Social entrepreneur Jenny McNulty on Urban Solutions 

Jenny McNulty is the executive director of Urban Solutions, a San Francisco-based organization dedicated to strengthening underserved neighborhoods by supporting small businesses, job creation, diversity and sustainability.   

What is Urban Solutions?

Urban Solutions is a nonprofit social enterprise that helps small businesses to develop and grow. We help businesses secure loans to support their operations, purchase equipment and buy their own building. Our consultants work with businesses throughout the Bay Area to implement environmentally sustainable practices. We are best-known for our neighborhood-building work on Fillmore Street in the Western Addition and in the South of Market, where we run an economic revitalization program for the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency to attract and retain businesses on Sixth Street and in the surrounding area. You can read more about our work at

What is the most fulfilling part of your job at Urban Solutions?

It is a joy to see our clients open new businesses and to see the benefit they bring to community members, from jobs to gathering places to great food and needed services.

Your family has been in San Francisco for five generations. What does it mean to you to provide these services here?

This work is important in the city in which my family has a history. I wish my grandfather Richard Pearce were alive so we could discuss it. He had a lot of perspective from his work as associate editor of The San Francisco Examiner in the 1960s and ’70s.

How has your experience in other parts of the world prepared you for what you’re doing?

I worked in Africa for two years and for one year in South America. It was humbling to live without electricity and running water and gave me an appreciation for every aspect of my life. Poverty in San Francisco is very different from the poverty there, where people had little money to consume much beyond the food they grew, but they lived in close-knit communities in a beautiful environment. Here, drug abuse has led to alienation and a breakdown of community. Poverty is not just economic, but social and spiritual.

Is Urban Solutions holding any events in the near future that people should know about?

Upcoming programs include: A Green Solutions Salon for entrepreneurs on Earth Day, Friday, April 22; a CyberMarketing Conference on Sept. 15 in the Fillmore; 2 Blocks of Art on Oct. 14, an art walk along Sixth Street in the South of Market. Year-round, we hold free workshops for small business owners on topics including financial management, human resources and green financing. For details or to join our mailing list, e-mail

When you joined this organization in 2002, did you have any idea that you would be the executive director?

None. The board asked me to take the lead in 2005 when our previous director left. I am fortunate to have a job that reflects my values and to work with exceptional

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

My parents. They instilled in me a sense of civic engagement and giving back, as well as confidence and intellectual curiosity. My dad taught me to question and my mom showed me that women can be leaders. Now that I have my own family, I’m doubly fortunate to have such good role models to emulate. 

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