Boston Fed advisory council member has a goal: help others “exit poverty in a generation”
Betty Francisco rose past humble roots to become lawyer, investor, entrepreneur
Betty Francisco will always remember her roots. The lawyer, angel investor, and entrepreneur grew up in New York and spent her early years navigating government assistance programs as she translated for her Spanish-speaking mom, who struggled to stay gainfully employed.
Francisco has come a long way since then. She worked hard, won scholarships, and fostered key relationships – all of which helped her move out of poverty. Now, Francisco, a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Community Development Advisory Council, is determined to help others do the same.
CDAC members come from various organizations and corporations, and they share insights about successful community development with Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren and the Bank’s community development staff. Their feedback helps shape policy, and it will hopefully improve people's lives. That’s what Francisco is banking on.
Francisco hopes her role with the CDAC helps promote career building and wealth-building jobs for the growing Latino community.
“Often institutions don’t include perspectives from communities or people of color,” Francisco said. “The Fed, through CDAC, can get community input and use it to develop programs, shape existing policies, or create something new.”
Francisco’s passion shaped by humble beginnings, hard work
Francisco is general counsel at Compass Working Capital, which helps low-income families build assets and financial capabilities. She said everything she does inside and outside of work is about improving the economic mobility of Latinx families and people of color.
Francisco continually asks herself, ‘“How do we address inequities?”’ Her goal: “Dramatically accelerate the pace of wealth building and career-building so that someone can exit poverty in a generation.”
Her passion for her work was shaped in part by her childhood. Francisco grew up in public housing in New York and was raised by a single mother. But she had access to a great education and won scholarships that allowed her graduate debt-free. She also built relationships that showed her a different way of thinking and living.
Francisco attended the famed LaGuardia High School. Some of her friends came from families with successful businesses and palatial homes. One of them talked to her about taking the LSAT law school aptitude test.
Later, during a fellowship at the University of Texas, a Latino professor became her mentor and challenged her to pursue a business career. He also taught her she could change the world through entrepreneurship. That's why when she got to Northeastern University law, she decided to simultaneously pursue an MBA.
Francisco pursues change through several routes. She’s an angel investor, meaning she personally invests in startups before they’re ready to raise venture capital. She began investing through Pipeline Angels, a women of color-led network of new and seasoned women investors creating capital for female social entrepreneurs. She also co-founded the Investors of Color Network, a group of Black and Latinx accredited investors working to close the racial funding gap in startup capital. And she’s the co-founder of Amplify Latinx, a nonprofit focused on building economic and political power for Latinos in Massachusetts.
Francisco also serves on a myriad of boards, committees, and councils, and she recently joined the transition committee for Kim Janey, Boston’s incoming mayor.
For new businesses, Francisco focuses on connections, training
At Compass Working Capital, Francisco helps families work and save their way out of poverty, and she guides entrepreneurs.
Guan Ellerbe, a Compass client, said Francisco has connected her with resources, mentorships, and training that helped her launch her business, Leading Light Behavioral Health, Inc., last February. The business took off when it shifted to telehealth to meet behavioral health needs during the pandemic. Now, it has seven people on staff.
Though they’ve never met in person, Ellerbe feels close to Francisco. After each conversation, Francisco emails a thorough recap of what they discussed, as well as links to resources, Ellerbe said.
“It keeps me on my toes because I can see all the hard work she’s putting in and that she takes what I said seriously,” she said.
Another Compass client, Julia De Los Santos, launched her company, the JDLS Couture tailor shop, in Dorchester in 2017. But she had to pivot during the pandemic.
Francisco connected De Los Santos with Small Business Strong – an initiative that provides free business resources to minority and women-owned small businesses. SBS helped De Le Santos with her business plan, and Francisco assisted with her application for a Mass Growth Capital COVID grant, which gave her capital to keep her doors open.
Soon, with Francisco’s guidance, De Los Santos plans to launch an e-commerce site where shoppers can buy her soon-to-come spring collection.
“Betty has been an angel in my life,” De Los Santos said.
For Francisco, opening doors and creating access to social capital is critical.
“There’s no grand idea that will end poverty,” she said, “but rather a collection of ideas, solutions and players in ecosystems that work cohesively and collaboratively around achieving racial equity outcomes. That’s how we can begin breaking the cycle of poverty.”