Inner city Southern California businesses pitch dozens of potential investors

Some Southland business owners got a chance to do something many probably haven't done: meet with dozens of potential investors in one place. They gathered at a two-day pitchfest in downtown Los Angeles.

Organizer Deb Shufrin compared the event to speed dating. Business owners from Southern California and around the country tried to make an impression and potential investors hoped to get to know companies a bit better. All in a limited amount of time.

"Hopefully we'll have some great results to come out of it," Shufrin said. "To date, the companies that have participated in the program have raised more than $370 million in capital, so the proof is in the pudding and we want to see more success."

The program aimed to educate entrepreneurs on ways of snagging capital financing, including community development financial institutions.

Jimmy and T. Cordelle Louis own "Design Theory" – an interior design firm in downtown Los Angeles. Their million-dollar company has experienced its share of growing pains over the years. So the Louises said they leave no stone unturned when it comes to considering how to secure capital.

"I'm specifically looking for an angel investor, because they want less to do in the company, and I think they would be a better fit for us," said Mrs. Louis.

"But any prospect we can turn into a hot prospect," said Mr. Louis as his wife laughs. "It's just a matter of finding the right person, saying the right things and providing them with the information they need."

Some inner city business owners have to look beyond bank loans if they want to thrive. That may be because a small number of commercial banks operate in their vicinity – or because they may lack connections at major lending institutions.

Edward Powers with Bank of America said he envisions a win-win situation if banks connect with small urban business owners to help groom them.

"What we're trying to do here really is make a connection so that these businesses get that little bit extra access to capital and they can grow faster, add employees, grow their revenues and they'll have more impact in the communities they're in, they'll become even better potential customers for us someday and it's good for our communities in general."

Bank of America teamed with The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City and the federal Small Business Administration to sponsor the event.

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