Lynda Toovey, owner of Spa Piel, a small day spa in downtown La Mesa, offers just about everything but nails, so it has services for facials, massages, hair stylist, barber, eyelash extensions, microblading, chemical peels, spray tanning, waxing, skin resurfacing, with single services, spa packages, and memberships.
Toovey said during COVID, everything shut down, and when she was able to “somewhat open” there was not enough income coming in, so she turned to Accessity for help.
Accessity CEO Elizabeth Schott said it has a long history of helping small businesses. A nonprofit organization it has served small businesses for nearly 30 years. Based in San Diego it serves the Southern California region.
“We are a community development financial institution or a CDFI, and our main mission is as a lender,” she said. “We help small businesses both with starting a business as well as expanding with access to capital. We have a loan program from anywhere from $300 up to $100,000. Small businesses can access capital through our program in order to grow their business, start their business, and create jobs in our local communities.”
Toovey said she was able to secure a loan through Accessity with a low interest rate.
“We took that loan which helps a lot,” she said. “Not only did it help in paying rent for that entire year, but it also helped our living expenses as well and paying staff.”
Toovey said she learned about Accessity years earlier when she needed to buy new equipment. Then it was called Accion San Diego, but nobody would lend her money and she said she only needed around $5,000.
“I went to them, and they were able to help me,” she said. “This time around, fast forward seven to eight years later, I reached out to them again, but now they are called Accessity. They are super easy to work with. They are extremely friendly. The online form is very easy to fill out, it takes about five minutes. Then a representative contacted me. She was helpful and helped expedite everything and I got all my bills paid on time.”
Schott said Accessity also runs an educational program with various resources.
“One of the things that we find is that running a business is not easy. It is definitely exciting, but it also takes a lot of effort,” she said. “It is about surrounding the entrepreneurs with both access to capital, but also a community of support, training, education, and connections that ultimately can help them in their long-term success. We have different webinars and trainings on topics such as marketing, social media, credit and financing.”
Schott said it also runs different partnerships locally. For example, credit counseling agency TrustPlus, where clients or small businesses going through its program can get credit and financial counseling, the San Diego Employer’s Association, where clients get resources to human resources for personnel questions, and Sam Adams for food, beverage and hospitality, and craft brew businesses, where they get access to its capital program and one on one coaching from Sam Adams.
“Those are some of the resources in addition to access to capital that we support small business with,” she said.
Schott said Accessity’s Academy for Entrepreneurial Success is a twice a year program with one coming up in January 2023. It is a 10-week startup training program that walks a business owner through A to Z on how to start a business.
“How to write a business plan, financial projection, market analysis, business pitching,” she said. “Once they graduate that program, they are eligible up to $5,000 through our loan program to start their business,” she said.
Schott said the application for the Academy opens in January 2023 and the program runs in the spring. She said normally it receives 80 to 100 applicants and generally accepts between 30 and 50 applicants. The first Academy in spring is in English, and the second Academy is in partnership with the Eva Longoria Foundation, which is in Spanish.
Schott said it works with the Small Business Development Center, SCORE, another women’s business center, and other providers where if their client needs help creating an in-depth business plan, or financial productions, Accessity work alongside these other programs, and then comes in with the access to capital.
“We are primarily helping diverse entrepreneurs and those of low to moderate income,” she said. “So primarily we have entrepreneurs of color, women entrepreneurs, veterans. Those are populations that we often see that there are historical systemic barriers in accessing capital through traditional sources. Our program has a mission to support those entrepreneurs, in particularly small businesses is another niche of ours that we try to support. Businesses less than two years in operation so they can contribute to our local economy and create jobs.”
Schott said this year alone, it has put approximately $8 million to entrepreneurs.
“It is a really inspiring path of work to support these hard working entrepreneurs and it also gives our local communities local spending options,” she said. “On our website, we have a marketplace. If people are looking for last minute shopping, looking for a caterer, a shoe repair shop, you can search local businesses and spend your dollars there. Which we find both inspiring, but it also helps local jobs and local economy.”
Schott said Accessity is funded through local individuals, foundations, local and federal funding, grants and donations from banks, and other corporations.