Partnership lifts African-American businesses in S.A.

    Janie Barrera, LiftFund President & CEO, introduces LiftFund’s mission to empower underserved communities through capital and financial education. (Photo/ Lea Thompson)

    The San Antonio Area African-American Community Fund (SAAAACF) announced a $25,000 gift to LiftFund’s Dream Fund, designated to close the capital and business education gap among African-American entrepreneurs.

    The SAAAACF began in 2008 under the leadership of the San Antonio Area Foundation staff, board members and a dedicated steering committee of respected African American leaders. Since its inception, the fund has distributed more than $90,000 in grants to charitable programs improving the lives of African-Americans.

    “This gift to the Dream Fund will provide opportunities solely for African-American businesses,” SAAAACF Chair Bobby Blount said. “This partnership allows us to communicate dialogue between our committee and LiftFund to identify [and meet] other needs in the community.”

    This groundbreaking event also coincides with the fourteenth annual National Black Business Month, which drives national, state and local policy towards achieving a two-thirds increase in African-American annual income.

    In 2012, there were 2.6 million black or African American-owned firms nationally, up from 1.9 million or 34.5 percent from 2007 according to the United States Census Bureau. By comparison, blacks or African Americans accounted for 13.1 percent of the 18 and older population in 2012.

    In 2016, the African-American Business Enterprise (AABE) Survey was performed by the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in coordination with the Bexar County to identify African-American Businesses and the challenges they face. The survey identified more than 7,000 AABEs in Bexar County, making up a total of 3.8 percent of all firms in the Bexar Metro Service Area.

    It was discovered that few AABEs had: paid employees, limited administrative capacity, few firms with more than 5 employees, limited financial capacity and cash flow, limited bonding experience and limited networking & marketing capabilities

    According to the 2017 City’s Economic Development Report, the City of San Antonio paid $464,930,432 to local businesses in 2016. Black or African American companies earned one percent of this total or $6,264,799

    African-American entrepreneurs like David O’Neal, the first Dream Fund recipient and owner of Helping Hands Service Solutions, a one-stop shop for janitorial services in San Antonio, are often unable to secure traditional business loans to expand their companies. David was referred by Chase Bank to LiftFund, where he met with loan officers, discussed options and closed a $7,000 Dream Fund loan, within three weeks.

    “This [loan] will be the first step to growing my business,” said O’Neal, adding that his LiftFund loan would be used for working capital and new equipment.  “Within the next five years, I plan to become the number one janitorial service in San Antonio.”

    Through this partnership, LiftFund and SAAAACF join forces with community, city and county leaders to offer financial and educational opportunities to historically underserved African-American businesses. In collaboration with Bexar County’s Small, Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (SMWBEs), LiftFund and SAAAACF will host its first financial management workshop for small business owners on August 24, at 5:30 p.m. Registration is available at

    “Seven percent of the San Antonio population is African-American, and in the LiftFund portfolio, 13 percent of all San Antonio loans are made to the African American community,” said Janie Barrera, LiftFund President & CEO. “This gift, in perpetuity, is going to stay here in San Antonio helping us to further support African American businesses.”

    Since opening its doors, LiftFund has made over 19,000 loans totaling more than $250 million in 13 states. Since 1994, the nonprofit has helped entrepreneurs strengthen their businesses, stabilize and increase their incomes, create employment and contribute to the economic revitalization in San Antonio.

    LiftFund has transformed into one of the largest micro-lending portfolios in the nation. For more information, visit