Operation HOPE is a national non-profit organization that is helping to address America’s long-term economic inequality issues, including those faced by Black, Latino, and Asian businesses as well as startup companies. They operate nationwide and offer a number of assistance programs to minority businesses, everything from help creating business plans to coaching, Entrepreneurship classes, Project 517 business loans and more. Find the history of Operation HOPE and learn more below about what programs they offer.

One of the most wide-ranging and diverse non-profit assistance organizations in the United States, Operation HOPE was founded nearly 30 years ago amidst circumstances that feel strangely familiar.

Just after the Rodney King riots took place in Los Angeles in 1992, Compton native John Hope Bryant saw a need to connect diminished, often minority neighborhoods with the resources needed to revitalize them. A focus was on business development, entrepreneurship, and economic development for the Black, Hispanic, and Asian communities.

Something of a natural entrepreneur from childhood, Hope characterized his vision as the “Silver Rights” movement: the next natural step in the evolution of civil rights, a focus on both attracting investment to historically disadvantaged (often minority areas) and also providing residents with the free tools they need to make the best use of an influx of money.

The project began with a bus tour of South Central LA neighborhoods to meet with small business owners who had lost their property in the riots and offer assistance. The first loan was made to a pharmacy owner trying to rebuild from a total business loss. This was the genesis of nearly two decades of assistance programs, grants and loans worth about $2 billion in total.

The funds have helped Black and Latino owned businesses as well as women. The money has now reached over 500 economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, thousands of schools in the inner cities, small businesses, and even communities in other countries.

The free Operation HOPE programs and services are available to anyone in need, and at no cost to participants. The organization now has over 100 locations with hundreds more on the way. The following are some of the major initiatives, including free business help for minorities and women. Program availability varies by location.

Business Capital from Office of Small Business & Entrepreneurship

This assistance program is specifically aimed at adults who are interested in starting their own business but face substantial barriers such as access to capital and credit problems, which is a common problem among minorities and women. The course runs for 12 weeks and covers a broad range of skills needed by entrepreneurs and knowledge needed to navigate the business financing system at the entry level. A focus is on advising women and minority businesses or startups, and where they can get the capital they need.

Attendees of the free Office of Small Business & Entrepreneurship programs learn about bootstrapping their business. They find out about lenders that focus on providing financial help to Black, Latino, Veteran or Asian businesses. There are also details on how to improve credit or getting a loan with poor or no credit, which is a great option for immigrant business owners among others. Or even find free nationwide grant or loan programs for minorities and females.

Banking on Our Future / Youth Empowerment Group

This program was designed to address a chronic lack of education about basic financial matters and personal economy in low-income as well as minority households and women. The Banking on Our Future and Youth Empowerment Group service is meant for children in grades 4 to 12 and provide them with a condensed course in the most essential financial skills they need to navigate their own lives: opening and managing bank accounts and credit lines, paying bills, budgeting, and the basics of investing for future income and saving for a college education. As many young girls/women and minority households often lack critical financial literacy skills.

There are also Entrepreneurship classes for youth. The program is provided either directly through schools or through community as well as business development organizations in 4,000 localities across the United States.

Operation Hope business programs

HOPE Business in a Box

HOPE Business In A Box Academies are aimed at young people, both men and women, with an interest in starting their own businesses or independent entrepreneurial efforts. The program guides participants, including Black, Latino, Asian, and females through a series of four courses that build the fundamental skills any small business owner needs to succeed. Hope Business Box helps them with developing ideas into a workable reality, creating a business plan, public speaking skills, and how to pitch potential investors.

Participants that successfully complete a viable business plan are eligible for a business pitch competition that can lead to a free start-up grant for minority business owners to actually begin bringing their ideas into reality. The program can also provide connections to local internships and mentors, many of which are out there for minority and female entrepreneurs. It is run through hundreds of schools throughout the United States.

HOPE Coalition America / HOPE Inside Disaster

This assistance programs is all about business disaster relief and recovery. HOPE Coalition America is aimed at helping both individuals and small businesses recover in the wake of natural disasters and similar emergencies that damage property. Female and minority business owners can get disaster help from their state or federal government, non-profits, or charities among other sources. The group facilitates connections with sources of emergency funding, provides counseling during the recovery process and offers a free pre-disaster preparation kit.

