Applications are now open for a new business microloan program for women and entrepreneurs of color, according to an announcement Thursday.
The program, called the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund, holds a pool of $10 million managed by Michigan Women Forward, a nonprofit organization that recently became a community development fund institution.
The program’s partners include: Huntington National Bank, which gave a $1.5 million investment; Ballmer Group, who gave a grant of $1.5 million; a State Small Business Credit Initiative federal loan participation of $1,494 million and a $1 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. There will be an announcement later this year about another $2 million from more private funders, a news release said.
“Today, we are really excited to support the Michigan Economic Opportunity Fund because it empowers entrepreneurs of color, particularly, and women, who have historically and systemically been denied opportunities that are critical to increasing economic mobility,” said Kylee Mitchell Wells, executive director of Ballmer Southeast Michigan Group. Members of all groups involved in launching the partnership were present, including Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and US Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn.
This program aims to fill the gaps for those who may not qualify for loans in the traditional route through a bank or they face an economic disadvantage as a woman or entrepreneur of color, such as a lack of access to capital and complications with credit and collateral .
Alexis Dishman, chief lending officer of Michigan Women Forward, said the organization spends time listening and understanding the challenges that entrepreneurs face as they seek capital. Last year, the organization distributed 91 loans to women-owned businesses.
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“While we have a lot of financial institutions that are in the community for various reasons, their risk tolerance doesn’t enable them to take on the type of loans that we’re able to — but that doesn’t mean that people still don ‘t mean the funding,’ Dishman said.
Business owners will be able to receive up to $50,000 in loans through the program. The group expects to assist about 400 entrepreneurs, according to a news release. Some of those entrepreneurs will come from Huntington National Bank’s Lift Local Business program, which supports minority, women and veteran business owners.
Entrepreneurs can be at various stages in their businesses to apply for a loan. Dishman said the organization works with startup businesses and even those with a business plan. During the application process, businesses that are already operating are expected to provide financial history, and businesses that are starting should provide financial projections. All entrepreneurs should come with a business plan.
“I’m hoping that with this fund, we’ll see substantial growth in the number of entrepreneurs who are moving on to that next level, and they’re able to access traditional financing like Huntington,” said Dishman. “I’m hoping that we’re giving them that seed capital to help drive and grow the economy.”
To learn more about the program or apply for a loan, visit the website at miwf.org.