Misty L. Franklin is the founder and director of Restore 180, a nonprofit in Fresno with the goal of coaching people to overcome obstacles, persevere and develop their personal motivation.

published on May 5, 2022 - 2:19 PM
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Starting a business is always a big bet — one that is rarely, if ever, safe.

For entrepreneurs who are part of historically marginalized groups — women and people of color (POC) — the bet can be even bigger and riskier.

A local program from the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce is helping local entrepreneurs make these bets.

“Betting Big on Small Black Businesses,” is a 12-week incubator and accelerator program for startups and POC to receive access to community, education, mentorship and capital.

The program provides entrepreneurs access to mentors, advisors, community leaders and curriculum for business strategies, including a tailored business plan and individualized-business support, as well as connections with investors and partners.

The “Betting Big on Small Black Businesses” was first founded around two years ago through the Fresno DRIVE initiative, a 10-year investment plan to develop a more sustainable economy for the region’s residents.

The program was spearheaded by former Black Chamber CEO Tara Lynn Gray and pitched for the DRIVE initiative. It went online in October 2021.

Through the DRIVE initiative, JP Morgan chase provided the Black Chamber $750,000 over three years for the “Betting Big” program.

Fresno Metro Black Chamber CEO Cassandra Little said that an important face of the program is getting entrepreneurs in front of bankers or accountants for financial literacy.

“A lot of our small business and entrepreneurs in our community do not have banking relationships for whatever reason. That puts a lot of businesses at a disadvantage for being able to access capital,” Little said.

Little said the goal is to change the narrative and instill the importance of financial relationships for business owners.

Little said that women of color have the highest rates of starting businesses, but have trouble sustaining them because of access to capital.

The most recent cohort had 30 participants, and the next cohort will go up to 50 and focus on assisting Black men.

Little said that along with financial literacy, social literacy for business and banking relationships is just as important.

Regina Williams is CEO of D.O.P.E (Developing Opportunities and Pursuing Equality), a local non-profit that aims to tackle social injustice with tactics, programming, and services rooted in psychological development, group economics and financial literacy.

Williams credits her son, Isaiah “Ohana” Williams, as the actual founder of D.O.P.E. Isaiah was a local musician who was killed in a shooting in Fresno in June 2021. He was 22 years old.

Isaiah had been involved with youth programs before, starting his own youth football league when he and his family lived in Arizona. He wanted to help the youth of Fresno. He started working on establishing the program in 2019, and came to Williams to help get started.

D.O.P.E. was one of the local businesses taking part in this year’s “Betting Big” cohort. Williams said the program was instrumental in staying on the path to establish D.O.P.E — considering everything she was going through.

Williams is working with an organization to stress the importance of mental health in the business world.

“We are cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset. The goal is that the young men going through the program will be able to go from concept to launch with their businesses,” Williams said. “It translates into the ability to face the obstacles that they will no doubt face, and deal with the pressures of loss in certain demographics.”

Williams said that many young Black men face a gauntlet of challenges growing up. Learning to respond to such traumas is necessary for both their businesses and personal health.

Misty L. Franklin, a Central Valley native, is the founder and director of Restore 180, a non-profit in Fresno with the goal of coaching people to overcome obstacles, persevere and develop their personal motivation.

Franklin started the organization in September 2021 because she wanted to pursue social justice on her own terms, especially in noticing the needs of girls, women and non-gender conforming people that were impacted by incarceration.

Franklin has the experience of a daughter whose father is serving a life sentence and who later became incarcerated herself.

Before starting Restore 180, Franklin spent 20 years working in law firms as a facilitator, consultant, paralegal and secretary.

She said she’s always had a passion to help the community.

Restore 180 hosts a “Standing in Solidarity” (SIS) program, a course in gender justice leadership that aims to cultivate a culture of gender equity, and empower, girls, women and non-conforming people.

Restore 180 got into the Chamber’s “Betting Big” program nearly a month after the business was opened — “perfect timing” Franklin said.

“Betting Big offered a fundamental pathway with a wealth of business resources and opportunities to position Restore 180 to thrive,” Franklin said.

She said that in the short time frame from graduating from the program, her business is already received her first capacity building grant, and will be receiving a California Dream fund grant.

Franklin said along with uplifting women entrepreneurs, there needs to be uplifting of incarcerated women and a focus on generational wealth.

This begins with investing love, time, and energy into those efforts, and that’s what the Betting Big program did for Franklin, she said.


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