HOPE Coalition America is there to help minority and women business owners recover from hurricanes, floods, fires, riots or looting, tornadoes, and much more. It combines short support support with long term rebuilding.

HOPE Global Forums Annual Meeting

HOPE’s annual meeting of the minds incorporates thousands of delegates from hundreds of countries, usually with around 300 presentations covering 40 hours of programming. There are people from all countries, nationalities, ethnicity (Asian, African American, Hispanic, etc.) and ages. The forum usually has a strong focus on helping the working class and those who are discriminated against, move up to the middle class and expanding access to financial services for everyone.

HOPE in Hand

Available for iOS and Android devices, HOPE in Hand is a mobile app that makes a number of the organization’s educational as well as business development resources available anywhere and at any time. The app has financial coaching resources available on a number of different topics, and also allows users to schedule a virtual appointment for a one-on-one discussion with a financial expert.

The free mobile phone app also helps business owners, whether they are sole-proprietors or company owners. They can get tips from other business owners, learn about funding such as loans or grants, get technical help and more. HOPE in Hand tries to make their free financial literacy and business resources more accessible.

HOPE Inside Adult

This program is essentially the adult version of the Youth Empowerment service, helping grown people to learn financial literacy essentials and how to access the resources they need for both personal as well as business success. These courses are held at HOPE locations across the country and also sometimes at public locations such as libraries and community centers.

Minorities, inner city residents, immigrants and others can get the skills they need for long term success. Learn how to turn an idea into a business. Where to turn to for funds and learn what crowdfunding is for minority businesses, as many women and minority owned companies struggle to raise money. Hope Inside Adult covers everything from financial literacy to saving money in Individual Development Accounts. Or learn about how to start a business to help you and your family.

HOPE Inside Empowerment Centers for minorities and women business owners

The HOPE Inside Empowerment Centers are a one-stop shop that offers both financial literacy counseling and partnerships with local banks to help aspiring minority or disadvantaged business owners get connected with the financial resources they need. There are currently over 100 of these centers across the United States.

The Empowerment Centers partner with community action agencies, Business Development Companies, Veteran Business Outreach Centers, the Urban League as well as other non-profits. There may be crowdfunding resources, no-interest loans, free government grants from charities or corporations, and many other forms of financial help for Black, minority owned and disadvantaged businesses.

HOPE Inside The Workplace / Employee Financial Wellness

This aspect of HOPE makes the organization’s resources available to employees via an employer partnership. Employers that partner with HOPE gain access to counselors that can conduct webinars, on-site workshops, lunch-and-learn sessions, one-on-one coaching and more. It is similar to a corporate benefit program. More companies are trying to invest in their disadvantaged workers, including Black and Hispanic, in trying to open the doors up to those groups.

Free child care from Kids HOPE Club

The HOPE Club for kids provides parents, including single mothers or single parent households, with a way to have free child care while they attend HOPE programs. Volunteers look after kids on site while parents are attending sessions and meetings, providing them with an entertaining organized activity like a craft session or a dance class. Healthy snacks are included.

The child care is offered at most centers during a workshop or class. This allows women or minorities to attend a class, say on business development or finances, and not to have to worry about their kid(s) during that timeframe. It is a great way for HOPE to encourage participation.

Project 5117 Business Financial Help

Project 5117 aims to create direct financial services for low- and moderate-income individuals, giving them a new option for banking and loans outside of the existing lending systems. A focus is on opening up the capital markets to Latino, Black, Asian, and women owned businesses as they often face bias or discrimination when they apply for bank loans. Initiated in 2014, HOPE the project would serve Americans making $50,000 or less per year and be administered through existing HOPE centers.

Applying for free Operation Hope Business resources

As noted, all of the programs are free to clients. A focus is on helping the disadvantaged build long term self-sufficiency. Starting a business, free business or job coaching, financial literacy and mentoring are all effective, in particular for women and minority business owners who could always use a mentor to help them break barriers.

All programs vary based on location. However the non-profit HOPE is committed to assisting the most disadvantaged among us, ranging from Black to Latino business owners, females who struggle to raise money for their startup, immigrants and other minority or disavtaged groups, including the LGBTQ community. Call dial 1-888-388-4673, or Visit the Operation HOPE website to check on current programs and locations.

By Jon McNamara