A photo of Earnest Ross, president of California Vintage Wine Bistro, inside his future location in Anaheim.

Entrepreneur Taps African American Latino Fund to Launch Wine Bistro

Small Business Legislation
Success Story
March 21, 2023

Opening a new restaurant concept is not for the faint of heart. It takes an intangible understanding of what will be successful, as well as patience and due diligence. Earnest Ross, president of California Vintage Wine Bistro, has been in the hospitality industry for over 30 years. With most of his career in fine dining, he has a firm grasp of industry trends and strong restaurant leadership skills. 

When Earnest discovered a new wine bistro experience launched in Hong Kong, he knew he would need to tap into that experience to bring it to Southern California. The real challenge, however, was finding the right location and a partner to take a chance on his idea and provide the capital necessary.

A Wine Venture With Legs

After years of longing to do something with the “conceptual aspect of wine,” Earnest relished the opportunity to develop this business. “We plan to have about 60 wines available for taste or pour,” Earnest said. “And the unique thing is, we’re going to create this self-service machine where you can load money onto a smart card. Then, you go to the tasting room where you can enjoy our wines.”

However, no successful business launch comes without a base of operation. So Earnest pinpointed a possible brick-and-mortar spot available for lease. 

“I came across a mixed-use luxury building in Anaheim, and I just thought there was a right fit,” Earnest recalled. “The landlords were very receptive to the idea and wanted something unique and different. So, everything just came together.”

After Earnest found a home for his business, his next step was to shore up capital. Fortunately, he had a few options available. 

Some wine samples soon to be available at CA Vintage Wine Bistro.
Some wine samples soon to be available at CA Vintage Wine Bistro.
Earnest Ross reviewing restaurant layout plans.
Earnest Ross reviewing restaurant layout plans.

Funding the Dream

Initially, Earnest looked at several avenues to fund this venture, including investment capital. Once he secured investors, Earnest contacted CDC Small Business Finance. He then worked with a dedicated team, including a loan officer and relationship manager, to secure financing for his business.

Part of the Momentus Capital family of organizations, CDC Small Business Finance is a mission-based lender dedicated to expanding equitable capital, supporting economic mobility, and creating wealth for underserved communities. With this in mind, we established the African American (AA) Latino Fund  as a preferred alternative to businesses that cannot obtain funds from a bank.

The African American (AA) Latino Fund impact loan focuses on supporting Black and Latino entrepreneurs in low-to-moderate-income areas as it offers more flexible guidelines, fair and reasonable terms, and complimentary business counseling. After learning more about this possibility, Earnest determined it would best suit his needs. So, he applied for a $100,000 loan to receive working capital, perform tenant improvements, and purchase equipment for California Vintage Wine Bistro’s first franchise

“This deal several moving parts that made seeing through to the gold underneath that much more important,” CDC relationship manager Alex Abarca said. “Build-out cost fluctuations due to design changes made the budget hard to establish. Next, we had to work with the borrower to figure out the project size, loan amount, and their down payment. That was challenging but is part of the art of underwriting that we deploy here to go the extra mile for the client.”

Finalizing the loan, however, still required more work. For any loan, the process can be rather document-heavy, and it’s often the stage where small-business owners can get tripped up. 

Earnest Ross stands outside of California Vintage Wine Bistro's future home in Anaheim.
Earnest Ross stands outside of California Vintage Wine Bistro's future home in Anaheim.

Pre-planning Pays Off

During the early stages of the loan process, having your paperwork in order is half the battle. And while our loan officers take great pride in their ability to guide borrowers, in this case, Earnest came to the plate ready and willing to execute.

“Earnest is a knowledgeable guy and was very prepared with his documentation,” Alex said. “We did work on a few things, especially projections, to ensure that they were accurate. However, he has decades of experience, so I had a lot of trust in his numbers.”

Unfortunately, following his loan approval, Earnest lost out on the lease. Alex assured him this was common and offered help once Earnest found another. Sure enough, he did, and they jumped on the opportunity to work together again. 

“The loan process was pretty seamless,” Earnest said. “We had all our paperwork in order already, so we double-checked to ensure that things were back on board again. We got everything updated and secured funding.”

Future Goals, Possible Expansion Thanks to CDC

Following their Anaheim opening in June 2023, Earnest hopes to establish several more California Vintage Wine Bistro franchises in Southern California. He also finds it essential to support the community where he operates and forecasts that California Vintage Wine Bistro will create 15 to 20 jobs in the Anaheim area, which is heavily populated by college students and professionals. 

After working with a mission-driven lender, Earnest believes CDC Small Business Finance to be a valuable resource for entrepreneurs. 

Are you interested in learning how a small business impact loan can grow or improve your business? 

Contact one of our loan experts today.