Agents of Impact | March 25, 2022

John Holdsclaw IV, Rochdale Capital: Advancing co-ops and community ownership

Amy Cortese
ImpactAlpha Editor

Amy Cortese

ImpactAlpha, March 25 – “I’m a horrible banker,” admits Holdsclaw, who served as director of strategic initiatives at the National Cooperative Bank.

Holdsclaw was drawn to high-mission deals: A black-owned grocery store in a food desert in Waterloo, Iowa. A community-led initiative to purchase and redevelop a mall in downtown Los Angeles.

Those kind of deals don’t fly at a regulated bank, even one with a mission to support cooperatives. Frustrated, Holdsclaw suggested to NCB’s longtime CEO, Chuck Snyder, that they create a new community development financial institution, or CDFI. “So that’s what we did.”

With $5 million from NCB, Rochdale Capital will have the flexibility to do small but high-impact deals that would not pass muster at a bank.

Holdsclaw’s one regret is that Snyder, who passed away in November, never got to see their idea come to fruition. “He’s still the wind behind my sails and everything that we’re doing,” he says.

Cooperative principles

As a child, Holdsclaw attended a Head Start program in North Carolina; later, he worked at Head Start in government affairs. He spent 13 years at Capital Impact Partners, working with Agent of Impact Ellis Carr, then chief financial officer.

At NCB, Holdsclaw developed relationships and products supporting community development finance. He’s now building Rochdale’s infrastructure (and seeking CDFI certification) to begin lending later this spring.

At Rochdale, based in Arlington, Va., Holdsclaw will focus on cooperative housing, worker coops and other deals that advance community ownership and asset building in rural and urban distressed communities. The name comes from the Rochdale Principles that guide many cooperatives.

Holdsclaw already has his first deal in mind: a food coop and incubator in Maine serving a mostly Somalian, Black and Latino community that needs a new space.

“Those are the kind of deals that will come across my desk a lot,” he says. “Now I can move them forward.”