(Revisions made 11/27/2021)

Managed by VSEDC, the South LA BusinessSource Center (BSC) prepared Deandrea Jones, owner of Wah Gwaan Jamaican Kitchen and Bar, to apply for a loan to open her first brick-and-mortar location. After operating a successful catering company serving Jamaican food for more than five years, Deandrea was encouraged by her customers to open her first restaurant. 

Wah Gwaan restaurant owner Deandrea Jones and VSEDC BusinessSource business coach, Terry Gubatan in front of her soon to open Jamaican restaurant Wah Gwaan  

A rare find in Leimert Park

Due to a pandemic-related vacancy, Deandrea discovered a rare opportunity to lease a prime location in Leimert Park. Excited to bring healthy Jamaican cuisine to a food desert and govern her first brick-and-mortar, Deandrea signed the lease. Soon after, an inspector with the City of Los Angeles examined her facilities and informed her of necessary equipment and facilities upgrades to be permitted to open.   

Getting around an unexpected barrier 

For months, Deandrea worked with an underwriter to assemble the required documents to apply for an SBA loan. Despite her efforts, her application was denied, and she faced the possibility of being unable to meet her contractual obligations. Thankfully, a friendly referral led Deandrea to enroll at the South LA BusinessSource Center (BSC), operated by VSEDC, where she received one-on-one coaching.

After assessing Deandrea’s business—its contracts, vendors, employees, and client list—the sustainability of her business was evident. The BSC pre-qualified her as a client and recommended that she apply for a Community Loan. Funded by VSEDC, these loans provide access to capital to underserved markets.   

VSEDC understands potential and funds the business 

Community loans take at least four weeks to finalize. However, her previous efforts to prepare for the SBA loan put her ahead of schedule, and she was approved in just over two weeks.

Deandrea sought a loan of $50,000, but VSEDC’s CDFI underwriter discerned she would need more and raised her loan to $65,000. Within weeks, she had the money to cover the lease, purchase new equipment, cover payroll and inventory, and open a bank account. With assistance from the South LA BSC, Wah Gwaan’s opening was back on track.

Perseverance pays off 

“I’m so proud of Deandrea’s perseverance,” says Business Coach Terry Gubatan. “A lot of people would have stopped midway at the first barrier, but she prayed and persisted until she saw it through.” Ahead of the restaurant’s grand opening later this month, she hired two new employees from the Watts WorkSource Center and will hire two more full-time and two part-time employees.