A loan of $5,000 helped acquire Recycled Paper Bags, T-Shirts, and Reusable Bags, all featuring our logo, to improve our marketing and get more customers.

James's story

I remember working on my application for this loan and reaching a dead-end at "Highest level of school completed". I settled on Primary as I had at least made it to the 5th grade, though I was taken out soon after. The plan was for me to be home-schooled, but that never happened, and from there I spent 3 years out of the school system helping my mother raise my newborn sister.

Taking on new responsibilities at home broadened my awareness of what was available in my community. I grew up in a part of East Oakland, CA that had no immediate resources; if you wanted food, the only close options were liquor stores, and all they provided were sugary drinks & processed snacks. I saw that we were spending more money to buy the few options at these places then we would if shopping at a grocery store for the things we actually wanted.

Eventually my family moved to the West side of Oakland and I got back into school (being bumped from 5th to 9th grade in the process), but we soon faced the same challenges. The one grocery store in the area had closed down without any warning offered to the residents or even the store’s staff. I was frustrated with the disconnect that existed between our neighborhood and the store’s ownership, but didn’t know what to do about it.

As things at home grew tighter financially, my interest in school drifted in search of work that could keep food on our table. By now I had a part time job with a local non-profit, Mandela Marketplace, and it was this relationship that got me connected with the effort to open a grocery store in West Oakland.

I am now 21 and can say that I support myself and am my own boss.

Loan details

About Mandela Foods Cooperative

Industry: Retail
Years in operation: 1 year - 3 years


Lenders and lending teams

Loan details