Securing capital for startups and small businesses is no easy feat, especially if investors are shying away because of the venue. This was one of the challenges that entrepreneur Brahm Ahmadi had to go up against for more than a decade. Ahmadi is the CEO and co-founder of People’s Community Market, a food market dedicated to promote healthy and affordable food, as well as revitalize the economy of the West Oakland neighborhood.
Location wasn’t the only obstacle Ahmadi faced, it was a combination of several factors. He initially talked to several potential investors and although most of them thought that the endeavor was praiseworthy and for a good cause, they believed it wouldn’t bring high returns.
Ahmadi tried another approach and decided to do a Direct Public Offering (DPO). He was able to raise $1.2 million from 407 shareholders. However, the cost of real estate was extremely high and Ahmadi simply couldn’t afford it; he felt that no bank would fund them. That’s when he approached the non-profit community developer, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), who shared his vision in terms of boosting the neighborhood’s development. During this time, a social impact angel investor offered to loan the funds to EBALDC, who, subsequently, will lease the market to Ahmadi until he is able to buy them out.
Now, after almost 14 years, with the help of the anonymous angel investor and EBALDC, Ahmadi has finally secured a location for his full-service grocery store. Having his dream finally come true has given Ahmadi the courage to plan a second DPO with a target of $2 million. As of today, $1,222,948 has been raised, which is 61.1% of the target funding. He has also applied for federal funding with the help of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI).