Faculty and students from the Sustainable and Impact Finance initiative at Berkeley Haas are mobilizing to provide direct support to Oakland and Berkeley’s small businesses.

Federal relief funds are open but on the ground action is critical to enabling local small businesses to access capital and survive. As a form of impact investing, we know that effectively deploying capital and mobilizing support into our most diverse communities and small businesses is vital, particularly during this time of crisis.

Faculty Directors Professor Laura Tyson and Professor Adair Morse designed an “SOS” Recovery Loan Fund for small businesses in partnership with the City of Berkeley. The Fund, approved by the Berkeley City Council, will pool private and public capital to support very low or no-interest loans for small businesses in Berkeley impacted by COVID-19. It will build on the City’s existing Berkeley Relief Fund program and is being shared as a model for other cities.

As Adair Morse, Associate Professor of Finance at Berkeley Haas, shared: “The City of Berkeley can play an essential role in assuring that private capital is brought forward to support our communities and that terms for repayment of debt are not so burdensome that they threaten long term viability of our local small businesses.” 

Over 25 Haas MBA students are also partnering with the City of Oakland to do direct phone outreach to hundreds of small businesses who face language, technology or income barriers to accessing federal relief funds and support.

Working with teams from the Office of Councilmember Loren Taylor of District 6 East Oakland, the Black Cultural Zone and Rapid Response Network, the Greenlining Institute, and the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, students are calling local businesses and sharing resources on SBA Loans, Paycheck Protection programs and unemployment insurance. Students who speak multiple languages are being matched with minority and immigrant owned businesses who need language support.

Project co-lead and Haas MBA ’20 Jessie Tang shared “I’m really grateful that Haas MBAs are able to support our Oakland neighbors in such a tangible way right now. By connecting directly with the most at-risk businesses, we are assisting communities of color who lack access to traditional capital and are disproportionately impacted by the digital divide. My mother, who immigrated here from China, ran her own small business when I was younger. I can only imagine how challenging COVID would have been on her and our family.”

Students and City of Oakland partners plan small business outreach

During these unprecedented times, we are proud of our students and faculty who remain committed to our defining leadership principles and are going beyond themselves to ensure our community’s small businesses get the investment they need.