(Photo by Tony Abraham)
Art Gimenez always wanted to make a career out of helping others.
It’s a passion that stems from being surrounded by poverty as a child growing up in the Philippine capital city of Manila. It’s a passion he didn’t get to put into practice as a financial consultant at Accenture, where, for six years, Gimenez helped “Fortune 500 companies become Fortune 100 companies.”
For those six years, Gimenez said he never felt “so disconnected” from that passion. The disconnect was magnified by the economic disparities he saw in Philadelphia — some of the same disparities he saw as a kid in the Philippines, where Gimenez said “you’re either poor or you’re rich.”
He thought things might be different in the States.
“When I came to the U.S., I thought life would be a lot better for people here. Naively, I thought there was no issue of poverty here,” said Gimenez. “Coming to Philadelphia, I saw there’s a huge gap of wealth and economic disparity that’s not very different from where I used to live in Manila.”
As a high school student back in Manila, Gimenez volunteered actively with kids who were living on the street. Not being able to give back in some way was a void he felt at Accenture.
So he left, got his master’s in business from Temple in 2013 and soon after, landed a job at The Enterprise Center as director of capital lending, doing the same thing he did for Fortune companies — but for small businesses and first-time entrepreneurs from lower and middle economic classes.
"I am here on this earth to help others, especially the underserved, reach their personal goals."
“A lot of people come to entrepreneurship not just for a job, but to create wealth,” he said. “I am here on this earth to help others, especially the underserved, reach their personal goals. Whether they need help starting their own business or finding a job, I am willing to help anyone who is also willing to put in the hard work.
Gimenez’s clients don’t have the flash and pizzazz of a tech startup or social enterprise. These are salons, food trucks, retailers, coffee shops, cleaning services, daycares, companies with a handful of employees. Right now, Gimenez has over 50 clients that fit that mold. The Enterprise Center’s Capital Corporation (it’s lending arm) boasts a $1.5 million portfolio.
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That portfolio is comprised of smaller loans of about $40,000, said Gimenez.
“The best clients are the riskiest clients,” said Gimenez. “The startup clients who start a new venture they’ve never done before.”
Those are the clients who are most unlikely to get a traditional bank loan. But that’s why the Enterprise Center’s Capital Corporation exists.
“Unfortunately there’s still institutional discrimination out there with lending,” he said. “You have to go to an alternative lender if you’re not getting luck with the bank. We borrow money from some of these banks because they can’t reach their small business lending goals.”
The job fills a void for Gimenez. But it also created another one: The businesses he’s helping grow aren’t going to “generate substantial wealth.” What Gimenez really wants to see now are more minority-owned tech startups.
Maybe one out of fifty minority-owned businesses he works with are in the tech space. It’s a challenge — in order to get a $10,000 loan from the Enterprise Center, clients need to put up some kind of collateral. That’s something a lot of lean tech businesses just don’t have. Helping minority tech entrepreneurs will require a change in the way institutions deploy capital.
“I think our funding — our type of funding — needs to adapt,” he said. “I want to help people create wealth and help the poor get to middle class, not help the rich get richer.”-30-
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