Our Mission

The Center by Lendistry is a nonprofit organization that supports diverse small businesses through education, technical assistance, and access to competitive financing. Our mission is to close the racial wealth gap by anchoring small businesses and the communities where they do business.

Who We Are

Small businesses owned by women and people of color disproportionately face barriers to success. Historically, the adverse impacts of economic and financial policies have resulted in an opportunity gap in entrepreneurship, housing, and community development. As a Black women-led nonprofit organization, The Center by Lendistry exists to bridge this gap by providing the resources, technical assistance, and access to equitable lending for diverse small businesses to succeed. Our staff and advisors are driven by a commitment to helping communities access opportunities and solutions for sustainable growth.

The Center is a strategic partner to Lendistry, a minority-led, technology-enabled Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides loans and other financial products to underserved small business owners.

President & CEO

Tunua Thrash-Ntuk is a seasoned community and economic development practitioner with two decades of experience in both the non-profit and private sectors. Her strengths range from community advocacy, to asset and real estate development around neighborhood revitalization. Prior to joining The Center, Tunua served as Senior Executive Director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation Los Angeles (LISC LA), where she successfully expanded LISC LA’s housing, small business and lending programs and deepened its commitment to racial equity by bridging gaps in wealth and opportunity for Greater Los Angeles families and businesses. For her accomplishments and leadership, Tunua has been awarded California Black Women’s Collective’s “Trail Blazer Hall of Fame Award”, was named LA’s 2021 Impact Makers to Watch by Stratiscope and received the Wells Fargo Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Award by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

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She has served as a board member or advisory board member for many entities, including Federal Home Loan Bank San Francisco’s Affordable Housing Council, Housing California, City of LA Measure HHH Citizens Oversight Commission, Southern California Edison’s Consumer Advisory Panel, Greenlining Institute, Union Bank’s Community Advisory Board, Frontier Communications Community Advisory Board and the Los Angeles Development Fund, which is the City of Los Angeles’ New Market Tax Credit implementation group. Tunua is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she earned her Master’s in City Planning, as well as an alumna of UC Berkeley.

Tunua Thrash-Ntuk Headshot

Our Team

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Miranda Rodriguez

Vice President of Strategy & Operations
As VP of Strategy and Operations, Miranda leads program strategy, resource development and day-to-day operations for The Center. She is an impact-oriented leader passionate about advancing equitable economic development and wealth building strategies in low-income communities of color across the U.S. Prior to joining The Center, Miranda managed a robust set of economic inclusion and capacity building initiatives as Deputy Director at LISC LA. She brings 15 years of diverse experience in program design and implementation, budget management, and partnership development in the community economic development field to support The Center’s growing portfolio.

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Marina Garcia

Senior Project Manager
Marina Garcia brings 10+ years of project management experience across various industries. She has a proven record of building strong strategic relationships with clients, C-Suite, partners, and colleagues that have resulted in meeting and exceeding goals. Her skills derive from work in industries such as social security disability law, tax credits and incentives consulting, advertising, cost savings consulting, and most recently, non-profit. Marina developed a new operating department at Disability Group, Inc. that assisted Veterans and disabled Americans in obtaining disability benefits. During her time with Profit Recovery Partners, she identified and implemented $33M in cost savings, which was used to support job creation and security for businesses across the country. Most recently, Marina serves as the lead from The Center for the LA County Rent Relief Program that is providing $68.6M in grants to qualified landlords to help mitigate the detrimental economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marina attended the University of Illinois at Chicago where she earned her bachelor’s degree in communication, with a minor in psychology.

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Ritzy Mullings

Small Business Program Associate
Ritzy Mullings is a Small Business Program Associate with a passion for program management. In her role, she works with small businesses in underserved communities where she plans, coordinates, updates, and documents multi-phase projects. Ritzy’s adaptability and ability to acquire new skills quickly have been pivotal in her role. As a first generation American, with non-English speaking parents, she has firsthand knowledge of the unique challenges faced by small business owners of diverse backgrounds. This personal experience fuels her commitment to helping The Center’s clients succeed.

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Robert Bragaw

Senior Legal Counsel
As Senior Legal Counsel, Rob supports program and organizational legal compliance for The Center. Before deciding to obtain his law degree in 2005, Rob worked for several years for companies holding contracts with the federal government, primarily related to law enforcement and defense. He lived for six months in the United Kingdom, where he was responsible for standing up an office to run a contract for the U.K. Ministry of Defence. He is married and has two children, five grandchildren, and two dogs: a German Shepherd and a Cairn Terrier. Rob enjoys reading, traveling, puzzles, and learning. He is conversant in Spanish and Japanese.

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Frances Weiner

Economic Recovery Corps Fellow
Frances Weiner brings over a decade of experience collaborating with small business owners, non-profit organizations, and community leaders to build forward change. One of her latest projects, working with the MidTown Reno Business Association, she successfully took a diverse and thriving business district and increased business owner membership by more than 150% as well as developed innovative funding models in order to build capacity for future growth. In her private business, she coached and supported dozens of small business owners through their growth strategies. Beyond business and community development, Frances taught business classes at the University of Nevada, Reno as well as served on the Executive Board of TEDxUniversityofNevada (3rd most viewed talks in the nation). Frances’ passion for and expertise in innovative business development transcends conventional boundaries and provides avenues for exploration beyond the familiar. Frances holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Nevada, Reno and a BS in Psychology from Ohio University.

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Monique Rodriguez

Office Services Coordinator LA
As Office Services Coordinator, Monique Rodriguez provides administrative support to the Los Angeles office and coordinates all activities to maintain an efficient workflow. She collaborated with contractors to oversee the construction of the new Los Angeles office and supported the grand opening event planning team. Monique is committed to continuous growth and eagerly embraces challenges. She enjoys traveling and volunteering as the Athletic Director for her son’s football team.

Learn more about The Center, its impact, and our program and community partners.

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*Statements made on or through this site regarding Lendistry and its products and services are made strictly for reference purposes only, and your use of this site and The Center’s products in no way require you to access, purchase, or use any Lendistry product or service as a condition to using the site, any of the products available on the site or otherwise.
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