Oakstop and the Power of Community:The Inspirational Story of Trevor Parham

Trevor Parham is a visionary and a leader who has harnessed the power of community to create something truly remarkable. As the founder of Oakstop, and the Oakland Black Business Fund, he has built a social enterprise that not only provides coworking spaces for entrepreneurs, artists, and businesses, but also serves as a hub for Black economic empowerment, community wellness, and youth development in Oakland, California.

In April 2023, he became a PCV Good Jobs Entrepreneur Fellow. This fellowship program brings together 14 outstanding PCV clients committed to providing their employees with high-quality jobs that promote racial and gender wealth building outcomes. By sharing his expertise and experience, Trevor is helping to uplift other small businesses and promote good job creation. Trevor’s story is one of resilience, innovation, and a deep commitment to community. By putting local artists at the center of economic development and creating a platform for community empowerment and positive change, he has shown that business can be a force for good. Oakstop is more than just a coworking space – it’s a model for how businesses can serve the needs of their communities and create a better future for all.

Trevor’s inspiration for Oakstop came from his background as a fine artist and his deep connection to the vibrant artistic community in Oakland. He saw that rising rents were pushing artists out of their neighborhoods and wanted to create a space where they could thrive and participate in the rapidly evolving business ecosystem of Oakland. By displaying local art on the walls of all of his locations and providing services and support programs targeted at uplifting artists, Trevor has ensured that Oakstop is a center for creativity and culture. 

But Oakstop is more than just a coworking space – it’s an organization built by and for the community. Trevor has hired an entirely Black staff, most of whom are artists or entrepreneurs at risk of displacement. And with the launch of Oakstop Alliance, a nonprofit subsidiary focused on community programming in economic empowerment, culture and creativity, community wellness, and youth development, Trevor has created a platform for positive change in Oakland.

“Our work is founded in the notion that local artists should be at the center of economic development, especially as increased economic activity in Oakland threatens to displace the local artists that make Oakland such a vibrant and culturally enriching place to live and work, “ says Trevor. “Our support of artists focuses not only on art exhibits and the display of artwork, but also services and support programs targeted at uplifting artists.”

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Trevor remained committed to his vision and kept Oakstop open. And as the shift to remote working left commercial spaces empty, he seized the opportunity to expand his business and make an even greater impact on the community. Thanks to the two loans Trevor received from PCV – one in 2021 and another in 2022- -and support from pro bono business advisors like Caroline Pao from The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Trevor was able to manage the operations and expansion of his business, hire additional staff, and upgrade technology and equipment to ensure the safety and wellbeing of his employees.

Today, Oakstop has six locations, with two added after PCV’s initial loan. Trevor has grown his team to 25 employees, up from five during the first year of the pandemic. With Oakstop having five downtown Oakland locations within a five-block radius, Trevor has formed an Oakstop campus that can more effectively serve the broader Oakland community. He and his team are planning to introduce more community programming in the area during evenings and weekends, beyond the normal business hours of the week. 

But that isn’t the only way Trevor is giving back to the community. In 2020, he co-founded the Oakland Black Business Fund at the beginning of the pandemic, a grantmaking program that provides infrastructure support and essential resources to Oakland’s Black businesses.The program supports technical assistance partnerships between Black businesses, recognizing that entrepreneurs often give the best advice to other entrepreneurs.

When PCV launched the Oakland Restorative Loan Fund in late 2021, we wanted to make sure that the fund reached entrepreneurs of color most at risk for gentrification and displacement. Trevor, in his role with the Oakland Black Business Fund, was a key thought partner and co-creator in launching the fund, making sure that capital reached the kinds of small businesses he works with every day, so we together can build a continuum of capital to help invest in their success and resilience.

If you find Trevor’s story and his dedication to empowering the community inspiring, you can contribute to Oakstop and its mission through The Oakstop Effect. This charitable initiative promotes social inclusion through strategic placemaking in Oakland, CA.

Recently Trevor has been codifying a workforce development program within Oakstop, to formalize the training within a safe and comfortable environment he has always championed for staff at Oakstop – an approach that is increasingly being recognized by the workforce industry where programs traditionally have taken place more in classroom environments as opposed to within businesses. To donate now to the Oakstop Effect and support this workforce training initiative, follow this link: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/oakstopeffect