NEW ORLEANS (March 31, 2022) — Today, the Urban League of Louisiana (ULLA) announced its plan to expand small business services to entrepreneurs across the state of Louisiana who continue to be impacted by COVID-19 with the support of the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund. Last year, ULLA was awarded approximately $540,000 through the program to help Louisiana small business owners scale their businesses, expand economic development and opportunity, and ultimately make a lasting impact across the state.
The donation comes from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund, a roughly $420 million fund that the company created in July 2020 to help small businesses stay open during the Covid‑19 pandemic. The fund has focused on racially and ethnically diverse small businesses across the U.S., which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The fund was created from the gross processing fees that Wells Fargo made from administering Paycheck Protection Program loans in 2020. Wells Fargo has worked with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and local nonprofits across the nation to distribute funding.
“Wells Fargo has always had a rich history of supporting small businesses,” said Jenny Flores, Head of Small Business Growth Philanthropy for Wells Fargo. “We’re proud that we’re able to leverage Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund to draw on the expertise of nonprofits like the Urban League of Louisiana to help provide additional capital to diverse businesses, as well as others still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to yield many challenges for small businesses, specifically in historically underserved communities across the country. Even with emergency funding programs, many small businesses have not been able to fully return to pre-pandemic operations. Through its Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, ULLA has a long-standing commitment to supporting women- and minority-owned small businesses across the state of Louisiana by offering small business counseling services, training programs, and access to resources needed to support business recovery and growth. The Center also offers modular entrepreneurship training to meet the needs of its client base with programs such as Scale Up! Louisiana, Start Up! Louisiana, and the Black Restaurant Accelerator Program.
“As we approach the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that we recognize that small businesses continue to face challenges and setbacks that hinder their ability to grow and scale. The Urban League of Louisiana takes this need very seriously because we know that small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. If we want to grow our economy, we must grow our small businesses. It is through partnerships with organizations like Wells Fargo that we are able to expand our small business programming to meet this need”, said Judy Reese Morse, President & CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana.
With the support of Wells Fargo, ULLA is expanding its services to meet the needs of businesses in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lake Charles, and other parts of the state. Through the Open for Business Fund program, ULLA will provide business education workshops, one-on-one and small group counseling, technical assistance, and access to resources relevant to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. In addition to these services, in 2022 the Center will launch three additional cohorts of its Scale Up! Louisiana program, as well as, two cohorts of its Start! Up Louisiana program.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, the CEI has seen exponential growth in the number of small businesses seeking support services to sustain or grow their business. Whether it’s access to capital, redesigning operations, or obtaining guidance on how to best change direction, it is critical that small businesses across Louisiana get increased access to entrepreneurship services. With the support of Wells Fargo, we are well-positioned to do just that”, said Klassi Duncan, Vice President, Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Urban League of Louisiana.
On a national basis, Open for Business Fund grantees are estimated to reach more than 152,000 small business owners, helping to maintain over 255,000 jobs. Roughly 85% of small businesses served by grantees are projected to be Black, African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American small business owners. Wells Fargo also offers a Small Business Resource Center where entrepreneurs can explore business planning, financing considerations, and practical advice.
For questions about the program, please email Klassi Duncan, Vice President, Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, ULLA at email@example.com. All open ULLA entrepreneurship trainings can be found at http://ULLACEI.Eventbrite.com. All programming is temporarily being hosted virtually.