Emphasizing the importance of organic food, local residents Chrissy Cox and Dawna Bass co-founded Rainbow Juices in 2012 as a home business to provide fresh, cold-pressed juices to the community.
What started as a small operation that would deliver organic juices to local coffee shops grew into a brick and mortar within three years at 246 E. 3rd St. “All of the customers that we had a relationship with that were buying it from all the local coffee shops now come to our downtown [location],” Cox said. “We had already established a strong community support.”
In 2017, Rainbow Juices expanded to include a café next door at 244 E. 3rd St., known as Under the Sun. Both establishments serve juices with raw fruits and vegetables, and the café offers an exclusive vegan menu comprised of burgers, sandwiches, burritos, pastas and salads. “We have a lot of people coming into our restaurant – the café and the juice place – that are shifting people’s entire way of looking at food,” Cox said.
Cox said the duo had a vision last year to expand the business model of Rainbow Juices to provide smaller pop-up locations throughout the community. “We’re state licensed to locally distribute to our own facilities,” Cox said. “As we grow, we don’t have to create an entire kitchen and pay for all of that capital equipment.”
In need of resources to fulfill their next expansion endeavor, Cox and Bass consulted the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA), the nonprofit that runs downtown’s business improvement districts. The DLBA referred them to the city’s Microenterprise Loan Program, managed by Seyed Jalali, City of Long Beach economic development officer.
The Microenterprise Loan Program, one of three city loan programs available to aid local businesses, is designed to help kickstart a new company or provide capital to existing ones. Loans start at $25,000. Jalali said he spoke with Cox and Bass about the program last November.
Rainbow Juices and Under the Sun were approved for a $50,000 loan through the program on December 1. Jalali said the approval process involves presenting the request to the city’s Economic Development Loan Committee, a subset of the Economic Development Commission. The committee has three members that have sole authority to approve or deny loans.
Jalali said the Microenterprise Loan Program can offer up to $95,000 for qualifying businesses. The loans are amortized between five and 10 years depending on the purpose of the funds. The amount of interest is determined by the current prime rate, which is now 5.5%, plus 1.5%, according to Jalali.
The incentive for the city in providing capital to businesses is job creation. “We see that it’s part of our mission to empower entrepreneurs,” Jalali said. “These businesses are required to create one full-time job for every $35,000 they borrow. Job creation, creating wealth and the successes of these businesses all benefit the city.”
The program is funded partially by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, at $1 million, in addition to $1.5 million of the city’s money. Jalali said it is also funded on a “revolving” basis. “As people pay back [their loans], that money is lent out again,” he said.
Austin Metoyer, DLBA economic development and policy manager, said the alliance has a working relationship with the city’s Economic Development Department. Although not necessary for either entity to inform the other if businesses reach out to them, Metoyer said it’s done out of mutual benefit to spread the word about city programs. “City resources are great,” he said. “They are just really hard to discover if you don’t know they’re there.”
Cox said the loan has so far been used to open a new location at Steelcraft in Bixby Knolls, where they have operated for about four months. The reception has been positive. “A lot of the local businesses just come to that location and let us know that they needed [healthy food],” she said. “They’ll drive across town [to] our downtown location, but it makes it so convenient for them. They’re very happy to have us.”
Cox said the microloan “paves the way for [the expansion], which is awesome.”