local First Arizona Foundation has partnered with the YWCA to launch Fuerza Local in South Tucson. The YWCA team of established Tucson leaders in entrepreneurship through the Microbusiness Advancement Center (MAC) on their South Tucson campus have created an entrepreneurial and educational hub that supports people in our community in significant ways, primarily those who are working in art, culture, food, emerging tech and environmental sustainability. Current MAC programs are offered in Spanish and English, and include the Women’s Business Center (WBC). Other partners in the program include LFA member Vib'n, an entrepreneurial support business. An expansion to the Fuerza Local program is planned to support more businesses starting in August.

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Local First Arizona Foundation launched the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator in 2013 as a direct response to the influx of predatory lenders that target low-income Latinos who often lack financial literacy and access to resources that help build thriving businesses. Fuerza Local features amazing graduates from around Arizona. These small businesses have created new jobs and add to the economic and cultural landscape of our communities for a strong local economy.

The first cohort for southern Arizona graduated on June 30, 2018 in a ceremony at the YWCA. Investing in underserved communities through entrepreneurship is a successful strategy that has seen incredible job creation and business expansion, along with a reduction in reliance on social services. Creating opportunities for small business development in low-income communities helps build an Arizona we are proud to call home.

YWCA's Women's Business Center is the host of the Fuerza Local Program in Southern Arizona. Through this strategic partnership we are seeing promising economic impact results, especially through the formalization of business entities and acquisitions of access to capital; both are areas in which start up and minority owned business struggle.

Applications for the second cohort of the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator are now open. Applicants can apply for the Tucson program on the Local First Arizona Foundation website. The application will close on August 17, 2018.

Participants of the first southern Arizona Fuerza Local cohort include:

La Palma
Arizona Hispanic Services LLC
Dolce Pastello
Benny's Restaurant
Carnitas La Yoca
Empowering Financial Group
Luis Padilla Design
Express Beauty Salon
Bob Does I.T.
Super Carniceria del Rey
Rohi Nails & Spa
Patricia Padilla Photography