Mayor Garcetti Announces BusinessSource Virtual Counselor Network with Citi Community Development and Housing Opportunities Collaborative

10271334_10152464145014806_1134344550516515745_o.jpgUtilizes Technology & Local Advisors to Provide Convenient Advice for Small Businesses; Integrates Resources from across the City into One Single Portal

LOS ANGELES – Mayor Garcetti today announced the launch of the BusinessSource Virtual Counselor Network (VCN), a new initiative funded by a $100,000 contribution from Citi Community Development that will improve the services offered by the City of Los Angeles to small business owners.

VCN aims to improve the quality of BusinessSource services. A small business owner can visit one of the city’s BusinessSource Centers and be connected either by phone or video chat with a counselor specifically suited to their business or language needs. By making experts available virtually, this network reduces Angelenos’ needs to visit a different location or return at a later date.

There will be up to 60 virtual counselors ready to provide real-time help. This way, if, for instance, a business owner requires advice on intellectual property, but their local BusinessSource Center doesn’t have that expertise, they can quickly be connected with another center or an external counselor in the network that does.

“The BusinessSource Virtual Counselor Network is a great example of how the City can harness the power of technology to help boost local business,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “It’s these very businesses that will create local jobs for Angelenos and help put the recession in the rearview mirror.”

The VCN will also serve to connect Angelenos to the BusinessSource centers’ entrepreneurial workshops, management courses, business plan development, accounting, marketing, as well as counsel on securing capital and job creation strategies, and other services. The system will be up and running next month.

These services will aid Los Angeles’ already diverse small business ecosystem. According to the last U.S Census Survey of Business Owners, Los Angeles leads the nation with more than 466,000 minority-owned small businesses, which employ over 556,000 people.

“During a time when governments face budget constraints and increasing demand for public services, this is a technology solution that answers the need for collaborative, integrative, and modern support systems,” said Bob Annibale, Global Director of Citi Community Development and Microfinance. “By collaborating with the City of Los Angeles on this important program, we are identifying solutions that leverage technology to overcome opportunity gaps and support small businesses.”

“Collaboration allows organizations to lean on the expertise of other members. That element has been a driving force in the VCN’s success to date. Open communication and shared technology solutions keep multiple partners, miles apart geographically, on a flexible ecosystem that leverages available resources,” said Appaswamy Vino Pajanor, President and Executive Director of the Housing Opportunities Collaborative.

About Citi
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.

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About the Housing Opportunities Collaborative
Housing Opportunities Collaborative is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt HUD approved counseling intermediary, established in 2005 by a coalition of HUD approved housing counseling and fair housing agencies, other housing related nonprofit organizations, business organizations, and government agencies that support all aspects of housing rights and responsibilities. It was created to serve as an information clearinghouse by consolidating housing and related information, making it easily accessible to the public and partners. To improve the delivery of services to the community, the HOC developed the Virtual Counselor Network in 2013 to digitally connect social services agencies and partner organizations to the community using the power of technology.

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