Lyn Corbett of The Pivotal Group Consultants and Ben Pryzby of Vamonos Vans are running very different companies.
Corbett’s Chula Vista-based consulting firm provides board governance, leadership development, strategic planning and organizational development while Pryzby builds custom vans for short-term peer-to-peer rental or what he terms “wheel estate” investors.
But the two business owners have at least one thing in common – both lead companies chosen in 2021 as grantees from Founders First Community Development Corporation, the small business accelerator out of San Diego that is the part of the venture capital group Founders First Capital Partners LLC.
Founders First Capital Partners has assisted underserved and underrepresented but established small businesses generating at least six figures in revenue annually since 2015, championing service-based businesses led by women, ethnic minorities, military veterans and those located in low- to moderate-income areas.
Founders First CDC, established in 2016, focuses on helping small businesses like Corbett’s and Pryzby’s create and retain jobs and empower expansion.
“We take pride in a mission that empowers entrepreneurs to create an economic impact through job creation and finding innovative ways of closing the generational wealth gap in underserved communities,” said Shaylon Scott, executive director of Founders First. “With the rising cost of living, we understand the challenges small business owners face and are happy to invest money and resources into such hard-working leaders.”
$100K for Diverse-Led Firms
Founders CDC is expected to announce its next 30 winners of the group’s second annual Southern California Job Creators Quest Grant on Dec. 15. A total of $100,000 will be granted to support minority and underrepresented business owners in the Southern California region.
The grants, in amounts of $1,500 to $10,000, will be awarded to diverse-led companies with a staff of two to 20 employees. Eligible businesses must also have the ability to add up to two net new premium wage jobs in the next 12 months.
“Even $10,000 doesn’t sound like a lot, but to a small business, that could mean money for marketing, upgrading technology, helping them get the tools they need for something that needs refurbishing, or fixing something that’s broken,” Scott said. “We believe it can make a difference.”
The grant project was first launched in early 2021, and since that time, Founders First CDC has awarded more than $400,000 to minority and underserved business owners throughout the United States, including Southern California, throughout Texas, in the Chicago area, in Philadelphia, and across New Jersey.
As part of the grant, winners are also required to take part in Founders First programs, which guide business owners through a dedicated process of achieving accelerated growth through education, hands-on assignments and expert-led coaching.
“As job creators, we want them to have a sure pathway to generating wealth in their communities,” Scott said. “The grant opportunity gives an introduction to who we are to the business owners so they can get to know our programs. We have the ability to connect them to business ecosystems in their region.”
Corbett said he was able to leverage his grant for $5,000 with is bank to get extra support. He used the funds for working capital and to restructure how it markets to clients. He also was able to take part in a Founders First program that put him in touch with other entrepreneurs and connected him with coaches who gave him added business insight.
Connecting with Advisors
Pryzby used the $1,500 grant he received toward payroll needs. But he said more important was the Founders First accelerator program that connected him with advisors who helped him revamp his business model. He said he is already using what he learned to scale his business and now has several projects in the works.
Funding for the program comes via a $1 million national grant from The Rockefeller Foundation and in conjunction with Founders First Capital Partners’ recent $9 million Series A financing accelerator to support underrepresented entrepreneurs in underserved communities across the country.
Founders First partners with financial institutions like U.S. Bank, Union Bank, JP Morgan Chase and City National Bank, which in the last several years has donated more than $20,000 to the San Diego chapter to help its small business program.
It also networks locally with the San Diego North Economic Development Council, San Diego & Imperial Women’s Business Center, National Veterans Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce and Accessity, forrmerly Accion serving Southern California, as well as other groups.
“We’re proud to work with Founders First to serve local entrepreneurs,” said Elizabeth Schott, CEO of Accessity. “We share many of the same goals to help diverse-owned small businesses grow and expand their opportunities. Small businesses are the economic engine that drives our country, and we’re proud to support this Job Creators grant to empower small business owners to make a difference.”
Founders First Community Development Corporation, Inc.
FOUNDER: Kim T. Folsom
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Shaylon Scott
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: Nonprofit small business accelerator
SOCIAL IMPACT: Founders First CDC, part of Founders First Capital Partners, seeks to close racial and social-economic equity gaps by training, funding and growing small businesses owned and operated by diverse founders.
NOTABLE: Founders First CDC runs a cohort-based program that consists of five modules over four weeks that focuses on business growth.