City First Enterprises began as a response to a series of questions: What if the most overlooked and the least represented among us lived in properly invested neighborhoods? How could we assist promising innovators who are struggling with growing their businesses? What if there were a community-based financial institution that worked alongside undervalued communities to ensure access to capital, resources, and expertise that was typically out of their reach?
Built on ingenuity, our nation owes much of its success to entrepreneurs and community advocates of diverse backgrounds. Yet despite their enormous impact, many of these businesses and organizations — and their leaders — are overlooked and undercapitalized. We’ve seen firsthand how underserved local communities continue to experience economic distress and a lack of available resources. Now is the time for change.
Since its inception, for nearly three decades, the City First family of organizations has prioritized democratized access to financial products and services. As you follow along in this year’s impact report, you will read about the difference our neighbors make every day across the region. CFE’s commitment to them and other changemakers is steadfast – always challenging the status quo.
We pledge to continue to use our resources to advance CFE’s mission, build resilience, and co-create communities of opportunity, equity, and well-being. Thank you for being a part of the journey.
City First Enterprises helps achieve racial, economic, and social equity by providing underinvested communities with access to capital and financial expertise for affordable housing, education, nonprofits, small businesses, and climate-focused initiatives.
We are bound by the core value that individuals in low-income, undervalued communities deserve access to affordable capital and the opportunities it brings. Economic justice means improved quality of life now — and hope for future generations, too.
CFE is grateful for the authentic partnership and collective resources provided by our network of collaborators. Together, in the past two years, we:
The resilient individuals and businesses who borrowed from CFE in 2021 contributed to greater stability and inclusive growth throughout the region.
The past two years have demonstrated the urgency of maintaining resilient communities — and the critical role that lenders play in achieving this goal. The COVID-19 pandemic hit hardest fort hose burdened by historical and ongoing disparities – largely communities of color in the DC and Baltimore metro areas. The desire to reverse inequity has driven CFE for decades, and 2021 was a reminder of how much work remains.
In early 2020, the Broadcasters’ Child Development Center (BCDC) was bustling with activity. Located in Washington, DC, the center was popular among neighborhood families, and waitlists for a coveted spot in the infant and toddler rooms were a clear sign it was time to expand. Having recently relocated to a larger space, the nonprofit center was in the midst of renovating their new facility, including with financing from CFE.
However, like thousands of area businesses, BCDC was forced to close its doors abruptly in March 2020. Just as quickly, renovations came to a halt and the once thriving center found itself in a difficult financial situation. “City First Enterprises has been so patient with us,” said Executive Director Kim Mohler. “When the pandemic struck, we had to request deferment because we had no income when we signed the loan documentation. We were very fortunate that CFE honored the loan.”
Three months after shutting down operations, BCDC reopened its doors to a small number of families. “We took a significant dip in enrollment,” Kim explained. However, as the months passed, parents returned to the workplace and enrollments began to soar. “Today,” she added, “we’re nearly back at capacity.”
The pandemic’s financial consequences have had a dramatic impact on community-serving organizations like BCDC. “We’re so thankful to be afloat and to have retained our staff during our closure. We couldn’t have done that without City First Enterprises. Our facility wouldn’t exist without their help.” To learn more about the BCDC, visit bcdconline.org.
Creator and Curator, the Spice Suite
In 2015, Angel Gregorio walked by a vacant storefront and in a matter of moments, turned it into a business idea that stemmed from her passion for flavor. As she stepped away from a career in education to open the shop, Gregorio’s story became a leap of faith. “The Spice Suite is probably the most serendipitous thing I’ve ever done,” she says. According to the Washington, D.C. native, it’s now a seven-figure business supported by a profitable online store.
Unlike many retail businesses, The Spice Suite defied the pandemic, earning $1.5 million in revenue for 2020. However, no business story is without its stumbling blocks. While working with a bank to acquire commercial property, Gregorio admits there were roadblocks along the way, and the transaction was nearly lost. “City First Enterprises stepped in and held my hand throughout the process,” she says. “They saved the deal and got me to closing ahead of time.”
Over the last several years, Gregorio has made it her mission to empower others. The Spice Suite now doubles as a steppingstone for Black female entrepreneurs, each of whom sells handmade or specially sourced products through regular popups hosted by the store.
