Owner: Mamie Sardnee
Business: Grocery Store
Purpose of Loan: Storefront Purchase and Working Capital
Impact: Economic Security and Food Resources
Woodland Produce sits on a well-known corridor of African and Caribbean shops in South West Philadelphia. The ring of the bell is barely silent before the next patron enters through its door; the store is brimming with produce, spices and frozen meat carefully curated by its owner and matriarch, Mamie Sardnee.
Mamie first started in Philly selling hard to find produce and baked goods from the back of a van she drove at dawn, supplying restaurants and groceries with much these needed items. The shop is the execution of her vision, sweat equity and innate business acumen, made real through a series of loans from Community First Fund’s Affinity Group Lending (AGL) program, an innovative lending model based in Philadelphia that leverages social capital through a group guarantee model.
Hundreds of small business owners and entrepreneurs have gone through the AGL program, receiving not only capital, but personalized guidance on business planning, marketing, hiring staff and insurance. The group lending cycle is 12 months, and many groups go through multiple cycles while increasing their loan amount to build credit, renovate a store, infuse their business with working capital or purchase equipment and inventory. With this innovative program, Community First Fund is able to support early-stage entrepreneurs throughout the growth of their business.
Mamie’s first AGL loan was in 2014; she has since gone through an additional 10 rounds in over 8 years providing working capital to build her inventory and purchase equipment, like a walk-in freezer. In 2022 she closed a Commercial Real Estate loan with Community First Fund to buy a building across the street in order to expand her business. Her commitment to her business’ growth has made her a standout partner for Community First Fund.