Westview Pizza Cafe

We met Keitra Bates, the owner of the Westview Pizza Cafe, or WVPC, at our first small business workshop. She is an entrepreneur and community leader that just gets it. She started WVPC—an organic pizzaria in a low-income neighborhood that sources organic produce from local urban farmers, educates patrons on healthy food options, hires re-entry workers, and teaches them how to run their own businesses. Her restaurants serves as a community meeting spot for neighborhood organizations and parties. Keitra needed help reaching new customers and raising money for a new oven and a liquor license. Over the course of two months, our core team (which now included Scooter Taylor and Taylor Harris!) and a host of other villagers, connected her to the AUC student community, rebuilt her businesses plan from the executive summary down to the financials, helped her tell her story, and put the plan into action. There was a flood of new customers who were attracted to what she was doing. Thus, she became a vendor at the AUC schools and with companies we'd partnered with in the past. During the time we were working with Keitra we revisited our theory about lending. Since the banks won't lend in "low-moderate income neighborhoods," we thought, ‘What if we could make sure a company was investable, then the community could invest in their own businesses?’ We were dreaming of cooperative neighborhoods, where the community collectively invests the money needed to support the businesses they want to see and then gets paid back as they shop locally and the business grows. Wit help from our team and That's exactly what we put into action with Keitra. We originated a loan and let the community invest in it. We hosted loan funding parties with Keitra's customers, neighbors, parents from her kid's school, and our friends and partners too. Together we raised $4,000+ at 6.5% so she could purchase what she needed to grow. While that was breathtaking, we were reminded of two really amazing things from that experience. Firstly, it was that every time we came back to WVPC to check in, an investor was at the pizzeria. People felt ownership; they were choosing to shop there instead of Dominoes or Papa Johns. Secondly, there were residents from the Westview community was just as frustrated with the lack of development as we were. After investing, one resident went on a tear around the restaurant saying, "We need a taqueria on the is street, and a clinic and coffee shop. We can do it." He got exactly what we were trying to accomplish, a community where residents can choose and finance what they want in their neighborhood.

Nathan Jones