Building a More Inclusive Economy Through Partnerships and Collaboration

Initiative Program Related Investment
Grantee Partner Growth Partners Arizona
Maria Jose Cortes was able to open her store, Di Luna Candles, with assistance from Growth Partners Arizona.

Growth Partners Arizona (GPAz) is a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Its mission is to provide accessible, fair and responsible loans and support to Arizona nonprofits as well as to small businesses. Since 2014, GPAz has loaned more than $6 million to economically underserved areas throughout Southern Arizona, with over 90% of these loans being deployed in low-income communities. GPAz also manages the KIVA Hub for Southern Arizona and is able to provide zero percent interest loans of up to $15,000 using the KIVA Crowdfunding Platform.

In November 2022 GPAz hired new Executive Director, Andre T. Whittington, who implemented an 18-month strategy to become a statewide capital partner and CDFI Lender. “I am excited about our growth and look forward to building strong partnerships across the state,” said Andre. “Our focus is simple: work collaboratively, build together and maintain an unwavering commitment to economic justice.”  

Growth Partners Arizona recently assisted small business owner Maria Jose Cortes in achieving her goal of growing her small business. Maria started her business, Di Luna Candles (Welcome | Di Luna Candles), during the pandemic and was able to secure startup capital through the KIVA program. Maria received coaching and business advisory services from Alexa Rodriguez, GPAz’s Kiva Capital Access and Business Advisory Manager. This coaching was instrumental in helping Maria grow her confidence as a solopreneur which eventually led to outgrowing her home-based business model. Since Maria was a KIVA borrower, she was able to work directly with GPAz’s Loan Manager Jackie McGuire to secure the capital she needed to take her business to the next stage of growth.   “We already had a relationship with Maria and when it was time for her to take the next step, we ensured the process was simple and fast,” said Jackie.

Maria was able to secure the capital she needed to grow from being a home-based business to moving into her first storefront location (3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson). Maria said, “I had the idea, I had the plan, I just needed the funding.  Growth Partners helped me out by not just looking at the financials, they talked with me about what I was going to do with every dollar that was given to me.”

“Receiving the funding was a huge relief,” continued Maria. “I had a difficult time finding funding for my business because I didn’t have collateral.  if it weren’t for Growth Partners I wouldn’t be in my store right now.” 

Maria’s experience highlights how GPAz’s Growth Lending Model provides opportunities for Arizona small businesses to grow alongside a funding partner that is committed to their success.

Maria also points out the importance of Growth Partners to the community.  “Assistance from Growth Partners allows small businesses to help the economy and Tucson grow,” said Maria.  “Now I can hire employees and provide jobs.  I also sell products from about 10 small businesses here in Tucson and give the opportunity to other vendors to sell at my events so their businesses are growing as well. It’s not just me that Growth Partners is helping–they’re helping the entire community.” 

There are opportunities like this throughout the state that often go unmet due to the limited reach of small business funding programs. As part of GPAz’s expansion strategy, they will establish a small business growth collaborative that will focus on formalizing partnerships with organizations, local financial institutions, and key stakeholders. This will help create a statewide ecosystem committed to providing services and support to underserved communities. Through this expansion GPAz will be the only local CDFI with a statewide focus on small business lending. This will create opportunities for national, regional, and local partners to become more engaged in supporting small business needs across the state.

Economic justice … means fighting for financial capital to reach all people and communities. Financial capital is the fuel that drives economic opportunity.

Lisa Mensah, CEO, Opportunity Finance Network (national association of CDFIs)

Capital access remains the most important factor limiting the establishment, expansion, and growth of minority-owned businesses (MBEs)

Kimber Lanning, CEO, Local First Arizona