James Gutierrez: Anatomy of a Social Entrepreneur

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(Newswire.net — February 17, 2021) —

Entrepreneur and finance technology expert James Gutierrez has long believed in economic fairness. With a strong family belief in social justice and a career focused on building organizations from the ground up, Gutierrez recently discussed his professional and personal journey.

“I wanted to carry that torch and give back to the community, specifically helping to build wealth and address problems of economic inequality that persist in our country for Latinos, immigrants, Mexicans, people that are brown, but also the wider communities of color in the U.S.,” he said.


James Gutierrez On Foundational Values

This foundational set of values has shaped his professional journey. These foundational values have also served as the sprouting point for James Gutierrez’s professional ventures.

He focused on the importance of building a good credit score and the impact of poor credit on everything, from applying for an apartment, to getting a cellphone. Without good credit, working-class people need to put down more cash up front.


Forging Values Into Career Opportunities

After graduating from Stanford University, young James Gutierrez founded Progreso Financiero (now named Oportun), a company that provides small micro-loans up to $1,200 to working families. These loans were “appropriately sized” for people with annual incomes of $30,000 to $35,000. Those borrowers who paid back the loans could build credit. This created a positive cycle of wealth generation for traditionally underbanked individuals.


Establishing Opportunity For Others

Gutierrez believes there are two financial foundations that are the path to wealth creation and moving families up the financial ladder. One is building credit and qualifying for a mortgage. The other is starting a small business and securing financing.

Over the next eight years, as Progreso Financiero grew, the principle of moral collateral remained true. “One of the things we were always very successful in is that principle. Our borrowers repaid and they repaid at higher rates than anyone ever thought they would, even greater than the general population. That was the motivation behind my first company.”


Creating An Inclusive Market

Years later, with the entrepreneurial drive still strong, James Gutierrez launched Aura, which makes loans out of small retail locations. Aura found success, he said, from “a corner of the market that was working well” – putting small stores and kiosks inside ethnic supermarkets that the company’s borrowers visited multiple times each week. The supermarket fosters community and is a popular gathering place. “It was a place where we could build trust, and see someone face to face,” he said.

The impact those two companies have had is significant. Together, James Gutierrez estimates they’ve provided more than $3 million loans to nearly 1 million borrowers. What’s more, the companies provided an alternative to the predatory lenders and payday loan businesses that have preyed on vulnerable populations with exorbitant interest rates.


Being The Change You Want To See

James Gutierrez is committed to helping the underserved in both his professional and personal lives.

He is a proud graduate of SEO (Seizing Every Opportunity), a global nonprofit that provides programs to support and educate underrepresented people. He said the program “changed my life, put me on a different path and gave me a lot of confidence.” James Gutierrez serves on the Advisory Board of the SEO San Francisco Scholars program.

Gutierrez is also Vice Chair of the Board of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a trade association of 380 technology companies. The organization advocates on behalf of its members for transportation, housing and other policy issues along with improving quality of life for employees.