Seven years ago today, I sat at my inlaws’ kitchen table and filed Hope Community Capital LLC as a business with the Department of Financial Institutions in Wisconsin. Hope Community Capital started as a vision. I was taking a long drive through Southeast Wisconsin in the fall of 2015 and I sent up a prayer, “God, is there a way for me to use my urban planning training and my community development finance experience to in order to help neighbors come together to develop places where everyone feels safe, loved, and part of a thriving community?” The answer? Hope Community Capital: a national consultancy that works with community-based organizations and underestimated communities access to financial capital to build thriving places where all may flourish.
In honor of our seven years in business, here are seven things I’ve learned along the way:
- Alignment matters. The values of Hope Community Capital are equity, integrity, and excellence. Our highest impact engagements are with those clients who share and act on these values every day.
- Servant Leadership works. Greenleaf’s “best test” for servant leadership is this: “Do those served grow as persons?” I have seen in every client engagement and every interaction with the Hope Community Capital team that paying serious attention to growth of the person pays significant dividends in terms of impact and outcomes in the work that we do every day.
- A building is just a building; the people in the building are what matters. Most of our work is focused on advising community-based organizations in accessing the financial capital needed to build community facilities and affordable housing. What keeps us going is the impact that will occur in the building and knowing the stories of those who will benefit from all the building has to offer. Who will be living there, building a community? Who will be attending pre-school there and how will this help the parents? Who will be graduating from high school and going on to college to pursue their dreams?
- Community development is the result of a million little actions every day, including endless calls to investors to pitch the project, non-stop negotiations of term sheets to lower the cost of capital for the project, site visits, spreadsheets, adjusting the financial model…it never ends. But the results? 100% worth it.
- Without a team, impact is limited. About three years ago, there was a branch point at Hope Community Capital. Either bring on more capacity to the team, or be satisfied with the impact that one person (me) could make. The opportunities to come alongside communities far exceeded what I could do as a sole proprietor. The best decision I’ve made for the business is to grow the team and therefore, grow the impact of our clients.
- Rejection is data. Today, I realized that I had reached out to 38 funders and received 37 rejections for a project. This used to bother me. Now I am thankful for the “no” and the stop signs. It helps me better direct my time to those funders that are truly aligned with the project I am working on.
- God is faithful, all the time. When I got the answer to my prayer to start this company, I had so many questions. I started out on faith, and God continues to provide in unimaginable ways.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek God’s will in all you do and God will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 35:5-6 NLT
A few acknowledgments:
To our very first client, South Wood County YMCA, thank you for believing in the vision of Hope Community Capital and in me, a sole proprietor, working from her kitchen table, to raise $18M in NMTC Allocation for a new YMCA / Boys and Girls Club and Veterans’ Outreach Clinic. This organization will forever be in my heart not only for the impact it has on the community it serves, but for the affirmation that came with this project that yes, sustainable, thriving, communities are possible.
To the Hope Community Capital team, Sierra and Matthew, thank you for the brilliance, humor, and dedication you bring to our collective work. Our clients and our communities are stronger for your influence, and our impact is greater because of you.
To the late Amy Gannon, an entrepreneur who mentored me, and encouraged me to keep moving forward with my vision. She helped me to understand that entrepreneurship is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time – or, terrathrilling as she always said.
To Salli Martyniak, a mentor who patiently taught me the ins and outs of community development finance and fervently supports and advises me to this day.
To my friends in the field. It is a great honor to learn from you, laugh with you, and grow with you.
To my husband, Scott Sanders, who has supported me unconditionally in building this business and is always offering calm ideas when inevitable wrinkles come up.
To our clients, past, and future. Thank you for all you do and the thousands of lives that you touch every day. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to come alongside and support you in your goals to create sustainable, inclusive, and thriving communities.