Feb 15, 2022 |
Lynisha Senegal has experienced first-hand the struggle of barely making ends meet. As a low-income mother of five, she wanted to start a business to support herself and her family. Along the way, Lynisha met others with the same passion for creating a business but who needed resources to help them address the challenges of starting a business and living in poverty. Lynisha founded Helping Others Pursue Excellence (H.O.P.E.), and later Vision View Business Formation Center, to meet this need. Families living in poverty face significant challenges, and it takes resilience and experience to help people navigate systems to change their circumstances.
“Helping Others Pursue Excellence and Vision View is the most rewarding, purpose-driven experience I can imagine. To fill this niche in the community, to be seen as a resource and leader by families looking to rise out of poverty, is an incredible honor,” says Lynisha.
Helping Others Pursue Excellence began in 2012 with a simple concept: give at-risk youth a safe place to gather and earn money while realizing their dreams through entrepreneurship. They started with a $5,000 grant from the county and has grown into an organization with a $1 million budget. “We’re more than just a program, and partnering with other community organizations has allowed us to grow. I’m proud that we’re now recognized as an economic driver in our community,” says Lynisha.
In 2017, the program expanded and established Vision View Business Formation Center, now one of the Central Valley’s largest and most comprehensive entrepreneurship centers. “Opening the complex showed we are more than just a program - we’re a community partner,” explains Lynisha. “The complex lets us bring people together and be a resource hub for our community.”
The organization offers various services for low-income families: job training, after-school programs, small business minority development programs, and entrepreneurship and vocational training. Partner organizations who operate at the business center help participants get certified in various skills, enabling them to pursue different kinds of employment.
Helping Others Pursue Excellence has supported over 175 small businesses in the Central Valley with their legal formation, some growing from annual budgets of $14,000 to $750,000. “Many small businesses didn’t qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or other COVID relief funds because they did not have their business entity formed. We support small businesses with their back-office needs so they can focus on what they’re great at and operate legally and compliantly,” explains Lynisha.
“We partner with Beneficial State Bank to provide families with savings accounts,” says Lynisha. “We provide matched savings and can cover the direct cost so families can save more over time.”
“I first learned about Beneficial State Bank when I was at a roundtable meeting with Kat Taylor [co-founder, Beneficial State Bank],” remembers Lynisha. “I saw the heart of the team and considered for the first time how we should value our money and where we put our dollars. Beneficial State Bank’s mission is aligned with the community, and that’s why we have chosen to bank there.”
Helping Others Pursue Excellence is establishing a community investment trust in Fresno, where business owners can invest and have an ownership stake in the Vision View property. “Mercy Corps created the model that we’re replicating here,” says Lynisha. “Beneficial State is the only bank that I’m aware of that said ‘Yes, we’ll take a chance,’ and provided banking services to Mercy Corps community investment trust.”
“It goes a long way when one person says ‘yes,’” says Lynisha. “Beneficial State Bank has done that. Both our organizations operate with the same mentality: we’re all in this together.”
Helping Others Pursue Excellence is seeking resident investors and first-time investors for their community investment trust. Contact them to learn more.