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How Usable Capital Will Unleash Black Business Growth

by | May 13, 2021 | Insights & Resources

Thank you to Path to 15|15 and the San Francisco Foundation for highlighting Mission Driven Finance and three portfolio companies in their report on usable capital: Somali Family Service of San Diego, Skinny Gene Project, and Carter Transportation Group.

About Mission Driven Finance

Mission Driven Finance is an impact investing firm that reconnects capital and community in transformative ways Founded in San Diego, but now working with partners nationwide, they believe in making investments that aren’t happening — but should. To expand access to capital, MDF combines operational infrastructure to welcome many kinds of investors with curiosity and creativity in community financing models.


One of Mission Driven Finance’s big innovations to support businesses locked out of traditional finance is to not rely on personal credit scores or personal guarantees. “We do not use personal scores as we realize they have deeply racist undertones in their algorithms that prevent wealth creation in Black communities,” said Lauren Grattan, Co-founder & Chief Community Officer at Mission Driven Finance. “We are always looking for ‘curb cut’ approaches and systemic shifts to our operations to not just serve one community but serve many.”


Steps on the Path to 15|15

Mission Driven Finance designs investment products that support the growth and development of businesses that do not normally get attention from traditional financiers. This involves engaging with community members in different ways to seek out entrepreneurs with new and interesting ideas, as well as putting in the time to understand how Mission Driven Finance can add value to their business model and help them grow. This frequently requires re-thinking traditional underwriting practices or repayment schedules.


“The banks have been screwing over these communities for centuries,” said David Lynn, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. “And the banks are the ones who are supposed to solve this problem, without fundamental change? If the decisions are being made by the same people who have been making decisions for decades or centuries, that’s not going to change anything.”

Stories of Impact

Somali Family Service of San Diego (SFS) offers support for East African immigrants and refugees in San Diego. SFS got a lucrative opportunity from the City of San Diego’s economic development department to train refugee entrepreneurs, but they needed cash to run the program ahead of reimbursements from the City’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding. Mission Driven Finance provided that working capital, and structured the investment in accordance with Islamic financing principles to meet the cultural needs of SFS.


Skinny Gene Project works to prevent type 2 diabetes, and is one of only 11 organizations recognized by the CDC for their ability to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by over 50% with their clients. They use lifestyle interventions through community events, relationship building, and coaching with their clients. Mission Driven Finance made an investment to support their growth as they began to seek out prevention contracts with national health plans, including investments in data infrastructure and financial capacity building.


Carter Transportation is a Black-owned general freight delivery service that operates nationwide. They know that hiring from your community is one of the best ways to make an impact 90% of their current team are BIPOC and they’re looking to hire formerly incarcerated/justice-involved individuals as they grow. With a large corporate contract expanding their volume and trucking fleet, Carter Transportation needed to access a new tier of insurance. Being a relatively young company, they didn’t have the operating history for traditional bank financing and turned to Mission Driven Finance instead to support their growth.