Mari Riddle Manager, Los Angeles Services Pacific Community Ventures To unwind:

I go out and find spoken word concerts and music concerts. I'm a former musician, Latin American folk music mostly. Sometimes I help put together events surrounding Latin music. It keeps me well-grounded.

On L.A.:

It's still very much a city of communities. I have an urban planning background, so I'm the kind of person who takes surface streets and loves to capture the nuances of communities.

My day starts around 6:15 a.m. I call my walking partner, and we go for a good 40 minutes around Baldwin Hills. Then I sit down to have breakfast with the newspaper; I always read the business section. I like to look for leads, local companies or business events.


I'm the Los Angeles manager for Pacific Community Ventures. We are a non-profit organization that manages venture capital funds on the one side, and on my side delivers business advisory services like a venture fund does, but at no cost to companies in low-income communities.


I have a 5-mile commute, so work is pretty close to home, but I drive because a typical day involves visiting clients.


My laptop is my desk. I do have a cubicle in one of our community partners, The Community Financial Resource Center in South Los Angeles.


I plug in and spend the morning working virtually in four different cities. I'm on an advisory team, so the first part of the day is spent checking e-mails and getting back to people. At 9:30 we have a business service meeting with all our non-profit offices in San Francisco, San Diego, and Fresno, bringing each other up to date.


Once a company gets passed $250,000, they graduate from those micro-financing programs and they're basically on their own. We want help them through the next stage.


The companies we look at have revenues of at least $1 million, but they need the management expertise of experienced business people.


I'm charged with finding those local businesses, and also finding seasoned business executives who are willing to volunteer their time as strategic advisors. I'm the matchmaker. I partner advisors with companies.


We look for companies working in low-income communities that primarily hire from those communities. It's a lot of light manufacturing, production, and some service companies.


How do I find these companies? Through business associations, industry round tables and events I'm always looking for gatherings and events to go to. My calendar is well-planned. I usually have two luncheons per week, for example with the Food Industry Business Roundtable, or the Latin Business Association.


These are events where I know business owners will be participating, and those are the people interested in increasing their business knowledge. I don't cold-call.


If I were to call someone out of the blue and say, "I'm offering no-fee advisory services," they would say, "What's the catch?" Face to face is very important.


In the afternoons I might have to do monthly check-ins with our companies and our advisors.


The heads of these small companies, most of them did not go to business school. They don't want a young grad telling them how to run their business. They want to speak with seasoned professionals who've been there, done that with their own companies, that have gone through the growing pains of a business.


We're trying to duplicate the network of venture capital access for these low-income and moderate-income communities.


Also in the afternoons, I may evaluate a company for a potential partnership. I usually go to them downtown, the Westside, wherever. If a business owner says, "Come on down," I come on down.


Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are big days for me to go out and meet companies. I check in with our companies and advisors on a monthly basis.


The other half of my job is recruiting potential advisors high-level business executives who are willing to volunteer their time. The advisors come from all sorts of industries. Some have backgrounds in management.


I bring the advisor and the company owner together for the introductory meeting, usually hour and a half. We talk about the business, their backgrounds, what the owner wants to see happen. The advisor will walk around and take a look at the business.


My day doesn't end when I leave. I usually bring work home. It's looking at company evaluations, inputting all the info about our companies or our advisors, capturing monthly tracking sheets on our advisory relationships. The home-work is the data entry and then the more thinking part of the job: How do I make a great match?


As told to Hilary Potkewitz

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