A new community-managed loan fund that supports BIPOC-identifying entrepreneurs and small business owners and reimagines how loan decisions are made is accepting applications until Aug. 20. Black, Indigenous, People of Color make up 37% of our nation’s population but own just 15% of businesses. The fund has $100,000 available to provide 0% interest, $0 fee microloans from $500-$10,000 and is using an innovative approach that turns over loan decision-making to the local community.
The initiative is being spearheaded by Tucson-based nonprofit Community Investment Corporation in partnership with BLAX Friday and Startup Tucson, with funding from Tucson Electric Power, Cox Communications, and BBVA, and with support from Growth Partners Arizona and the Tucson Metro Chamber.
CIC is shifting decision-making to the BIPOC community about where (geographically), to whom (communities of color underserved by financial institutions and systems), and under what circumstances (measures of risk) capital flows. The program is led by a volunteer committee of BIPOC-identifying community leaders who discussed and identified the common barriers to capital funding faced by BIPOC communities, and then designed a transparent process that meets entrepreneurs/business owners where they are with the goal of helping them take the next big step in their business growth. This committee, not any of the partner companies or organizations, will be reviewing applications and making all funding decisions for the program.
The application offers a story-centered approach and limits arduous requirements that may discourage applications from business owners who have never been able to previously access a commercial loan. Eschewing a process that focuses almost entirely on previous financial performance, the community-managed loan fund application encourages business owners to share their personal journeys as well as passions and visions for their enterprises.
Additionally, the innovative approach will pay business owners for the time and effort it takes to apply. The first 50 business owners who complete the application will be provided a $100 stipend. Once approved for the program, the selected cohort of entrepreneurs and business owners will complete required education and documentation meant to help enhance business acumen and open doors to other traditional means of capital access.
- At least 50% of business ownership must identify as BIPOC
- Business must be located in Southern Arizona
- Business can be in any stage including startups
- Completion of application online via video, audio or text, or paper application submitted
This loan fund rose out of a desire of CIC staff to take concrete and tangible action in the wake of recent and ongoing national tragedies and calls for racial equity and justice. Regardless of intent, in practice the country’s financial systems have placed a greater burden on minority entrepreneurs than their non-minority counterparts; proof which is seen in the enormous gap between minority-owned businesses.
In 2019, just 12.5% of loan funding by the Small Business Administration went to BIPOC business owners even though Blacks, American Indians and Hispanics collectively represent over 32% of the nation’s population. This persisting disparity is still a marked improvement attributable to intentional initiatives by the SBA to increase diversity in their lending since 2014 when the number was just 8.9% of SBA loan dollars. These gaps in access to capital and resulting business ownership have an estimated cost to our nation’s economy of $2.5 trillion annually and 3 to 5% GDP. This loan fund is an innovative step to solving this national problem.
Program details and application can be found at www.cictucson.org.