Rick Keyes Speaks on Uplifting Black and Brown-led Businesses

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This interview was originally featured in Tech For Equity Updates — a biweekly newsletter about Change Machine’s platform, including upcoming trainings, and insights from our community of practice. Subscribe today!

Since launching the Centering Black and Brown Voices Cohort, we’ve met passionate individuals who strive for excellence in financial coaching. Rick Keyes is one of these dedicated practitioners, working as the Capital Access Manager with the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce.

Rick manages the Kiva loan program, a zero-interest loan program that doesn’t ask for a social security number or driver’s license as proof of business. He also helps business owners create business plans and is currently creating “The Money $enter,” which will expand capacity for small business technical assistance and provide financial coaching for individuals and businesses.

We spoke with Rick about creating opportunities to build wealth for Black and Brown businesses, as well as his experiences in our Centering Black and Brown Voices cohort.

Can you tell us more about the importance of community-backed loans and how you incorporate them in your organization.

We’re in an area where we don’t have enough representation for minority businesses, meaning there’s not enough education or grassroots efforts to help them. At the Fresno Metro Black Chamber, the hub for the Kiva loan program, we are trauma-focused. This means that you can offer these resources to minorities, but if you don’t know how to relate to them and build trust, that is part of the barrier.

We offer Kiva loans, where we ask what’s your story? What is going to make an impact in your community? How can we break down the walls and prevent you from going to predatory lenders? Let’s get the right legal structure for your business to get you on track to make more money because now we’re opening doors and widening your view.

How do we not only financially support Black and Brown business owners, but also provide capacity-building support?

We are now in our second cohort of Betting Big, our business incubator where we ask, “How do we take you from the idea phase and help you complete your business plan?” Then we always ask, “What’s next?” It’s never a check mark with us.

We plan on being with you as long as you allow us to. Let’s take you all the way until you’ve developed an exit strategy — or you know how to develop one — for when the time comes where you sell, retire, or exit your business.

The bottom line is you got to have a plan and you need a team to help you with it. That’s how we build capacity. We are connecting to our members and others in the community to help them not only establish their business, but stabilize and scale it.

How has Change Machine’s financial coaching approach impacted your work?

The chamber is a small business-focused organization. Some of the people we come across need financial coaching before they even think about starting a business. I have the knowledge, but not the tools to make this happen quickly. Change Machine provides these resources to make it happen.

To me, Change Machine has an approach that’s methodical. It’s trackable, producing data points that will show outcomes, which means we can strengthen our position with entities and small business owners to help them thrive. That’s really what this is about: I’ve got to have the tools at my disposal to help people achieve and feel good about the achievements they’re making.

You offer a turnkey system that can be put to immediate use. The content and other tools you have throughout the coaching site — for me, it’s everything you would need. It’s this process and organization that elevates us.

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