Alyhia Ortiz, owner of a Crenshaw fitness and nutrition business, wants to take her establishment to the next level, but like so many Black-owned businesses, Tone Body Fitness has faced challenges.
"I’m a woman," Ortiz said. "I’m a woman of color."
Now, Chase Bank has opened a new branch in the Crenshaw district of south Los Angeles to help business owners from underserved communities thrive. The branch is providing Ortiz with mentoring, marketing, and - she hopes - access to enough capital to buy her own building.
Get Southern California news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC LA newsletters.
The bank has opened a new community center in the Crenshaw district, which will do banking and highlight local businesses, according to Chase Bank CEO Jamie Dimon.
"We want people to be comfortable walking in to trust this place and look at it as part of their community," Dimon said.
He added that $12 billion of Chase's $30 billion racial equity program will be set aside for home mortgages, including $5,000 grants for down payments.
But critics say that some of the banks still engage in redlining - the illegal practice of discriminating against African Americans by labeling their applications as "riskier," begun in the 1930s when federal government housing programs refused to insure mortgages in or near Black neighborhoods.
"I wouldn’t call it redlining," Dimon said. "Sometimes it has to do with the appraisal of the house."
Community leader Daniel Carter is the founder of "Buy Back the Block LA," a group that meets up monthly with South LA residents to educate against gentrification.
"If you don’t have the money to be able to qualify to be able to pay a loan back, you still won’t be able to buy a house," Carter said. "People have to have the incomes, have to have the money, have to have the access to the funds to buy the homes they want to live in."
"The government by the way can do stuff to make mortgages cheaper - their origination requirements, the servicing requirements, they’re so difficult," Dimon added.
According to Dimon, the Crenshaw Chase branch is now processing more than a dozen loans. Ortiz is pinning her dreams on that promise of support.
"It's almost like it became colorful... It was forseeable, it was tangible," she said.
While it may take a while longer to reach that goal of total racial equity the community has worked towards for so long, Dimon said, each step takes things just a bit closer.
"Not everything is going to work, but keep fighting it over an extended period of time, we’ll eventually get closer," he said.