CFE provided Gregorio with essential technical assistance, mentoring her on various aspects of the acquisition process. In addition to the lending capital, the CFE Grants Management Team helped her with a grant application to the DC Commercial Property Acquisition Fund, allowing her to grow The Spice Suite while mitigating financial risk. “We’ve created jobs and a community around this business,” adds Gregorio. “It’s been awesome.”
We’re proud to be a part of Angel Gregorio’s story and look forward to seeing her continued success. Learn more at thespicesuite.com.
The DC region has reached an inflection point regarding affordable housing for moderate and low-income households. We must create new units and renovate existing units so they don’t go into disrepair. We also must invest in temporary housing for the most at-risk among us.
CFE is committed to working alongside communities and our other partners to help resolve this crisis. We provide financing to affordable housing developers, as well as nonprofits that provide essential services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault — and their families — so they can rebuild their lives on their own terms.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, DC SAFE empowers domestic violence survivors with immediate and tangible resources. Since its inception in 2006, the organization has served more than 25,000 individuals in crisis. In an effort to better serve the region’s most vulnerable residents, DC SAFE is constructing a larger facility. Once complete, the space will double the current capacity, offering 30 apartment-style units that can house more than 700 survivors and families each year.
To ensure this community resource continues its vital work, CFE joined forces with Blue Hub Capital, providing a $2.93 million subordinate loan to help finance the development of a mixed-use property. Although smaller in amount, subordinate loans are considered higher risk since they are unsecured, and they are critical to the borrower’s success in receiving all the financing they need.
DC SAFE has become a leading force in the fight against domestic violence in the District of Columbia. The organization works collaboratively to break the cycle of violence, reduce the likelihood of future abuse, and decrease the risk of homicide. Learn more about this vital community resource at dcsafe.org.
Managing Partner, Heleos
Housing developer Chis VanArsdale can spot a diamond in the rough like no one else. For the past 20 years, he’s focused his efforts on revitalizing neighborhoods to create safe and affordable spaces. Like many developers, he often renovates existing properties neglected by previous owners. However, Chris takes it one step further and aims to create net-zero and near net-zero energy projects. Today, as the Managing Partner for Heleos, he’s working on some incredible transformations that are made possible with the help of City First Enterprises.
His latest project, Dance Loft, aims to ensure that the arts remain alive and well in Northwest DC. The restored space will offer mixed-income affordable housing, a Blackbox theatre, dance studios, and space for both storefronts or restaurants. “I’ve worked with City First Enterprises for over 15 years and they have been involved with the planning and acquisition process for many of my projects,” Chris stated. “Not only do they help us engage with the artists’ community, but their assistance ensures that we can continue to create safe and sustainable neighborhoods.”
Resource-efficient communities, like what is envisioned for Dance Loft, address the urgency of creating affordable housing while also mitigating climate change. Learn how Heleos is paving the way for smart, healthy, and affordable environments at heleos.co.
As a community development financial institution, City First Enterprises delivers high-impact capital to the people and places that need it most. But we can’t do it alone.
CFE is committed to making investment more effective, efficient, and personally fulfilling. Drawing on our deep resources, we can work with you to design and implement your goals. Whether an individual or institutional investor, adding CFE to your portfolio allows you to align your investments with your values and to contribute to underinvested communities.
If you believe, as we do, that everyone is entitled to equitable access to affordable housing, high-quality community services, and economic opportunity, then help us deliver the tools that people need to achieve the promise of progress and prosperity.
Impact investing can be an effective strategy to improve the stability of your portfolio while supporting local communities. Please contact partnerships@CFEnterprises.org to learn more.
Capital Impact Partners-CDC Small Business Fund
DC Mayor’s Office
City First Broadway
DC Department of Housing and Community Development
DC Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking
DC Department of Small and Local Business Development
DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
Enhancing Black Business Credit Initiative
JP Morgan Chase
Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, LLP
Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
New Venture Fund
Opportunity Finance Network
Yale Community and Economic Development Clinic
Capital Magnet Fund Coalition
Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Development
Community Development Network of Maryland
Food Lenders Network
Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers
National Children’s Facilities Network
Prince George’s County Housing Opportunity For All Workgroup
Purple Line Corridor Coalition
Small Business Owners Bill of Rights
Virginia CDFI Coalition