January 24, 2023
BJC Makes Anchor Investment in WEPOWER Capital
BJC’s anchor investment will go toward focused, revenue-based funding (RBF) investments in Black- and Latinx-owned businesses with strong growth trajectories. WEPOWER Capital works to ignite equitable economic growth and prosperity in St. Louis by building wealth in under-resourced communities.
Today WEPOWER Capital announced a community impact investment from the region’s largest employer, BJC HealthCare. Both organizations share a common goal of advancing community health and well-being, and believe that collaboration is essential to closing the racial wage and wealth gaps in the region. With a mission to build community wealth and power, WEPOWER Capital provides St. Louis-based Black and Latinx business owners with “capital+” or financial capital paired with social and intellectual capital, in the form of connections and business coaching.
WEPOWER Capital is the only fund in the region that uses a revenue sharing model of investment to expand access to capital for systematically excluded entrepreneurs leading companies with strong growth potential. Traditional loans often require personal guarantees and minimum credit scores, which can be barriers for many systematically excluded entrepreneurs. WEPOWER’s fund does not seek personal collateral or minimum credit scores, instead taking a more holistic approach to underwriting investments by evaluating the leadership team and business model, the financial health and prospects of the company, values alignment, and the potential to create positive social impact.
Yoni Blumberg, VP of Community Wealth Building at WEPOWER, is thrilled to have the support of BJC. "BJC’s investment is an enlightened choice. It reflects an understanding that investments can be used as a tool to advance equity.” He explains, “as a region, the more we think about our investments holistically and consider both the social and economic impact they can achieve, the sooner we will unlock billions of dollars to invest in creating a much more vibrant, equitable, and sustainable future for St. Louis and the world more broadly.
In 2022, BJC announced its Community Health Improvement strategic plan, which aims to eliminate health disparities in under-resourced communities and give all people the opportunity for a healthy, productive life. According to Christopher Nolan, BJC’s director of Anchor Initiatives, “BJC’s proactive approach to health and well-being focuses on the social and economic factors that are root causes of health inequities, and this includes investing in regional organizations like WEPOWER Capital. Together we can work to close the racial wage and wealth gaps and help create generational wealth in Black and Latinx communities.”
Joseph Thomas, BJC’s Chief Investment Officer and Treasurer, stated that “BJC is an anchor institution committed to community health improvement, and to further this mission we are making focused investments in the City of St. Louis and North St. Louis County. Our investment in WEPOWER Capital is reflective of our commitment to innovative ideas that have the potential to create a transformative impact on health inequities for the entire region.”
WEPOWER believes that investments like this have the power to transform historically oppressed communities throughout St. Louis. WEPOWER Founder and CEO Charli Cooksey hopes that this creative collaboration to improve health and wellbeing among Black and Latinx communities is the first of many in the region. “We are hopeful more local anchor institutions will be inspired by this partnership. While BJC has significant influence and will certainly make a big impact, transformational change comes faster with more institutional collaboration.”
WEPOWER envisions a future where systems are accountable to powerful communities that have been historically oppressed, and nurture our freedom, well-being, dreams, and joy. WEPOWER trains, activates, and supports Black and Latinx folks to design equitable policies, organize to transform education and economic systems, and build thriving businesses that create wealth for our communities. In their first three years, WEPOWER activated 300 community leaders, won a historic ballot measure that guarantees public funding annually for early childhood, supported 30+ businesses with access to capital, coaching, and connections. To learn more, contact Yoni or Amina at [email protected].
About WEPOWER Capital
WEPOWER Capital provides Black and Latinx business owners with “capital+” (i.e. financial capital paired with social and intellectual capital, in the form of connections and business coaching), with a mission to build community wealth and power. WEPOWER Capital primarily uses revenue-based investing, where entrepreneurs repay a fixed percentage of their revenue until a pre-agreed total has been paid back. This model is more flexible than traditional loans, sharing risk with entrepreneurs and tying the investors’ success to the company’s growth, without substantially reducing their ownership or control over their company. WEPOWER Capital will put all net returns (i.e. what remains after repaying external investors) towards two purposes: (a) reinvesting back into the fund to make similar investments in Black and Latinx-owned companies and (b) financing community controlled funds to resource shared political and economic priorities.
About BJC HealthCare
BJC HealthCare is one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in the United States, delivering services to residents primarily in the greater St. Louis, southern Illinois and southeast Missouri regions. Serving the health care needs of urban, suburban and rural communities, BJC includes 14 hospitals and multiple health service organizations. Services provided by BJC include inpatient and outpatient care, primary care, community health and wellness, workplace health, home health, community mental health, rehabilitation, long-term care, and hospice. BJC’s nationally recognized academic hospitals, Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, are affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine.