Olu's Center

Community impact

  • 25 projected living wage jobs with benefits
  • Local Poverty Rate: 54.2%
  • Unemployment Rate: 16.3%
  • 100% woman and minority-owned business

North Minneapolis is an area with a reputation for poverty, drugs, guns, gangs and crime. It is also a community filled with rich cultural diversity and people who just want to earn a good living, send their children to good schools, live in safe housing and walk the streets without fear of violence.

A successful and charismatic entrepreneur, Gloria Freeman believes that "we all have the right to a fulfilling life - to be happy, whole, and accomplished individuals." Gloria's business, Olu's Home, operates seven residential homes throughout the inner cities of Hennepin and Ramsey County that serve people with developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and mental illnesses. Olu's Home employs nearly 100 people.

When she decided to diversify her business and create a child and adult day care center, Gloria looked to north Minneapolis with the belief that she could bring jobs and hope to a struggling community. She found the old City Inc. building, a place with a storied past that had been empty for over three years, and thought it would be perfect.

Despite sustained growth and expansion, Gloria struggled to find traditional financing to purchase the building because Olu's Center was considered a start-up, different from her core business. When she hit a brick wall, she talked to the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) who referred the deal to Community Reinvestment Fund, USA (CRF).

As a non-profit, SBA 7(a) small business lender and a community development financial institution (CDFI), CRF is committed to taking extra time to find creative ways to get high community impact deals done. After reviewing Gloria's 16-year history of successfully starting and managing her business as well as the incredible community impact, CRF was able to provide Gloria with a $1.2 million SBA 7(a) loan to buy and renovate the building.