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The State of California provided an initial seed  investment of $18 million to launch CICF with a focus on Black and Brown sole proprietors in Oakland and surrounding underinvested in communities.The vast majority of business owners are building their business with personal credit cards and their own money. 

We believe building confidence and competence,  and providing the right amount of capital can change the game of who has access to business ownership and generational wealth-building.

Learn more about partnership opportunities with ESO

Funding Local Entrepreneurship

The Capital in the Community Fund (CICF) is Your First Yes. It is an investment fund for Black and Brown entrepreneurs managed by ESO Ventures Inc. This fund offers debt investment products  uniquely designed for ESO entrepreneurs with a non-traditional approach to business financing.

Our revolutionary financial products are designed to provide the first investment in ESO businesses with non-dilutive low interest capital from $5,000 - $100,000.
Reach out to to learn more.

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Currently, only businesses and residents in the 
State of California, and members of E
SO Ventures network of entrepreneurs can access CICF.

Please visit our frequently asked questions to learn more here.

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Our inclusive style: 
The Handshake

ESO’s Capital in the Community Fund is not your  traditional lender. We have a commercial lending  license from the State of California, but we are doing things differently to ensure Black and Brown businesses have the social and financial capital to grow their enterprises. 

We believe that if we can support business owners to create a fully functional business across  finances, marketing and sales, operations and  product development, we can deploy capital with  what we call a “handshake.”

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Our Handshake Model is built with equality in mind. We developed this model to meet 
our entrepreneurs where they are and bring transparency to the financing process.

Traditional banks use the “5 Cs of Credit”:  Capacity, Capital, Collateral, Conditions, and Character. ESO uses the “5 Cs of the Handshake”:  Confidence, Competence, Capital, Connections, and Community.

Below we describe how ESO builds up these 5 Cs of the Handshake through its programs, readying  entrepreneurs to receive their first business investment.  

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ESO Market Approach 
to the 5 C’s


Entrepreneurship is the most powerful way for Black and Brown people to take their first step toward economic freedom and mobility. ESO Ventures’ 10-week business incubator is designed for entrepreneurs to build the confidence needed to formalize and grow their business. This confidence translates into powerful business leadership and readiness – for capital, for growth, and for success. 

 By working closely with business advisors and coaches, ESO entrepreneurs build business competence, including  financial know-how, marketing skills, and operations and sales expertise. When entrepreneurs demonstrate competence at achieving critical business milestones, as well as a willingness to learn, they can unlock capital and more resources to grow through the Handshake Model.


More important than financial capital is social capital, and the  ability to build a strong network is crucial for success. ESO entrepreneurs are encouraged to form  strong relationships with peers, business advisors and coaches, professional service providers and the ESO team. The Handshake Model considers input from the ESO ecosystem when evaluating a business for financing. Put simply, community input is our version of a credit check. Build your social capital with ESO and we will be the backstop for your business. 

Instead of using a traditional banker’s lens and looking at what money entrepreneurs have, we look at what money you need and provide this reward accordingly. Entrepreneurs must provide ESO with a project-based need, a detailed budget request, and basic financial statements to receive investment. ESO’s CICF deploys 
capital for short-term accounts payables or long-term project- related business expenses. Businesses not yet in operation, not yet generating revenue, or those without the basic financial statements have access to a maximum $5,000 investment. Financial products are tailored to the stage of your business, and business owners must achieve milestones to unlock the capital. All investments carry an interest rate of 0%-10% and must be repaid according to the terms of the agreement.


is at the heart of ESO. To access financing,  ESO alumni entrepreneurs must be subscribed members in the ESO ecosystem. Having ties to the community is more important in the decision-making process than having a strong credit score. When an ESO entrepreneur joins the ecosystem as a member, they gain access to a community of entrepreneurs, ongoing business support, CICF financial products, and the opportunity to endorse other ESO alumni applicants with their funding requests.

“Everyone can be a lender, but what is our niche? Throwing  the nuisance in the trash so that our entrepreneurs are in a place of empowerment, so that they can begin building their own tables.”


​Ashley Moreland-Mizzi

Senior Director of Capital in the Community Fund

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Real financing opportunities

We are committed to finding and building up the next thousands of successful Black and Brown entrepreneurs. We’re about shared prosperity:  We work with local businesses that are building  wealth where they are; we’re not looking for  winners-take-all “unicorns.” 


Build where you are with the accountability and assistance to keep your business growing sustainably.

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The Handshake model does:

  • Provide inclusive and innovative financing opportunities specifically for Black and Brown entrepreneurs (who, historically and today, have been denied access to capital and fair financial products) 

  • Provide options for building generational wealth and alleviating generational trauma by providing vetted advocates, advisors, mentors, and opportunities to increase business growth, sustainability, continuity, and internal controls

  • Engage a team of trusted advisors, service providers, peers, and support groups to weigh in on the decision-making process for all financing requests 

  • Enable accurate, affordable, and helpful financing products

  • Require financial data to be submitted by applicants for impact reporting purposes   

  • Conduct due diligence, practice compliance, and safe “bets” for ESO alumni only.


Please visit our frequently asked questions to learn more here.

The Handshake model does not:

  • Solely rely on financials to determine investment-worthiness

  • Make financing decisions based on a credit score 

  • Consider collateral as a means for collecting on unpaid balances 

  • Alienate any for-profit business that is categorized as a start-up, established, or scalable business operating in an underinvested in area by an entrepreneur who identifies as Black or Brown

  • Use venture capital-style financing or decision-making (not every company is a “unicorn” and we are not focused on that kind of exponential scale) 

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