Inside CDC: Robert Villarreal – His passion for small businesses to succeed
Welcome to a new blog series, Inside CDC. Each story will share details about one of the many facets that drive CDC’s success, along with an interview with a CDC’er who is integral in advancing our mission to connect small businesses with the support they need.
For Robert Villarreal, helping small businesses is a passion that grew out of personal experience.
That’s why his role at CDC is so important. While CDC helps small business owners by offering the best loans for their needs and connecting them with advisers to help them thrive, we also advocate on their behalf. Robert closely follows key developments in Washington D.C., state capitols and local government to ensure that legislation and programs are in place that pave the way for small businesses to succeed.
“My dad came from Mexico as an undocumented worker and was a business owner himself, so that’s always pushed me.” says Villarreal, executive vice president of CDC Small Business Finance and President of the Bankers Small Business CDC of California (CDFI), a CDC affiliate featuring lending programs for low-moderate income and underrepresented communities.
In his free time he loves running and craft beer, but at CDC, where Robert has spent almost 15 years, he helps oversee CDC’s twin financial lifelines: grant-writing and capital-raising efforts. He also builds relationships with financial firms and government officials. He’s testified before both the House Small Business Sub-Committee and the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.
Take a few minutes to learn more about Robert and his advocacy for small businesses:
Q: HOW HAS YOUR FATHER’S EXPERIENCE HELPED DRIVE YOUR COMMITMENT TO LENDING FOR MINORITY AND OTHER SMALL BUSINESSES?
A: My dad was the first Latino franchisee for Jack in the Box here in San Diego in the mid-60s. He and my mom operated that. Then he tried a couple of other restaurants – and failed. And he lost the franchise. Finally, in his ‘retirement’ from the fast-food industry he opened a parking lot on the border and found some success. I was really happy for him. So, I’ve got a real passion about helping small businesses.
Q: WHAT ROLE DOES ADVOCACY PLAY IN CDC’S WORK WITH SMALL BUSINESSES?
A: It’s something that’s part of our DNA as an organization. One of our key roles is to be that advocate for those small businesses that we already finance and those that we’re going to finance in the future, to be their voice, to say these dollars are very critical and here’s what they mean to the individuals. It’s not just a loan. For a lot of these folks, it’s a change of life for them. It’s the ability to improve their life, but more importantly the ability to support their family and do better for their family. At the core of what motivates a lot of us, and particularly me, is helping those small businesses, being their voice that they don’t have back in D.C.
Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU HELP RAISE CAPITAL THAT SUPPORTS CDC’S LENDING?
A: We’ve worked with national banks and small community and regional banks. In fiscal year 2018 we raised over $22 million. When I started I was the only person that did it because we didn’t need to raise as much money. But now that we are lending at a much larger scale, it is a team effort. Capital raising is led by our CFO, Catherine Riddle. It is a great collaboration as I have a lot of personal relationships with people and institutions that help open doors and conversations for us.
Q: WHAT’S A CDFI, AND COULD YOU TELL US A HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR WORK WITH IT?
CDFI stands for Community Development Financial Institution. To be a CDFI means that you have a mission and that you are delivering financial services to an underserved market and you have to define that market. For us and our CDFI, our defined market is that we lend to small businesses located in low-to-moderate income communities, and to Latino and African-American owned small businesses. Two years ago we started an African-American and Latino loan fund that targets those two demographic groups. We’ve done nearly $7 million of lending to that demographic market. That’s something I’m really proud of.
Q: TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE CAUSES YOU SUPPORT AND WHY COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IS SO IMPORTANT?
A: I have been involved with the Chicano Federation, on the board of Opportunity Finance Network and the California Reinvestment Coalition to name a few. It’s been a big piece of who I am both on a professional and personal level. I’ve always sat on a number of boards throughout my professional career.
Q: ANY FINAL THOUGHTS ON SMALL BUSINESSES?
A: I’m really big on trying to bridge the racial wealth gap. I can see it with my family. My dad through his business ownership allowed me to be the first to attend college. And then when he passed, he had accumulated some very modest wealth but he was able to pass that on to me. And I was able to pass that on to my son who went to a private college and graduated debt-free.
I’ve really seen that impact through small business. That’s why I’m such a big advocate for it. And it’s not just me. A lot of my CDC colleagues share the same belief.
CDC Small Business Finance offers several loan options for business owners who want to grow their operations and are planning for their long-term needs. Contact our loan experts about your business needs, and they’ll work to match you with a financing plan that best suits you. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (619) 243-8667.
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