Kaiser Permanente joins a partnership to help local businesses create jobs and improve the health of Bay Area communities. Pictured above, Yolanda Jones (2nd from left) poses with her employees.
When you walk into the office of Yolanda’s Construction Administration and Traffic Control in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunter’s Point neighborhood, you can’t help but notice a small framed sign.
It reads, “Actually, I can.”
The message says a lot about Yolanda Jones, a 56-year-old African American woman who launched her small business 7 years ago from a desk at her dad’s trucking business.
She was told that her idea for a business would “never work,” but her company, which provides equipment rental and administrative support for public and private construction projects throughout the state, now has 17 full-time and 5 part-time employees.
Two years ago, Jones’ business got a significant boost from a program that Kaiser Permanente is helping to bring to Oakland small business owners this summer. She participated in the Inner City Capital Connections program, which provides free training, executive education, and mentorship to businesses in inner-city communities, with a focus on women- and minority-owned businesses.
The program’s 40-hour curriculum is led by top-tier business school faculty, CEOs, and capital providers, and has a track record of helping small businesses grow, gain access to capital, and create jobs in their communities. The program culminates with a conference hosted by Time Inc. in New York City where business owners can network and connect with capital providers from across the country.
After completing the program, Jones found financing that enabled her to take on larger projects. Her business experienced a 151 percent boost in revenue and she was able to create 10 new jobs. On average, businesses that participate in the program report 184 percent revenue growth and 52 percent growth in employees.
“The program helped me position my company for investors, and it helped me to become more polished,” Jones said. “It also helped me establish more of a long-term focus.”
A Holistic Approach to Health
Jones was one of two women business owners who spoke about their experiences at the kick-off breakfast for the Inner City Capital Connections program, which will launch in Oakland in August. Kaiser Permanente is partnering with the City of Oakland, the Oakland Thrives Leadership Council, and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City to offer the program to 100 select small businesses in Oakland and other Bay Area cities. The goal is to strengthen businesses in economically distressed neighborhoods. Kaiser Permanente also partnered with community groups in Los Angeles to bring the program there last year, and is working to launch it in Baltimore.
At the kickoff in late May, Northern California Regional President Janet Liang said Kaiser Permanente is making significant investments in community health, education, and safety and is committed to helping Oakland thrive.
“We understand the connection between local business, a thriving community, and the health of those communities,” Liang told the crowd of 130 community and business leaders. “It’s actually part of our core mission.”
Liang added that in Northern California last year, Kaiser Permanente redirected $435 million in spending to local and minority-owned businesses in the region. Beverly Norman-Cooper, Kaiser Permanente National Supplier Diversity executive director, explained why.
“If we spend with diverse businesses, those businesses staff up and stock up, increasing employment and inventory. This additional stimulus, if sustained, can contribute to greater family economic stability,” she said.
The Inner City Capital Connections program aims to help small business owners find funding to staff up, stock up, and grow. Jose Corona, director of Equity and Strategic Partnerships for the City of Oakland, said Kaiser Permanente’s support of the program demonstrates its deep commitment to the community.
“They really look at the health of the community in a holistic way,” he said. “They understand that health is not just about physical and mental health, but it’s also having access to good housing, good food, and good jobs.”
Learn more about the Inner City Capital Connections program launching in Oakland this summer.